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Reuben Saltzman

Frozen Faucets

Today’s episode is a very timely topic that is related to the very cold weather that we are experiencing right now. The gang will be talking about frozen faucets and some of the plumbing that runs through the exteriors of houses. The gang will also be sharing “what to do” when the water flow is shut off so that homeowners won’t end up with a problem later.

The show starts off with Reuben defining an outside faucet. He mentions several terms such as an outside hose bib, a spigot, a hose valve, and a sillcock (used in the Minnesota State Plumbing Code). He makes a point that faucet maintenance is one of the most important things to do in the fall winterization checklist. He also gives a piece of advice to home inspectors: “do not miss testing every single faucet without fail, regardless of whether it’s summer or winter.”

Bill shares how he once forgot to winterize his outside faucet. He forgot to disconnect the hose on his frost-free faucet which caused it to back up and break the pipe between the actual shut-off and the hose connection. He also shares how much it cost him to replace it, not to mention the plumber he hired since he is not a handyman sort.

Tessa relives her story; a mistake she made when she was taking out screws from a bathtub access panel to check the overflow for leaks. She shares how water started spraying out right after putting the screw back in the exact same hole through the sheetrock. She also shares the difference between having insulation at the rim joist and not.

Lastly, the gang finishes by sharing some of the home inspections from the past and answering the following questions:

  • Is it allowed to run plumbing pipes in an exterior wall even if the pipe is right next to the drywall?

  • How should the outside valve be drained?

  • What to do in case you forget to winterize an outside faucet?

  • What will happen if there is no insulation at the rim joist?

Related link: https://www.structuretech.com/blog/how-to-replace-a-shutoff-valve-the-easy-way-use-a-sharkbite

TRANSCRIPTION

The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.

Reuben Saltzman: There’s so many names for ’em. You can call it an outside faucet, an outside hose bib, a spigot, a hose valve, or the one we removed from our home inspection software, was sillcock.

Bill Oelrich: Welcome everybody, you’re listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman, as always, your three-legged stool. Welcome today’s episode, and we’re gonna dig into some plumbing topics today, specifically related to plumbing that runs through the exterior of your houses. In the Great Northland, where we live, this winter’s been very, very mild, but we’re about to enter a stretch of probably 10-14 days where things are gonna get pretty cold around here. And so we wanted to just talk a little bit about these water sources, and when they terminate at the exterior what homeowners should be doing to make sure they don’t end up with a problem later on this year. So Reuben, give me your definition of what an outside faucet is, ’cause I call them “faucets”, but I know you call them something different.

RS: There’s so many names for ’em. You can call it an outside faucet, an outside hose bib, a spigot, a hose valve, or the one we removed from our home inspection software was sillcock. And I always use that term because that’s what it said in the Minnesota State Plumbing Code. And when you go to the hardware store or the home improvement store, and you wanna buy an outside faucet, the technical name for ’em was sillcocks. So that’s what we’d always use, but I remember a home inspection I was doing with Milind, many years ago, this is while he was in training, and I kept using that word and his face was turning red; and he was just dying. He’s like, “Why do you keep saying that?” I’m like, “That’s what it’s called.” He was like, “But that’s a dirty word.” I’m like, “No, this just means it’s something that shuts off the flow of a liquid, that’s a dictionary definition. It’s a device for regulating the flow of liquid.” He’s like, “Well, not anymore it isn’t.” And I was like… I’m like, “Alright, fine,” and it may have taken me another year or two, and maybe George was insistent that we’re gonna call it something else. And so I think we call it an outside faucet now. But we’re talking about the same thing. It’s the outside hose bib, we’ll call it that.

BO: Awesome. I do appreciate the fact that Milind has never left eighth grade.

[laughter]

RS: Yeah, no doubt. Milind’s Awesome.

BO: Have you ever accidentally not treated these devices the way they should be treated in October of any given year?

RS: Oh yeah. You’re talking about our fall maintenance checklist, Bill.

BO: That is correct.

