Hello everyone and welcome to “How NOT to Call the Plumber!” – Spring edition! I know it’s early, but to me, April is an exciting time of year. The sun starts to get warmer, tulips start to bloom, and people seem to emerge from hibernation and go straight to the city’s patios!
One of the first things we do in the Spring, is open the water to the outside hoses. Since I know there will be quite a few of you very eager to get into the spring mood (as you should be), we’re going to talk about how to protect yourself from potential damage to your house while doing this. Even if you aren’t doing this yet, save this post to refer back to when you do – it really could save you from a flood! I should note – please be wary this time of year as we are still seeing freezing temperatures here and there!
As I’m sure you all know, the winter months in Toronto wreak havoc on the plumbing systems of our homes. One of the hardest hit areas are these exterior water supplies. Everyone hopes that they don’t experience a frozen or burst pipe over the winter, but most don’t know that opening the water for the first time in the spring is just as dangerous!
Hose bibs are notorious in that they often hide their issues until we start to use and subsequently forget about them. They hide them long enough for you to go outside, water the flowers, and suddenly come back to a flooded basement. Let’s go through the steps of safely opening your water for the spring.
For those with a “standard” hose bib setup, the first thing you are going to do is open the valve that controls flow to that hose bib. Once you turn the handle, don’t run outside and start watering the grass. Hang tight for five minutes and check out that valve. Over time, valves will often develop leaks that won’t show unless opened or closed. Also, you’ll want to make sure that “bleeder cap” on the side of the valve, is properly closed and holding pressure. If after five minutes you don’t see any issue, you’re likely clear for step one.
Step two is to stay inside the house (specifically near where the pipe exits the house) and listen. We are listening for any type of hissing or dripping sound. This will signify that the pipe has burst somewhere inside the wall during the winter and needs to be fixed. Every year we hear of someone who has turned on the hose and left it, just to come down to a flooded basement a while later!
Step three is to now go outside. WITHOUT attaching the hose, open the valve outside and allow water to flow for just a second or two. Once that has happened, close the hose bib and take a look. Is there water dripping from the handle? Does the water turn off fully, or does it continue to drip from the hose bib itself? As I mentioned earlier, winter wreaks havoc on these things – even if you did everything right in the fall to winterize, you may still find yourself with a broken hose bib in the spring! If everything checks out, go ahead and connect the hose – happy spring!
Now for those of you who have “frost free” hose bibs. You may consider yourself lucky in that you don’t need to turn off any interior valves in the winter, but you still need to do you due diligence in the spring!
If the valve is leaking from the outside while you use it, it will be quite obvious (when these leak outside, they tend to do so quite dramatically!). The bigger potential issue is inside. The nature of how these are built, means that it will only leak inside the house while you are actually using it outside - inconvenient, I know. All we need to do to combat this is have someone inside the house, typically in the basement, monitoring for dripping, hissing, etc. the first time you use it. If something has failed over the winter, what happens is the “body” of the valve will actually burst inside the house. This isn’t an issue when it isn’t in use, as there is no water sitting in it. As soon as you open the valve outside, the water flows through the body of the faucet and subsequently will spray out of that burst section, inside the house! Similar to what I was speaking about earlier, we always seem to run into someone who this has happened to and unknowingly flooded their basement in the process.
That is all for this week! Again, I should say that it may be a little bit early to open those hose bibs yet – we are still flirting with freezing temperatures overnight, so it’s better to be safe than sorry! I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. See you next time! 😊