Frostproof Faucet: Replacement

Simply replacing the old frostproof faucet with a new one required:

Not appealing at all.

So I picked up a $8 quarter-turn ball valve faucet with a 1/2 inch copper pipe sweat fitting, plus a 1/2 inch male NPT adapter. I have plenty of 1/2 inch copper pipe on the rack and, as it turned out, a few of the adapters. One key advantage: I could cut the pipe to make the length come out right.

Unfortunately, the frostproof valve emerges on the interior wall above the top shelf of a built-in rack in a far corner of the Basement Laboratory Storage Wing, an arm’s length away where you (well, I) can’t get any leverage. The absolute last thing I wanted was to crack a solder joint, tear the pipe loose, or wreck the 1/2 inch female NPT fitting on the pipe: I had no idea how firmly the valve was stuck in the fitting.

Based on the new valves I’d seen, I assumed there were no fins or doodads that would prevent the whole valve body from rotating in the as-yet-undisturbed cement holding it in place.

So I attached the medium pipe wrench to the fitting, laid in some cribbing atop the shelf to support a bottle jack over the wrench handle, and pumped the jack just enough to take up the slack. The jack transfers torque from the wrench to the floor joist overhead, the cement in the foundation wall constrains the valve body from moving laterally, and I was going to be really careful to not shove the valve while turning it.

Positioning a dog dish (yes, one of those) to catch most of the water, plus an assortment of scrap towels to catch the rest, produced this arrangement:

Frostproof faucet - inlet wrench bracing

Frostproof faucet - inlet wrench bracing

Retiring to the garage with the large pipe wrench, I was delighted to find all that preparation let me simply turn the valve body with no drama. Mary monitored the process from inside to make sure nothing surprising happened, the valve broke free from the fitting without too much effort, and after two turns I could spin it loose by hand… whew!

Incidentally, a pair of amateur radio HTs simplified communication through the foundation wall. We were about four feet apart, but unaided voice communication didn’t work at all. I’m not much for just talking on the radio, but ham radio makes a great adjunct to other activities.

With the valve body loose, I chiseled the mortar out of both ends and found the central body hadn’t been cemented in place: the whole thing pulled straight out into the garage.

Screw the adapter into the interior pipe, stick the pipe into the adapter from the garage, measure to the outside wall surface, add 1/4 inch, clamp the pipe in the bench vise, and solder the ball valve to the pipe:

Garden faucet - sweat-soldered fitting

Garden faucet - sweat-soldered fitting

Then solder the NPT adapter on the other end:

Garden faucet - sweat-soldered adapter

Garden faucet - sweat-soldered adapter

I love the smell of molten projects, even late in the day… and it’s much easier to sweat good solder joints on the bench than working left-handed, tucked away in a far corner, up under the floor joists, standing on a short ladder, leaning far off to one side.

Wait for it to cool, stick the assembly through the garage wall with some masking tape to keep grit out of the threads and pipe, wrap a few layers of PTFE tape around the male adapter, ease them together, tighten until the valve handle is directly on top, turn the water back on, verify no leaks: that’s enough for one day.

The next day I drilled / sawed backer boards from some random paneling that came with the house and stuck them in place with generous beads of acrylic caulk. Looks a bit odd (the tape holds the sides in alignment and came off a day later), but it should hold the pipe in a fixed position and keep the critters out of the basement just as well as the cement:

Garden faucet - installed

Garden faucet - installed

And that’s that!

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  1. #1 by Jacob on 2012-05-03 - 11:38

    So no frostproof valve assembly on the replacement, right? I have one of these to replace as well – something leaks into my crawl space whenever the outside faucet is on. There was already an inside shutoff, so as long as I remember to turn that off before the freeze, I could do something similar.

    • #2 by Ed on 2012-05-03 - 12:01

      no frostproof valve assembly on the replacement

      That’s how it worked out. The inside shutoff valve has a drain cap at the high point of the water line that should suffice and it’s even at a reasonably convenient spot in the basement.

      The new ball valve is actually inside the garage and, although the temperature does get down to freezing during the winter, I suspect the pipe would survive even without draining. Don’t plan to test that…

  2. #3 by david on 2012-05-03 - 14:43

    Right, but the inside shutoff is just as trashed and unusable, isn’t it? So how is that a win? I don’t see how you can drain the line for winterization…

    • #4 by Ed on 2012-05-03 - 20:08

      the inside shutoff is just as trashed and unusable

      Despite the exterior crud, I think the valve seat is in fine shape: it’s probably never been turned off in the last half-century or so. At some convenient point this summer I plan to take that valve apart, clean off the fuzz, install a new washer & packing, then snug it all up again. With any luck, it’ll be good for the rest of my administration.

      If that fails, I can cut it out and install a ball valve with a drain…

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