RS: Yeah, if you live in the frozen tundra, it’s one of the most important things to do in the fall. And we talked about this, I think we did a fall maintenance podcast. It was probably like a year and a half ago now, but we talked about how that’s one of the most important things you gotta cover, is make sure that you winterize your outside faucets, ’cause if you don’t, you can have a nasty mess. And now that we’re talking about it, Bill, I think you shared that you forgot to do yours once, didn’t you?

BO: I forgot to disconnect the hose on my frost-free and it backed up and it broke the pipe in between the actual shut-off and where the hose connects. And visually speaking, so a frost-free, we actually… Turns the water a little bit off inside of your house so that it shouldn’t freeze, and then what remains from the shut-off to the exterior you’re just supposed to drip out of there. But of course, if you’re an idiot like me, and you don’t take the hose off, and the other end of the hose has the spray nozzle on it, which is not gonna allow water to drain out or expand when the ice freezes, if it has nowhere to go. So it expanded into the house and broke the pipe; I had like a 3/4 of an inch long break in the pipe. And it was only $350 to replace, and I’m not handy, so I had to hire a plumber to do it, and he was here and gone in less than 45 minutes.

RS: Yeah, that’s good money, huh?

BO: Well, the part was… I don’t think the part’s inexpensive, but we had to cut holes in the ceiling, we had to do some other things like that, so it was a lot of fun.

RS: Yeah, I bet. So you talk about a frost-free faucet. How would somebody know whether they’ve got a frost-free faucet or not?

BO: Well, mine happened to have this nice little plastic cap on top of it. It’s round and every time you shut off the hose, water would come leaking out of there at the end of it, and that was my first indication that it’s a frost-free. Because otherwise, if it doesn’t have that, then there’s no reason for water to leak out of it.

RS: Okay. So how did you find out that this was leaking, that your pipe burst? Did you have water coming out of the wall. Or what happened?

BO: I’m a careful observer, and when I walked past it one day in December when the hose was still connected, the plastic piece that was once intact, sitting on top of this faucet, was in three pieces on the ground. And I thought to myself, “That’s probably not good,” which led me to… Led me to think, “Well, this spring, when I turn that thing on, I’m gonna have to be paying attention.” And so when I turned the faucet on in the spring, I still had some of my fancy home inspector tools, one of which was an IR camera, and I let it run for about a minute, and then I shut it off and came back in an hour or so to see if any water had leaked on the ceiling of my basement bathroom. And sure enough, it was nice and blue where that water was sitting on top of the drywall.

RS: Yeah.

Tessa Murry: That’s a bummer.

RS: Could have been a lot worse. I remember growing up, I don’t remember the exact circumstances, I was too young, but there was a pipe that burst going to the outside faucet, even though there was a frost-free faucet, it was like a really cold snap. The pipe got really cold in the wall and a pipe split, and it flooded our basement. There was an inch of standing water throughout the entire basement. It was so nasty from this tiny little split in the pipe, but boy, they caused a lot of damage.

BO: How long was that running before you realized?

RS: Nobody was home.

[chuckle]

RS: And it was… You got lucky, Bill. You had all the tools, you knew what to do, but this was like a full on burst. It went for hours. Yeah.

RS: What a mess.

BO: All good home problems always happen when you’re away from the house.

RS: Oh, right, right? I know I’ve shared on this podcast about how that happened when I was doing a remodel at my 1 1/2 story home, and Anna came home at the end of the workday and it’s raining inside the house, there’s water coming out of every light fixture and…

TM: Oh my gosh.

RS: Out of the door ways. It was just a magical water park inside our house. Yeah.

[laughter]

BO: So Reuben, I have a question about this. You mentioned pipes inside the walls. Are you allowed to run plumbing pipes in an exterior wall?

RS: Yes. If you’re gonna have, let’s say, a walk-out basement and you wanna have a faucet… By the way, we looked this up for the show. Where’s the term “sill” come from? It’s because it usually comes out at about the area of the rim joist also known as the sill plate, whatever’s on top of the wall. That’s why they call it that. If you wanna have a faucet at the back of your walk-out home, you don’t have any choice but to run a pipe inside that exterior wall. So it certainly happens a lot, and the idea is you put it on the warm side of the insulation, hopefully. And as long as you do that, you won’t have any problems.

