What to Do If Your Outdoor Faucet Is Leaking

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: February 26, 2024

It’s easy to miss, but when the outdoor faucet is leaking, it’s quietly causing problems. Whether you call it a spigot, hose bib or faucet, you need to stop the drip.

With more than 85 years of combined experience cleaning up water damage, we know how a simple leak can complicate things.

Let’s take a look at common outdoor faucet problems, the best DIY fixes and pro tips that make the job easier.

Before You Get Started

  • Turn off your home’s water supply at the shut-off valve.
  • Stay dry with waterproof work boots and gloves.
  • You’ll need a screwdriver, adjustable pliers, an adjustable wrench and a seat wrench.
  • Keep a plumber’s contact information handy just in case.

How to Fix a Leaking Outdoor Faucet

Problem 1: Faucet Drips After Turning Off

Cause: The faucet’s metal packing nut, located at the top of the tap stem, keeps the faucet handle securely closed and watertight. When the packing nut begins to loosen, it allows the faucet to drip even when it’s turned off.

Fix: Firmly grip the packing nut with an adjustable wrench or adjustable pliers, and slowly tighten it. The packing nut should seat properly with an eighth to a quarter of a full turn.

Pro Tip: Be sure to keep a steady grip on the faucet handle as you tighten the packing nut.

Problem 2: Water Sprays From Handle

Cause: A little further down on the faucet’s stem, below the packing nut and above the stem washer, you’ll find the packing washer. If this part is worn or damaged, water sprays out around the handle as you turn it.

Fix: Disassemble the faucet by unscrewing and pulling off the handle. Use an adjustable wrench or adjustable pliers to remove the packing nut, and then pull out the handle stem. Work the old packing washer until it’s loose, push a new washer into place, and reassemble the faucet.

Pro Tip: Restoration expert Diana Rodriguez-Zaba recommends, “Use a little silicone grease to lubricate the new washer so that’s easier to slide over the handle stem.”

Problem 3: Water Flow Fluctuates and Drips

Cause: As the faucet is opened and closed, the stem washer at the bottom of the handle moves up and down. This action controls water flow. A worn stem washer produces uneven flow and constant dripping when the faucet is in use.

Fix: Access the stem washer by unscrewing the packing nut, removing the faucet handle, and then removing the valve stem packing. Remove the screw from the worn washer, replace it with a new washer, and reassemble the faucet.

Pro Tip: Take the old stem washer to the hardware store, and use it as your guide to buying a new washer with the same thickness and diameter.

Problem 4: Faucet Constantly Drips

Cause: The valve seat is located at the bottom of the faucet housing, just under the stem washer. It controls water flow as the stem washer rises and lowers. Corrosion buildup on the component keeps it from closing properly and results in constant leaking.

Fix: Take the housing apart, as described above. Once you’ve accessed the valve seat, use a seat wrench to loosen the part and remove it. Replace the faulty component with an identical type of valve seat.

Pro Tip: Not all exterior faucet valve seats are removable, so you may have to replace the entire faucet.

Problem 5: Faucet Supply Line Connection Leaks

Cause: When plunging temperatures freeze an outdoor faucet, its supply line can be affected too. The pipe develops small splits or cracks that leak around its wall mount connection to the spigot.

Fix: Temporarily stop the leak by opening up the area around the pipe and repairing the line with a pipe coupling or repair clamp. Let a licensed plumber take care of a permanent fix.

Pro Tip: Reduce the chances of frozen supply pipes by wrapping them with sleeves of polyethylene insulation secured with cable ties or duct tape.

What to Do About Water Damage

A dripping exterior faucet can saturate a garden, complicate yard drainage and drive up the monthly water bill. It can also damage your home.

These are a few examples of interior damages caused by a leaky outdoor faucet.

  • Constantly wet soil allows your home’s foundation to shift, eventually causing interior structural damage.
  • Water dripping from a damaged faucet supply line backs up and leaks inside your home’s walls.
  • Accumulated moisture seeps into the basement floor and walls, creating unhealthy levels of high humidity.
  • Mold grows on damp basement walls, spreading through the house and releasing airborne spores.
  • Paint begins to peel or blister on drywall, and wood rot takes hold in wood studs, joists and beams.
  • Always fix a leaky exterior faucet as soon as you notice the problem. If you see any evidence of water damage inside the house, contact restoration professionals, like ServiceMaster by Zaba.

How to Prevent Outdoor Faucet Leakage

  • Routinely inspect exterior faucets at least twice a year.
  • Pay attention to signs of leakage, and make repairs right away.
  • Replace old faucets with durable upgrades every 10 to 20 years.
  • Winterize faucet exteriors with insulated bib covers.
  • Winterize faucet pipes with polyethylene insulation.

Dealing With the Water Damage Caused by a Leaking Outdoor Faucet in Chicago or Suburbs? We Can Help!

We know you can fix that outdoor faucet, but let us take care of the interior water damage. We handle everything with restoration expertise backed by more than 85 years of industry-certified experience.

When a small leak creates a big cleanup problem, ServiceMaster by Zaba is just around the corner.

We’re right here in Chicagoland and ready for your call: 773-647-1985.

Helpful Resources

First Freeze Dates – National Weather Service

Fixing Common Leaks – EPA

Average Household Water Usage – EPA

Do you need a plumber to replace the outdoor spigot?

In most cases, you can do it yourself. Use a pipe wrench to disconnect the old spigot, remove it, and replace it with a new faucet secured in place with plumber’s silicone tape.

How much does it cost to fix a leaky outdoor spigot?

The cost of a new faucet ranges from $5 to $10. Plumbers typically charge between $150 and $200 to supply a new faucet and do the work.

Can I cap a leaky outdoor faucet?

Yes, but consider it a temporary fix. When the temperature drops, capping increases the risk of the faucet freezing, making it more difficult to repair.