A slight drip is good for your outdoor faucet in the winter.

How to Protect an Outdoor Faucet from Freezing Temperatures

by Chris Deziel

Water freezing inside a pipe or faucet is a common cause of leaks in the winter. Though it may be counterintuitive, a leak won't necessarily be at the point in the pipe where the water freezes. Instead, it is usually be downstream of that, between the frozen section and a closed faucet. It's the build-up of water pressure in the pipe that causes the leak, not the lateral expansion of the ice. Consequently, if you're worried about an outdoor faucet freezing, take steps to insulate the pipe that supplies it, as well as to protect the faucet itself.

Cover all exposed pipes leading to the faucet with foam pipe insulation. It comes pre-slit, and all you have to do is cut it to length with a knife, open the slit, fit the insulation around the pipe and close it again. It's a good idea to reinforce the insulation by wrapping it with PVC pipe tape.

Remove the garden hose from the faucet and cover it with a polystyrene faucet cover or with rags if you're expecting one or two nights of moderately cold weather and you plan to be home.

Let the faucet drip about five drops per minute if you're expecting temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. A small drip keeps water flowing just enough to prevent it from freezing.

Turn off the water to the faucet, open it and leave it open to protect it for a long period of exposure to freezing temperatures. This is the best way to protect the faucet if you leave for an extended period.

Items you will need

  • Foam pipe insulation
  • Utility knife
  • PVC pipe tape
  • Polystyrene faucet cover
  • Rags


  • Some climates -- particularly in mountainous areas -- can produce moderate daytime temperatures and very cold nighttime ones. If you live in such an area, and you use the faucet during the day, protect the pipes and the faucet by putting electric heat tape on the pipes and turning it on at night.


  • Find out where the main water shut off to your house is and learn how to operate it so you'll be able to respond quickly in case of a burst pipe.

About the Author

Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.

Photo Credits

  • Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images