BO: Okay, even though the pipe is right next to the drywall, and if you’re hanging pictures like your eight-point buck that you just took down and you’re doing it on the exterior wall, you might need to be a little careful where you put that screw.

RS: Yeah, that’s a good point, Bill. Definitely.

BO: You would have to be really unlucky to hit that pipe, but I’ve known home inspectors who have been unlucky with screws around plumbing.

[laughter]

TM: I’m raising my hand right now. Yeah, we talked about that on a previous podcast. It leads, “Biggest mistakes, biggest regrets.”

RS: Yeah, share that story for the new listeners, Tessa.

TM: Well, I hope you all learn from my mistake. It was a upstairs bathroom, there was a plumbing access panel in a closet. And there was a… What was it? Like a 3-inch screw that was going through the top of this panel into the sheetrock above the hole in the drywall. And when I was taking it out, I wasn’t really paying that much attention, just took the screw out, opened up the panel, was checking the overflow for leaks, filled up the tub, let it drain, was putting it back in… And Reuben, you were at this inspection because I was inspecting for someone special, right?

RS: Yep.

TM: Do you wanna tell the audience who it was?

RS: It was master electrician Derek Burchill with… And why haven’t we had him on our show? We gotta book him.

TM: We should. Yeah, we should.

BO: Yeah, we should. Probably ’cause he’s really busy most of the time.

RS: Probably so. But yeah, he’s with Electric City. I was just taking off, remember? I was in the driveway, in my truck.

TM: You were just leaving. You were just laving. So I was finished checking out the drain and the overflow, and I was putting the panel cover back on, and I took the screw and I put it back in the exact same hole through the sheetrock and was putting it in, and instead of leaving it, what, like an inch or two out, I put the screw all the way in…

RS: As one does. As one does.

TM: But you know what we always talk about is leaving the house exactly the way we found it. And if I would have left that screw exactly the way I found it, where it was sticking out a couple inches, we wouldn’t have had this problem. But what was directly behind this pointed screw was a water pipe, and the screw went right into it and water started spraying out immediately.

[laughter]

BO: Sorry, Tessa. I didn’t mean to make you relive that. But it just seemed appropriate for my comment.

TM: It was a good lesson. It was a good lesson, but the most impressive thing to me was that Reuben, you ran to the Home Depot and picked up a SharkBite and some tool, came back, cut the piece of pipe out, replaced it, and I think I set up some fans and everything, but you had that thing fixed in five minutes.

RS: Well, SharkBites are so easy. That was a pretty simple fix. And just to kinda close the loop on this so people don’t accuse me of doing plumbing work, I was only doing this as a temporary repair until the owners got back and then we hired a licensed plumber to go out and repair it himself or bless my work. And so we did do that. And it just so happened that right after this licensed plumber did all that, we hired him to be our next home inspector. That became Joe Westerland.

TM: I didn’t realize that was Joe who went out there.

RS: That was Joe, yes.

TM: Wonderful.

RS: Yeah. And I said, “You’re so awesome, and we make leaks so often, we need you. We need you on staff.”

BO: Yeah.

TM: Yeah, that will be the first and the last time I put a screw through a water pipe, hopefully, right? Knock on wood.

BO: Well, don’t be hanging any large pictures on an exterior wall where it’s a walk-out and there’s a exterior faucet adjacent to this picture.

TM: Right.

RS: I told you guys what happened at my dad’s house with his metal handrail, didn’t I?

TM: Don’t think so.

BO: No, this is new.

RS: Or I guess “balustrade” would be the correct term. It’s a whole guard assembly. It’s the guard and the spindles in between, it’s everything, it was all prefabricated, it’s one piece. It’s one of those fancy ones that turns a corner, you gotta order a custom. He attached that to the wall and one of his screws went through a Romex cable, went through a live wire, and it energized the entire guard assembly.

