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Why is My Outdoor Water Spigot Leaking or Dripping?

Nobody wants to waste precious water (not to mention money) thanks to a pesky outdoor spigot that’s decided to start leaking or dripping nonstop. As a homeowner in Ohio or Indiana, you know how quickly those little leaks can escalate into bigger issues if left unchecked.

All those seemingly insignificant drops actually add up to hundreds of gallons of water each year! That’s not just wasted water but also wasted money. And don’t forget that all that excess moisture can lead to costly damage around foundations or landscaping. Come winter, that same leak could turn into a nasty ice slick waiting to happen.

So don’t wait for that dripping faucet to become a much bigger problem! Thankfully, more often than not, tracing down the culprit and making the repair is something you can do yourself. You don’t need to call in the experts right away.

In this guide, we will walk you through the most common causes of outdoor spigot leaks, effective DIY fixes, and preventative measures perfect for any Ohio or Indiana home. But, sometimes, there are deeper problems causing the leaks which are beyond our powers to fix. We’ll let you know the signs that you should call in a professional plumber instead.

Don’t settle for that constant pitter-patter any longer – a little know-how is all it takes to get your outdoor spigots back in tip-top shape.

Common Causes of Outdoor Water Spigot Leaks

A leaky outdoor faucet is annoying, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. The first step to stopping those drips is understanding what’s actually causing the leak in the first place. Here are some of the most common reasons your exterior hose bib might be springing a leak:

  • Worn-out Washer
  • Loose Packing Nut
  • Faulty Spigot Valve
  • Cracked Spigot
  • Pipe Issues
  • Loose Connections
  • High Water Pressure
  • Corrosion
  • Improper Installation

Let’s have a look at each one. 

Worn-Out Washer

That little rubber washer inside the spigot plays a crucial role – creating a watertight seal when you turn off the faucet. Over years of use though, that washer can dry out, crack, or get chewed up, leaving gaps for water to seep through. Some telltale signs it needs replacing are a leak that won’t stop no matter how tight you crank the spigot handle or water dribbling out even when the tap is fully turned off.

Swapping in a fresh washer is an easy fix:

  • Shut off the water supply to the spigot
  • Unscrew the packing nut at the faucet’s stem
  • Pull out the old washer and stem
  • Slide the new washer into place
  • Reassemble the components

With a new, pliable washer creating that tight seal again, the leak should be history.

Loose Packing Nut

This nut at the base of the faucet stem helps compress the washers and valve components together for a waterproof fit. When it gets loose over time though, that loss of compression lets water escape. You’ll know if this is the issue when you can easily spin the packing nut by hand or if water seeps out right from that area.

Tightening up a loose packing nut is a simple remedy:

  • Shut off the main water supply
  • Use pliers or a wrench to firmly re-tighten the packing nut at the spigot’s base
  • Ensure it’s snug against the stem without using excessive force

That added compression should seal up any drips originating from this spot.

Faulty Spigot Valve

The internal valve mechanism is what actually stops and starts water flow within a spigot. On compression-style faucets, that valve is a simple rubber gasket that closes down over the pipe opening. Ball valve and gate valve designs use a ball or cylinder component to control flow. When these valve parts wear out or break, water can’t get fully blocked off.

Leaks around the spigot’s threaded stem, water dribbling even with the tap cranked closed, or the handle getting stuck are signs of valve trouble. 

To diagnose it properly:

  • Take apart the faucet
  • Inspect for worn or broken valve components
  • Replace valve components if needed

 Full valve replacement might be required for an affordable fix.

Cracked Spigot

Freezing temperatures are often to blame for outdoor spigots splitting or cracking over time. That’s because any trapped water inside expands as it freezes, putting intense pressure on the surrounding faucet material until it gives way. Physical impacts from lawn equipment can also cause hairline cracks.

Do a careful visual inspection of the entire spigot body:

  • Carefully inspect the entire spigot body for cracks or splits
  • Check especially around pipe connection points
  • For short-term, you can try caulking small cracks
  • For persistent leaks, replace the entire spigot housing

Pipe Issues

Sometimes the leak originates not from the spigot itself but from pipe corrosion, loose joints, or failed seals somewhere along the underground line feeding the faucet. Soggy soil patches or water pooling around the hose bib area often points to this larger pipe problem.

