A homeowner's guide for repairing common hose bib leaks. Many times the repair parts cost less than a couple dollars and often it takes only a couple minutes to complete the project. Most homeowners find that they can fix the problem without replacing the hose bib or calling a professional plumber.
Many homeowners find that they can repair a leaking hose bib without calling a professional plumber. A hose bib's handle attaches to a worm-screw type stem. The end of the stem moves up and down inside of the bib's faucet body, which turns on and off the flow of water. Over time the washers and packing inside of a hose bib wear out. Most local home-improvement stores carry a large selection of cup washers and packing material. Both of these repairs can be completed without replacing the hose bib.
My Hose Bib Leaks From the Packing Nut
The packing nut, the nut directly behind the hose bib's handle, forces packing material into the void between the stem and the faucet body. Turning the handle on and off can loosen the packing material's grip on the stem, allowing water to seep out of the packing nut. Hose bibs that drip around the stem often has a loose packing nut.
Tightening the packing nut as this repair takes only a few seconds and usually solves the problem. Place a wrench on the hose bib's faucet body. This wrench keeps the torque off the pipe that the hose bib connects to. Grip the packing nut with a second wrench. Turn the packing nut clockwise 1/4 to 1/2 turn, while keeping the faucet body still. If the packing nut still leaks, then replace the packing material.
Replacing the hose bib's packing material: Turn off the home's water supply. Open the hose bib, relieving the water pressure in the pipes. Remove the bib's handle. Place a wrench on the faucet body and a second wrench on the packing nut. Remove the packing nut. Pry the damaged packing material from the hose bib with a small screwdriver. Use care to avoid gouging the stem. Wrap the stem in a clockwise direction with the packing material. Press the material into the void with a screwdriver. Continue to add material until it extends about 1/8 inch above the top of the packing nut's threads. Slip the packing nut over the stem and hand tighten the nut. Tighten the nut one full turn with a wrench, while keeping the faucet body still with a second wrench.
My Hose Bib Drips Constantly
In most cases, a hose bib that drips constantly out of the hose connection has a damaged cup washer. The cup washer, a rubber washer with a small hole in its center, attaches to the end of the handle's stem. When closed, the cup washer fills the space between the end of the stem and a port inside the faucet body. Water will seep past a damaged cup washer and drip out the bib's hose connection. Cup washers come in many different sizes and can be either flat or beveled.
To replace a cup washer: Turn off the building's water supply. Open the hose bib, which relieves the water pressure in the pipes. Remove the bib's handle. Remove the packing nut. Remove the bonnet nut, if applicable. Some hose bibs have two nuts between the handle and the faucet body: the packing nut and the bonnet nut. The bonnet nut, the larger nut that tightens against the faucet body, holds the stem in place. Unscrew the stem.
Spray the screw holding the cup washer against the end of the stem with a penetrating oil. Remove the screw. Bring the old cup washer to a home improvement or hardware store and buy a replacement cup washer. The size and shape must match. Apply grease to the stem's steads and the new cup washer, then reassemble the hose bib. It is wise to replace the packing material whenever replacing a cup washer.
Hose Bibs Beyond Repair
In some cases a hose bib can be damaged beyond repair, making replacement the only option. A hose bib with damaged hard parts -- the faucet body, valve stem, packing nut and bonnet nut -- may need to be replaced. Because a hose bib's hard parts are not interchangeable between manufactures, finding parts for a hose bib with damaged hard parts can become difficult. Contacting the manufacturer can be the only option.
Basic hose bib replacement instructions: Turn off the home's water supply. Open the damaged hose faucet, relieving the water pressure in the lines. Access the plumbing pipe that feeds the hose bib. Examine the type of mounting method and the size of the pipe the faucet connects to. Some hose bibs are soldered onto a copper pipe, some are attached to the pipe with male threads and some have female threads. Replace the old faucet, using the appropriate method. Turn on the water supply and check for leaks.
Homeowners often find that they can repair a leaking hose bib and do not need to replace the entire faucet. Replacing cup washers and packing material should cost between three and ten dollars; a reasonable price when compared to a plumber's service call. The money saved can be used for something more enjoyable, like resurfacing a driveway.