TM: Oh.

RS: And I don’t know how this happened, but nobody knew it was energized for like a week or two until after it was done. And one day my sister grabbed on it and she got lit up. And she’s just like, “What the heck?” This is Mindy. Of course I’m sure we figured she was crazy, like, “What are you talking about?” And yeah, sure enough, it turned out that screw had penetrated a live wire and energized the whole thing.

TM: So that was an outside guard rail, he was putting in?

RS: No, it was inside.

TM: Oh. Okay.

RS: It was inside the house.

TM: Wow.

RS: It technically shouldn’t have happened if… In case people are wondering like, “Isn’t there something in place to prevent this?” Yes, it’s called the nailing plate. When you have non-metallic sheath cable, also known as Romex, when you have that close to the surface of the wall, you’re supposed to have a nailing plate a big chunk of metal in place, that’s gonna prevent you from sticking a screw through. But evidently it didn’t happen here.

BO: We gotta re-center, we gotta get back to sillcocks, Reuben.

RS: Oh, that dirty word, Bill.

[chuckle]

BO: Exterior faucets.

RS: Alright, so where were we? Alright, you were asking what about if it’s an exterior wall, can you put ’em in there? And you know what’s funny? On that topic, there’s this new requirement in Minnesota that actually all of your outside faucets need to be frost-free. You can’t use the traditional faucet anymore. But still on new construction, we’re seeing traditional faucets a lot of the time. And I guess the idea is that people didn’t know that there’s such a beast as a frost-free faucet that’ll fit inside of a 2 x 6 wall, but there is. It’s a little four-inch frost-free faucet. So there is such a thing, it’s the cutest thing in the world, yeah.

BO: You should probably hook an image of one to the show notes just so everybody can understand.

RS: I will definitely do that. That’s a good idea.

BO: From a visual perspective, typically these shut-offs would be like a foot inside your house where obviously you have a finished wall, an exterior wall, those would always be 2 x 6, like a walk-out basement’s always gonna have at least a 2 x 6 wall.

RS: At least here in Minnesota. I know in warmer climates, they’re cool with 2 x 4 walls.

BO: Well, yes, but they are not concerned about frost-free faucets either. So where we live, it would be a 2 x 6 wall filled with insulation, probably a modern wall, so that four inches before the pipe actually turns and goes up the wall is probably just enough protection under normal circumstances that it won’t freeze.

RS: Exactly. And then to winterize your faucets, if you’ve been a homeowner for one season in Minnesota, you better know this, but the trick is you go inside your house, you find the shut-off valve, hopefully you have one. Not every outside faucet has one, right Tess?

TM: Correct. Yeah, actually my parents when they bought a town home in Dubuque, this was years ago, it was new construction. And I was telling them, “Make sure you shut off the water to your outside faucets this fall.” And my parents looked and looked and looked and they could not find the shut-off valve, and they’re like, “Tee, I don’t think we have one.” I was like, “You have to.” Crazy. And the next time I went down to visit I looked and sure enough, they didn’t have shut-off valves for their outside faucets. I don’t know what the code is in Iowa, maybe someone listening can tell us, but it didn’t.

RS: Those crazy Dubuquians.

[chuckle]

TM: Luckily they didn’t have any problems with frozen pipes, but yeah, there are some houses and we see that a lot when we’re inspecting that don’t have shut-off valves for outside faucets.

RS: Yeah. And so the trick is you gotta find that shut-off valve, turn it off, go outside, open up the faucet, and then go back in, and that shut-off valve is usually gonna have a bleeder, it’s a special valve made just for doing this and it’s this little cap you unscrew. Alright, pop-quiz you guys. You’ll have to say a dirty word again if you know the answer, what is that little cap called?

TM: Loss for words. I have no idea.

RS: It’s called a petcock.

TM: That’s a terrible thing. [chuckle] I didn’t think it got worse than the sillcock.

RS: Alright, I’m sorry. You just look it up, look it up, I’m not making this stuff up.

