Can you imagine life without them?
As a home inspector I get to see lots of them, and one of the most important things about inspecting outside faucets is attempting to see if they leak—especially the frost free type.
There are many places that these valves can leak and most of the leaks won’t show up unless some means of back pressure is applied. There can be leaks at the valve stem, the anti-siphon device and worse yet, inside the wall.
It is common for people to leave the hoses installed in the winter and when this is done the faucet will no longer be frost free and will be subject to freezing. It is important when testing valves in the summer to attempt to find out if hoses have been left on in the winter.
Typically I do this by installing a pressure gauge on the faucet and then turning it on. This not only gives me the water pressure but also will help find any leaking that might be going on. Because the water is not running, I might even be able to hear the all too familiar sound of “hissing” water inside the wall or crawl space.
Some leaks simply will not show up without back-pressure.
For example take a look at this faucet, with the water running. Can you see the leak?
Now under back-pressure, the leak becomes very evident—hissing sound and all. This valve has a small hole in the valve body.
All outside faucets, when inspected, should be checked under back-pressure.
While we are discussing leaving hoses on, there are other devices that accomplish the same thing and create the same problem. Don’t leave “Y” adapters in place either. Each branch of the Y has its own shut-off and if these are left shut off in the winter water can build up in the valve making it no longer frost free.
Are your outside faucets happy this winter?
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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