Making Sense of the systems that make up your home. Common sense explanations from Curtis C. Brown, Home Inspector.
Today's topic: Outdoor faucet, hose bibb, spigot, sillcock, hydrant, etc.
Are you getting hosed?
Outdoor faucet, hose bibb, spigot, sillcock, hydrant, etc. A variety of names for the same component. I usually refer to them as hose bibbs. Most homes have a least one. They facilitate your access to water at the exterior of your home. During the warmer months of the year, we regularly use them to water our flowerbeds, gardens to keep the grass green, wash vehicles, backyard summer fun, and so on.
Proper installation and suitable design can go a long way toward providing peace of mind and functionality year-round.
Frost-free faucets are an excellent component to protect against freezing. It’s a simple design that shuts the water supply off well within the insulated cavity of the structure. When appropriately installed, residual water will drain from the faucet when shut-off. These types of exterior faucets do not require an insulated cover in the winter.
However, all bets are off if the hose or any other attachment is left on the faucet. For this product to perform properly, it must be allowed to drain as designed. Leaving components attached to the faucet prevents drainage and increases the likelihood of damage in freezing conditions.
In addition to the frost-free design, most modern exterior faucets also have an atmospheric vacuum breaker, commonly referred to as the anti-siphon valve. Typically, a plastic cap on the top of the tap, as shown in the photo and diagram above. Other brands have similar designs. An atmospheric vacuum breaker consists of a check valve component with an air vent that is typically closed when the faucet is pressurized. A hose connection vacuum breaker should be installed at all hose bibbs connected to the potable water supply to prevent contaminated water back flowing into the supply.
If the hose bibb(s) at your home doesn’t have a vacuum breaker as part of the faucet design, you can easily install an aftermarket anti-siphon vacuum breaker.
These devices typically cost less than $10 and are easy to install as a hose. However, the spring-loaded check valve in this attachment does not allow water drainage. There is a release at the device’s base, but it is easy to forget to relieve the pressure once the hose is removed. With all exterior faucets, homeowners should remove hoses at times of potentially freezing weather. If you have one of these devices on your hose bibbs, I recommend homeowners either remove them in the winter months or put a protective cover over your faucets.
In the state of Washington, a licensed home inspector is required to “operate fixtures in order to observe functional flow” and “describe any deficiencies of these systems or components in the inspection report.” Oddly enough, I see nowhere in the Washington state standards of practice that the home inspector is required to perform a pressure test. Without performing a pressure test, “describing any deficiencies” is a limited evaluation.
In addition to operating fixtures to observe the functional flow, I install a pressure gauge at all accessible hose attachments at my inspections. At municipal water supply, pressure should be between 40 and 80 pounds per square inch (psi), commonly set at 60 psi. Attaching the pressure gauge at every hose bibb not only documents pressure in the water supply system but can also expose a leak that might not show up otherwise if the faucet was turned on without any backpressure. An accessible pressure relief valve (PRV) and expansion tank are also important components of a pressurized water supply system.
When I was young, my grandfather taught me that any job worth doing is worth doing well. I take pride in my thorough and honest home inspections. Due diligence and accurate reporting are the heartbeats of my business model. The exterior faucets at a home are just one aspect of the multitude of components, appurtenances, and attachments that are observed and evaluated during the process of a thorough home inspection.
To contact me, call, text, or email. If you would like to schedule a home inspection or have a discussion about any concerns you may have about your home and its condition, I’d be happy to have a conversation.
Curtis C. Brown,
Local, Friendly, and Thorough
Experienced, Licensed, and Insured
Home Inspection, Whatcom County