BO: These were words that were made up before people were just kind of juvenile.

RS: Word of the day.

TM: Reuben, please tell me when you were inspecting and you were a young thing in your early days, were you using that terminology as well, alongside sillcock?

RS: Oh, heck no. Heck no.

TM: That’s where you drew the line?

[chuckle]

RS: Yes. Yeah, definitely not. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever said that word out loud before.

[laughter]

RS: This is completely useless trivia. Okay, so where are we? We’re gonna call it a bleeder or a drain valve, if that’s okay with you guys. So you open up your bleeder or drain valve, you drain the water out, and it depends on which side… Which way your pipe pitches to know where most of the water’s gonna go. If that drain is up in the ceiling space and it’s a walk-out, well, then all the water is gonna drain out of the faucet, but if it’s the opposite, if that drain is at about chest level and you’ve got a faucet going to the front of your house, well then all the water’s gonna drain out of the bleeder. It’s so funny, I was just doing something, I had to fill my hot tub or something, so I had to un-winterize it, and I had Lucy standing inside ’cause usually when you drain those things, sometimes a lot of water will come out, it’ll come out kinda aggressively, and I like to just take a rag and hold it over that so it doesn’t all come out and I’ll hold a little bucket below it.

RS: I had Lucy stand inside holding a little bucket getting ready for the water to come out, it was just kinda dribbling out, I let it all dribble out and this was… I can’t remember, this was after I’d shut it off and I was about to go outside and open up the other valve to allow air in to let the water come out, and I was like, “Just hold this for me, honey,” and she’s like, “I don’t want to… ” “Just hold it, it’ll only take a second.” I go out, I open up the outside faucet, and I guess I’ve never been inside when this happened, so I didn’t know how aggressive this was, but I come back in and Lucy’s soaked.

[laughter]

RS: And she’s just glaring at me like I had pulled a prank on her.

[laughter]

BO: It’s a faucet bong.

RS: She’s like, “What the hell, Dad?” No, she didn’t say that, but she just stared at me like… She said, “I am not doing that again.” I was like, “I’m so sorry, honey. I didn’t know it was gonna be that bad.” Yeah, but that’s how you drain your outside valve.

TM: And for anybody that’s listening, it sounds like a lot of steps, but you’ve written a blog on how to do this, right Reuben?

RS: It is on the website. We will link to it in the podcast.

TM: Good.

RS: Yeah.

BO: Okay, so what happens when you’ve got those fancy devices that the cities make you put on the end of your exterior faucet to prevent backflow into their water supply? That makes winterizing your faucet just a tad more challenging, right?

RS: That’s a good point you bring up, Bill, because they only allow water to come out. They won’t allow air to come back in, and that can be a problem. You need to mess with those things, there’s some of them, they’ve got this little piece of white plastic that sticks out of the middle of the faucet opening and you just gotta push it to the side, I’m doing this with my finger, this is a very good pod as I’m demonstrating, but you just push this little piece of plastic to the side and then it’ll allow air in to replace the water and let any extra water drain out.

TM: That was something I didn’t know until recently, Reuben, when you were talking about it. I always thought you just had to take off the… Screw off the backflow preventer that was screwed onto the end of faucets to do that. I didn’t know you could just push the little piece of plastic to the side.

RS: Yeah, that’s what that’s there for.

BO: Those are a one-way thing. Once they’re on, they’re on, right?

RS: They’re supposed to be. Those backflow preventers come with a little set screw that you’re supposed to tighten down until it breaks off, and then it’s permanently installed, yeah.

TM: I feel like one of our inspectors helped out a homeowner one time on a TISH evaluation and they installed one of those things.

RS: I’m pretty sure said inspector covered that story on our podcast. But just in case, it wasn’t supposed to be public, I won’t say who it was, but I will say it didn’t go well. He went to drill out one of those set screws, and the drill bit slipped and put a hole in his hand. And then he had to get another drill bit, and another one broke and put another hole in his hand, and it… I don’t remember what else. I think the faucet ended up getting destroyed, and he had to go to the store and get another faucet all because he was gonna… Oh yeah, because he went to install it, and he had cross-threaded it and it leaked, and he hadn’t tested it before he broke off the set screw.