To deal with pipe issues:

  • Locate and expose the buried pipe feeding the spigot
  • Thoroughly inspect any exposed pipe sections
  • Look for corrosion, cracks, dampness, mineral deposits
  • Address any trouble spots with repairs or pipe replacement
  • Consider calling a professional for major underground issues

Loose Connections 

Over time, the connections between the spigot and pipes can loosen up due to ground settling, freeze/thaw cycles, or just general vibrations. When fittings aren’t tightly secured, they create gaps that allow water to escape. 

Checking for loose joints, couplings or union fittings on both the spigot and any exposed pipe sections is important. Use a wrench to securely tighten any loose connections.

High Water Pressure 

While outdoor faucets are designed to handle normal residential water pressure levels, excessively high pressure can put too much strain on components. That intense force can cause failures of washers, and valves or even lead to cracks in the spigot housing itself over time. You might consider installing a pressure reducing valve if the pressure is too high.


Just like any exposed metal, spigot housings and pipe materials are susceptible to corrosion from moisture, soil conditions, and weathering. As that corrosion builds up, it eats away at the integrity of the materials until small pinholes or leaks form. Replacing severely corroded components is the only fix.

Improper Installation

Whether from DIY efforts or shoddy professional work, improperly installed outdoor faucets can develop leaks early on. Mistakes like cross-threading, over-tightening, using the wrong sealants, or failing to properly secure pipe connections all create pathways for water to escape. You will need to reinstall the parts if any issue is found.

Seasonal Considerations for Ohio and Indiana

Living in the Midwest, we know all too well how punishing the changing seasons can be on home plumbing systems. Our frigid winters and humid summers present some unique challenges when it comes to preventing outdoor spigot leaks. Here are some seasonal tips to keep in mind for Ohio and Indiana homeowners.

Winterizing Your Spigot

With our harsh Midwest winters, proper winterization is a must for outdoor spigots. Leaving them exposed and connected puts your entire plumbing system at risk of bursting pipes if water freezes inside. A little preventative action in the fall can save you from major headaches.

Follow these simple steps to winterize exterior faucets and prevent frozen pipe disasters:

  • Disconnect any hoses or attachments so the spigot is fully open to draining.
  • Go inside and locate the shutoff valve controlling water to that spigot line, turning it to the closed position.
  • Back outside, open up the spigot valve fully to allow any remaining water inside to drain out completely.
  • Consider installing an insulated faucet cover over the spigot to provide extra protection from drafts that could cause freezing.

Don’t skip this vital winterizing process! Taking that small amount of time now is well worth avoiding the mess and damage caused by frozen pipes.

Dealing with Freezing and Thawing

Despite our best efforts, spigots can still fall victim to freezing temperatures, especially during brutally cold Ohio and Indiana winters. When water freezes inside the faucet or feeding pipes, it expands and puts immense pressure on the surrounding materials until leaks start springing.

If you do end up with a frozen spigot or pipe, don’t make the mistake of immediately trying to thaw it out with a torch or heat gun. That sudden temperature change will likely just cause more cracking and damage. 

Instead, gradually warm the area with a heating pad or portable space heater. Once thawed, slowly turn the water supply back on and have buckets ready to catch any leaks. Inspect the entire line for cracks, dampness, or other damage before using it again.

Taking some simple precautions helps avoid having to deal with frozen plumbing issues altogether. But if Old Man Winter does strike your spigots, it’s crucial to thaw carefully and check for damage to prevent bigger leaks.

Preventive Measures

Rather than just reacting to drips after they’ve started, it’s better to be proactive with some simple preventative measures. Here are some maintenance tips to keep those exterior hose bibs in tip-top shape.

Regular Inspection

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when it comes to plumbing fixtures like outdoor spigots. Taking a few minutes every couple of months to thoroughly inspect your hose bibs can help catch small issues before they turn into bigger leaks.

During your inspection, carefully examine the entire faucet housing for any cracks, splits, loose components, or mineral buildup. Use a flashlight to get a good look at often-missed areas. Check for dampness around pipe connections that could indicate a slow leak. Don’t forget to also inspect any exposed pipe runs leading to the spigot.

You’ll want a few basic tools on hand like pliers, an adjustable wrench, and a scrub brush to properly check everything out. If anything seems amiss, now is the time to make repairs or replacements before major drips start.

Routine Cleaning

Cleaning isn’t just for keeping spigots looking spiffy – it’s also crucial for preventing mineral buildup and corrosion that leads to leaks down the road. At least once a year, take the time to thoroughly clean all your outdoor faucets.

