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SPetty 01-09-2010 10:41 AM

Ice in Cover over Exterior Faucet
Here in TX, we're entering our third day of not being above freezing. I tried to buy the foam covers for the two exterior faucets, but they were out, so I crafted my own using rags, milk jugs, scrap foam rubber, strings and sticks. It works much like the storebought ones.

The day after installing these covers, I noticed that there were icicles coming out the bottom. I figured that the faucets themselves were already leaking and I had just never noticed and thus the icicles.

We're due to thaw for a few hours this afternoon. I went out to check on the covers and noticed that one is half full of solid ice, enough to cover the faucet.

I think this is caused by a leaking faucet rather than a broken pipe, but I won't know that for sure until the thaw, probably tomorrow, unless I manually pour warm water on the faucet to thaw it early.

IF it is caused by a leaking faucet, is it now a problem that the ice seems deeper than the faucet itself? That is, there wouldn't be an outlet for the leaking water any more if its exit is frozen, right? Is that a problem for the pipe? Or is it a good thing that will prevent the pipe from bursting? Or, would I be better off just removing all the covering and melting the ice and allowing the faucet to drip?

I did not know that the faucet dripped prior to this, so it isn't much of a drip. There is not a pond under the faucet when it is not freezing...

Thanks for your help and knowledge!

SPetty 01-09-2010 11:32 AM

Here's a pic
1 Attachment(s)
Here's a pic (I am so proud of my homemade cover!) Notice the ice line inside the milk jug.

Thurman 01-09-2010 11:52 AM

I'll certainly have to give you an "A" for ingenuity. The picture is a beauty. But looking at it I'm wondering: is there any insulation within the milk jug? My understanding of the way those molded store bought one's work is to help trap any warm(er) air which may leak from around a faucet, then entrap this little bit of warm air withing the foam cover to help prevent freezing. I'm also wondering if you now need to put a small hole in the bottom of your cover to facilitate water drainage, as it definitely does accumulate water from somewhere. I've seen faucets which have never leaked start to leak as soon as abnormally cold weather comes in. An older plumber told me years ago that he has always believed cold weather makes the stem of a faucet shrink, causing the washer to lose it's pressure against the seat, therefore starting a very small drip. Bottom line now is that I would provide a way for that water to get out of the jug to prevent all that ice build-up. Good Luck, David

SPetty 01-09-2010 01:07 PM

Thanks for the response (and compliment!). I wrapped the faucet with a flannel rag before covering it. Like you, I thought the storebought ones were to help trap any warm(er) air which may leak from around a faucet to help prevent freezing, which is why I added the cover after wrapping it with a flannel rag.

So it sounds like you would suggest taking it all apart and applying warm water to melt the ice? A hole in the bottom at this time would be fruitless, as it is frozen solid.

Thurman 01-09-2010 03:25 PM

I re-read my post, and I don't see where I implied, nor did I intend to imply, to run warm water over the faucet to thaw it out. I have always been taught not to use hot/warm water to thaw pipes. IF I were to use water, it would be the temp at which it would be coming from any cold water tap in the home. What I would do at this point: remove the cover, clean out any materials from within the cover, and discard them. Get water from a cold water source within the home and run it over the faucet slowly until you are assured the faucet is not frozen, the handle will turn without brute force, and you can normally get water from the faucet. Then, I would close the faucet normally, not too tight. IF it leaks, so be it for now, let it leak. Place new "insulating" materials within the milk jug but try to prevent this material from getting wet from any drip you may have. Can you glue this material to the sidewalls of the jug? DO leave a small hole in the bottom of the jug to facilitate drainage IF you have a leak. This small hole will be immaterial as far as retaining warmth, but important as to preventing the ice build-up you had. We are having some abnormal cold temps now, and in our area we are having to deal with them as many people are having to do. The #1 concern to me is that people stay in and stay warm. Preventing pipes from freezing is a valid concern and prevention where we were not worried about it one month ago is a important. We do what we can to protect our property for now, and understand that we can fix/repair it when it warms up--some. I own/operate a "Household HandyMan" business and I've got the feeling that the next two weeks may be very busy for me. That's life, David

Ron6519 01-09-2010 04:48 PM

Don't you have a shutoff valve in the house that controls this hose bib? If you don't, install one and shut the water off to this bib.
When the iceberg melts, install an anti freeze hose bib.

concretemasonry 01-09-2010 05:00 PM

We have some severe cold and have an "no-freeze" bib but shut it off and then use a foam cover.