TM: Right, right. Oh, what a hassle.

BO: I was gonna say, that’s the biggest thing with exterior faucets, is they always leak. I feel like I’m cranking on that hose so hard to get it to not leak, and then putting some permanent fixture on the outside, you put that on and all of a sudden that thing starts leaking. You gotta drill that thing out just to get it off?

RS: Well, actually, there is a way to do it without drilling it out. You can actually use a hacksaw blade, and you go right across the top of that set screw, or even better, if you have a reciprocating saw and you go across the top of that screw for a little while until you make a slot in it. And then you can take a slide-in screwdriver, it’d be enough to give you a good grip, and then you could unscrew it that way.

TM: This just sounds like something for beginners, Reuben.

[laughter]

RS: This is deja vu. I think we’ve covered this on the podcast before, but it can…

BO: Reuben, I know that you always say you have to test these at every home inspection.

RS: Oh my goodness, yes. We’ve gotten a lot of complaints from people who said their faucets didn’t work when they went to turn ’em on in the spring. And on every one of those, I have been so thankful that we had something in the report saying we tested the faucet and it was not functional. It’s most likely winterized. If you have a pipe just disappearing into nowhere or something we can’t see, we don’t know that it’s winterized. There are many times where people cut the pipe off, they abandon it, and it’s doing nothing. We don’t know that. All we could say is, it’s not functional, but that’s a good piece of advice for any home inspector out there. It doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter, I strongly advise you, test every single faucet without fail. And if there’s any faucets that don’t work just the way they’re supposed to, document that in your inspection reports and say, if it’s winter, say it might be winterized, it might be turned off. Don’t ever miss that.

TM: And here’s another little piece of advice I’ll add on to that. Leave those outside faucets in the exact configuration that you found them. [chuckle]

RS: Yeah.

TM: So just from my own personal experience of testing outside faucets, there was one house… Bill, this is when you were handling complaints, wasn’t it?

BO: That is correct.

TM: There was one house early on when I was just beginning my career as a home inspector, and I was turning on the outside faucets to check them and no water came out. Of course put in the comments, “Most likely winterized.” And I guess I forgot to turn the faucet off completely. But although, since there’s no water coming out, I didn’t realize that until we got a phone call, [chuckle] what was it, a few days later from the seller who lived there, who said that basically his backyard had flooded and water had gone all the way out to the street from his outside faucet. Correct?

BO: Yeah. It was one of those situations where we were in a cold snap when you were inspecting the house, and then it warmed up rapidly. And that faucet wasn’t winterized. It was actually frozen farther up the chain. And the only reason I know that is because there was a plumber who showed up at the same time that I showed up when we were kinda working through the complaint, and there were two other faucets on the house that were frozen solid. They were not winterized, and they were frozen into the house. Luckily, they didn’t break, they were just frozen. And so this guy dodged a bullet. But what the plumber ended up doing is, he was a friend of the seller, he took a torch and he heated up the exterior faucet until it thawed, and then they were actually able to winterize the faucet.

TM: Oh, wow. Yeah. Sorry about that, Bill. But yeah, just a tip. Anybody who’s testing ’em, make sure even if you don’t get any water coming out, that you make sure it’s shut off.

RS: Tessa, I made that same mistake once, but I was lucky enough where it thawed in the middle of my inspection. The sun came out. It was right on the tip. And so I’m doing the inspection, all of a sudden I hear a lot of water running. You know when you’re doing an inspection, water starts running somewhere you don’t expect, it makes your heart stop. That’s the worse thing in the world. I started running all over and there’s water just pouring out at the outside, and it took me a little while to put the pieces together, like, “Aah, it thawed just enough.” So I was really glad it happened before I left.

TM: Oh my gosh. Perfect timing. Yeah.