Start by gently scrubbing off any noticeable gunk on the spigot housing using an old toothbrush and a mixture of warm water and dish soap. For stuck-on mineral deposits, make a baking soda paste with water to lightly scour the buildup away. Avoid harsh acids or abrasive pads that could damage finishes.

Once the body is clean, soak an old cloth with vinegar and wrap it around the spigot’s threaded stem and packing nut. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes to help dissolve grimy deposits from those crevices before rinsing everything down.

Establish a simple cleaning routine and your spigots will be able to provide years of leak-free service.

Replacing Parts Before They Fail

Even with diligent cleaning and inspection, certain spigot components will inevitably wear out over time. Rather than waiting for parts to break and start causing leaks, it’s smart to get ahead of the game by replacing them proactively.

Most washers, gaskets, and valve stems have an expected 5- 10-year lifespan depending on factors like water quality and frequency of use. If you start noticing signs of brittleness, cracking, stiffness, or mineral buildup on these rubber and plastic parts during inspections, that’s a clue they’re nearing the end of their effective life. Swap them out now as a preventative measure.

The same preventative replacement approach goes for the entire spigot housing too. Most manufacturers provide a 10- 15-year warranty on freezeproof sillcocks, but they’re not designed to last forever. If your hose bib is getting up there in age, go ahead and budget for swapping it out before cracks inevitably start forming.

A few bucks on some fresh rubber washers or a new spigot assembly beats the cost and hassle of repairing leaks any day. Prioritize preventative maintenance to keep things flowing smoothly.

When to Bring in the Pros

As satisfying as it can be to fix a leaky outdoor faucet all by yourself, there are definitely times when it pays to call in reinforcements from a professional plumber. Nobody wants to make a relatively minor issue way worse just by being a little too overzealous with the DIY approach.

If you’ve already tried the basic leak fixes like swapping out washers or snugging up packing nuts and that pesky drip persists, chances are the root cause goes deeper than a quick homeowner remedy can reach. 

The same applies if you notice worrying signs like big drops in water pressure, areas of pooling water around the spigot, or any indicators that the problem originates somewhere in the underground pipes rather than the faucet itself. At that point, you’ll want expert eyes inspecting the whole plumbing system.

In some cases, the age or deterioration of the actual hose bib means replacement is safer than gambling on a patch job repair sticking long-term. Hairline cracks have an annoying habit of spreading with seasonal freeze/thaw cycles until the entire faucet housing gives way.  For the sake of avoiding bigger leaks and collateral water damage, cutting your losses by having a licensed plumber properly install a new outdoor sillcock makes the most sense.

At the end of the day, it comes down to knowing your limits as a DIYer and having enough self-awareness to avoid situations that could escalate into true plumbing disasters. 

If ever you feel like you’re in over your head, the smart play is to consult with pros who have the specialized tools and training to accurately diagnose stubborn leaks and implement comprehensive fixes that last. A little humility can save you major headaches (and costs!) down the road.

Put an End to Dripping Outdoor Faucets for Good

There’s simply no need to keep dealing with the constant annoyance and waste caused by leaky exterior spigots. This guide has provided you with all the essential info to get to the bottom of those drippy culprits once and for all – whether it’s a worn-out washer, cracked housing, or underground pipe issue causing the problem.

You now have a full toolkit of DIY remedies and preventative tricks to stop leaks and keep those outdoor hose bibs in peak condition for the long haul. Regular inspections, proper cleaning routines, and timely part replacements will be key for any homeowner looking to avoid disappointing drips.

That said, there’s absolutely no shame in waving the white flag and calling in professional backup if you ever find yourself facing a leak that seems beyond your abilities. Attempting an overly complicated plumbing repair you’re not fully confident about is just asking for much bigger headaches down the road. A little humble self-awareness can save you a world of potential flooding disasters.

When you do need that extra support, trusted local pros like the crew at Bassett Services have specialized tools and training to comprehensively diagnose and fix even the trickiest leaks right the first time. No more hasty band-aid fixes that keep failing.

The bottom line is that persistent drips from exterior faucets don’t need to be something you resign yourself to living with any longer. You’ve got everything required to take back control – either through your own handy efforts or by enlisting expert help when needed. Put this advice into action and stop that annoying pitter-patter once and for all. Or if you’d rather hand things off to caring professionals from the jump, give Bassett Services a call at (317) 360-0054 and let us get your exterior plumbing flowing smoothly again.

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