Make sure the bib is not connected to the hose and can be drained anf the bleeder opened before putting on the cover. That way, there is no water in the bib to freeze and expand.

With an indoor shut off , it takes about 2 minutes each fall and guarantees no costly dainage inside finished walls.


Itsdanf 01-09-2010 05:12 PM

For some reason it's apparently not common practice (and not a local code requirement) to install individual inside shutoffs for outside faucets in this area (I'm about 50-80 miles from the OP -- a next-door-neighbor by Texas standards). Drives me crazy this time of year.

I'll be correcting that in my (recently acquired) house the next time I renovate the related walls. (...or as soon as one of my outside faucets bursts :whistling2:).

Wildie 01-09-2010 09:09 PM

Here in Canada, dealing with frozen pipes is usual.
From what you say, it sounds to me like you were too late with the frost protection and that its likely that the case of the valve may be cracked!
If so, you will have to replace it!
For my house, I have installed a 'hydrant' valve. Basically, its a valve with a long case and stem that places the seat inside the house. These units are long enough to penetrate the wall thickness.
With this type of shut-off, you never ever have to concern yourself about freezing again.

In an emergency, leaving the ordinary valve open a crack and allowing it to drip will keep it from freezing.

Thurman 01-10-2010 10:31 AM

As mentioned by the "Aggies", shut-off valves located within a structure for the purpose of shutting down the water to outside hose bibs are not required under code here. And--if you were to ask a plumber to install such an item as a new home were being built, you would probably be laughed off of the site. I admit: It's a great idea, so why don't I even have one? The last time I remember having a frozen outside hose bib or faucet was back in '86 I believe. This one was on the actual well piping when I lived in another location and it just plain got very cold within the well house. Currently I have four (4) outside faucets on the house, and three (3) on the shop, all covered with the foam covers. I bought the last one's before "SPetty" went to the store :). I do check the shop daily to assure water is still available at the sink as there is no heat in there (that's why I'm not in there). We are just going to have to do our best during this unusual cold spell, and improve matters when it warms up. Thanks, David

Itsdanf 01-10-2010 10:44 AM


Originally Posted by Thurman (Post 380065)
As mentioned by the "Aggies"....

AGGIES??? Pu-leeeze! No maroon in my burnt-orange blood. Hook 'Em!

Kevin M. 01-10-2010 03:40 PM


Originally Posted by Itsdanf (Post 380074)
AGGIES??? Pu-leeeze! No maroon in my burnt-orange blood. Hook 'Em!

Those cold fronts can be a real problem for outside faucets. Kinda like, the cold reception the Nebraska defense laid on the longhorns in the big 12 championship. :laughing::laughing::laughing::laughing: SUH SUH SUH!!!!!

SPetty 01-10-2010 06:21 PM

You guys are fun!

The faucet is on the north side of the house, so NEVER sees the sun. It got up into the 40's today, but not enough to thaw the faucet. I used almost warm water (Thurman, I was the one who mentioned it in my first post - how else would you thaw ice?) to get the plastic milk jug off, but did not/could not remove the frozen rag. I drenched it in almost warm water enough to get the solid block of ice to thaw, though.

I do not think that the pipe froze, but I still think that the faucet is simply dripping. At least I still hope that's the case. It's supposed to be up into the 50's tomorrow, so hopefully it will fully thaw and I can be assured that there is no burst pipe.

Just a few inches behind the faucet is the dining room, so it isn't one of those frost-resistant faucets with a six to eight inch stem.

My original question was supposed to be whether the block of ice was a good thing that would prevent the pipe from freezing, or if it was a bad thing that would cause the pipe to freeze. You know how they report that they spray the fruit crops with water in order to form a frozen barrier to the cold weather? I've never quite understood that.

Go Cowboys? :laughing:

Ron6519 01-11-2010 03:32 PM

If the pipe is encased in ice, it's putting pressure on the pipe from the exterior. The frozen water in the pipe is putting outward pressure on the walls of the pipe. If the pressure is equal, will the pipe burst? Maybe not, if the exterior froze first. If the interior froze before the outside ice encased it, I would think it might crack.
You'll know when it thaws.

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