BO: I think that might be more common than you expect, because I did handle another complaint. So that’s three that we’re talking about within our company. And I don’t know Reuben, what year that was, but Tessa’s and the one that I dealt with were not far apart. You bring up something really interesting about the sun. The radiant heat as the sun’s coming up, it reflects off the house and can heat things up more than you would expect, even on a cold day.

RS: Makes a big difference, for sure.

TM: You know what’s another weird difference too? I actually talked to someone one time who made some improvements to their house. And they had an older house that just had a bare rim joist, and they added insulation to that rim joist after they moved in. And the next winter, their pipe froze. And so I don’t know if you’ve heard of this happening too, but when you don’t have insulation at rim joist, heat and airflow can get to that water pipe and prevent it from freezing. But then as soon as you add that insulation against the rim joist, it kind of isolates the water pipe from the heat in the house, and it can make it colder, and then you can create a problem and cause that to freeze when before it didn’t.

BO: One more reason not to insulate your rim joist with fiberglass insulation.

TM: There you go. [laughter]

RS: Exactly.

BO: Reason 2614.

[laughter]

TM: Sorry, Bill. [chuckle]

RS: Then just one last point for anybody listening who… We just got off… By the time we air this podcast we’ll have just gotten off of a big cold snap here in the Twin Cities, and something that people are always curious about is, “Well, I forgot to winterize my faucet, what do I do now? Do I call a plumber in? Do I panic? What do I do?” Well, my advice would be shut off the outside faucet inside, shut off the valve, go to the outside, open it up, it’s surely gonna be frozen, nothing’s gonna come out, but get something to defrost it. Get a hair dryer. If you happen to have a heat gun, you could use the heat gun, most people aren’t gonna have one of those, but just be aware, a heat gun is not a high-powered hair dryer, it is a heat gun, it’ll start things on fire, it’s high powered, so don’t mistake the two if you are using a heat gun. But a hair dryer is gonna take four times as long, but hold that on there for a long time until you get water coming out because it’ll thaw out the interior components of your faucet, and as it heats up that metal, assuming you got copper pipes, it’s gonna keep thawing it back farther and farther, it’ll take a while, but eventually you’ll start getting water coming out of there. And once that happens, then you can winterize everything.

TM: Are you talking about shooting the hair dryer at the faucet on the outside of the house first, or shooting it at…

RS: That’s right.

TM: Okay, but not starting on the inside…

RS: Well, if you have access on the inside, I mean, if it’s unfinished, maybe it’d be better to do it there. No, I don’t think it would.

TM: It’d be more comfortable doing it from there…

RS: Oh, it certainly would. Good point.

TM: Yeah, wouldn’t that be a funny site? Look out the window and see your neighbor standing out there with a long extension cord and a hair dryer, just pointing it at their faucet.

RS: Yeah, if you were my neighbor about seven years ago, you would’ve seen me doing that.

[laughter]

BO: So if I was that neighbor, I would have immediately gone to the hardware store and bought you one of those styrofoam caps that you can install over the outside of your exterior faucet. Because those will solve all your problems, right?

RS: No, no Bill, no. I know you’re setting this up. No way, we don’t like those things. They’re better than absolutely nothing, but it’s far better for you to simply winterize your faucet, and if you can’t do that, if you don’t have a valve, have a plumber put a valve in. Don’t mess around with those crazy styrofoam covers; I don’t trust ’em a bit.

BO: I’ve never seen one that actually stayed in place.

TM: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true.

BO: And they make for good mouse bedding, so the mice can run up there and chew on it and then build a nest in your wall. You gotta winterize, you gotta pay attention occasionally, especially pay attention when you turn them on in the spring.

RS: I think that’s it. I think we covered everything there is to possibly cover about outside faucets.

TM: Sillcocks.

BO: Tessa, you did it. You said you weren’t ever gonna say that, and you just did.

RS: Tessa, go wash your mouth out with soap. That was great.

[laughter]

BO: On that note, I think we should wrap up this episode. Thank you for listening. You’ve been listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside the foul-mouthed, Reuben Saltzman and Tessa Murry. We will catch you next time. Thanks for listening.