Runaway faucet
November 26, 2010 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Came home from the holiday and one of my outdoor faucets won't stop running. What's broken?

We had some very cold temps (15 degrees and some snow) while I was in the city for Thanksgiving. Came home this afternoon and one of my outdoor faucets won't 'turn off,' no matter how 'tight' I try to shut it off. Water just keeps running -- a low stream -- out of the hose.

What is likely to have happened? Can faucets (the mechanism) 'break' in very cold weather? Could a pipe have burst from the cold? (But wouldn't that have water shooting out everywhere?) Oy. Not much of a handy man. o_0 Who should I call?

Happy holiday.
posted by zenpop to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
Yes, the mechanism thingy could have broken. I had to replace a shut off valve over the summer because the mechanism that actually turns the water on/off broke. Speaking of shut off you have access to a shut off valve somewhere in your basement or crawl space? That would be one way to get the water to stop.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 11:55 AM on November 26, 2010

Best answer: Is your spigot frost-proof? A good freeze can blow the shutoff valve clean away. You might want to look at How to Install a Frost-Proof Outdoor Faucet. (Related: frost-free spigot; frost-free sillcock.) There are lots of DIY tutorials on this.

Do you have a local Ace Hardware or its equivalent? Call and ask about frost-free spigots/sillcocks.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:16 PM on November 26, 2010

What kind of house is it? with a basement? outdoor faucets should have some sort of shutoff in "warm" space.
posted by notsnot at 12:17 PM on November 26, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions. I finally got someone from our water district to call me back and he confirmed it's the valve inside the faucet that blew. Told me to cap the hose and get a plumber to change out the faucet on Monday. No big deal.

No MonkeyToes, the spigot isn't frost-proof. The idiots that installed them during the home remodel weren't that forward-thinking. Will look into having both spigots changed when the guy comes out on Monday.

posted by zenpop at 12:24 PM on November 26, 2010

When this happened to me, I had a frost-proof faucet installed, and it's been trouble-free since. If you're willing/able to do it yourself, the faucet itself is cheap, although if interior pipes are damaged they may need to be addressed as well. In my case, emergency plumber call had the whole mess cleared up the same day at a cost in the low hundreds.
posted by gimonca at 12:24 PM on November 26, 2010

One thing to keep in mind, even if the faucet is frost proof it can still freeze if you leave a hose attached. Always remove all your hoses when it is going to freeze.
posted by cosmac at 12:43 PM on November 26, 2010

cosmac writes "One thing to keep in mind, even if the faucet is frost proof it can still freeze if you leave a hose attached. Always remove all your hoses when it is going to freeze."

Vacuum breaker equipped taps will prevent this however it's a good idea to remove your hoses anyways in frosty weather to protect the hose which will freeze way earlier than the tap. Vacuum break taps are a good idea for other reasons even if not mandatory in your area and only add a couple bucks to the cost of a new tap.
posted by Mitheral at 3:30 PM on November 26, 2010

Best answer: Before the plumber gets there, try turning the water supply off upstream (which may be the whole house) and disassembling the faucet. They're pretty simple devices, and if it's not rusted on or welded or something ridiculous like that, chances are you can replace it yourself quite cheaply. If you take the old one to a hardware store, they'll give you one that works.

I'm usually not inclined to do that kind of stuff just in case I mess it up, but you can't really break it worse than it already is. If your new one leaks the first time, you can just tighten it. It's outside, so no water damage risk. You could save yourself a hundred or more dollars that way.

Worst case, the plumber comes anyway.
posted by ctmf at 4:25 PM on November 26, 2010

Most of these are soldered connections. Sweating (soldering) a pipe joint is not too difficult but the consequences of failure can be a leak. If you are handy, your local hardware store, Home Depot etc. can fix you up with everything necessary to do the job. The secret for beginners is flux paste with solder shavings in it - a perfect joint every time. This is a talent to cultivate. It could come up that you need a repair and lack proper shut off valve so you must shut off the whole house until the plumber arrives - bitch when that happens on a weekend. With the requisite skill set you just repair it yourself Saturday afternoon rather than waiting with no water until Monday for a plumber or paying double for emergency service.
posted by caddis at 7:04 PM on November 26, 2010

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