If you forgot to disconnect your hose before winter arrived, there’s a good chance you didn’t turn off the water to your outside faucets. This means your exterior faucets, as well as the pipes that run back into your home, are at risk of freezing and bursting. First, turn off the water supply to outside faucets. Then, use a heat tool to thaw the faucet outside to disconnect the hose. Next, open the faucet and drain any remaining water. Finally, bleed the line of any lingering water. In the future, make sure to disconnect hoses from outside spigots before winter to prevent damage to hoses and your home plumbing.
What Happens if You Don’t Disconnect Your Hose in Winter?
Garden hoses exposed to snow and ice are extremely likely to split, crack, or burst. If you want to keep your hose leak-free for years to come, detach it from the hose bibb, allow any excess water to drain, and store it in a garage or shed before freezing temperatures arrive.
- Your garden hose will be damaged by ice and snow in winter, leading to a leaky, useless hose.
- Detach hoses in fall and store them for winter.
- Leaving a hose attached to an unwinterized spigot can cause exterior pipes to freeze and burst.
- If the pipe leading to an outside faucet bursts, it can cause water damage and flooding inside your home.
Damage to the hose itself may be the least of your worries. An outdoor hose bibb that has not been winterized can freeze solid, causing cracked spigots or burst pipes. A burst pipe can lead back into your home, causing leaks, water damage, and flooding. That simple garden hose can trap water in your spigot. Removing the hose is the first step in protecting your pipes before a freeze.
How Long Does it Take a Hose to Freeze?
Water in outside hoses and faucets can freeze solid when exposed to as little as 6 hours of freezing temperatures. That means that one night of cold that dips below 32℉ (0℃) can freeze your hose.
- Water trapped in hoses and exterior faucets can freeze in as little as 6 hours when exposed to freezing temperatures.
- A single cold night can freeze hoses and pipes enough to cause damage.
- Remove hoses and winterize pipes 2 weeks before the first average freeze.
To prevent damaged hoses and ruined plumbing, it’s essential to winterize your pipes in advance of winter weather. Plan to remove hoses and turn off the water to outside faucets 2 weeks before the first average fall freeze. In most regions with freezing winters, October or November is the best month to winterize your hoses and hose bibbs.
5 Steps to Take if You Forgot to Disconnect Your Hose Before Winter
If cold weather has already arrived and you didn’t pre-emptively remove your hoses, you should still act immediately. The longer you leave a hose attached in cold weather, the greater the risk of water pipes in your exterior walls. Take these steps to prevent burst outdoor pipes:
Turn Off Water to the Hose
In most cases, the water flow to your exterior faucet is controlled by a water shutoff valve on the pipe. Your shutoff valve is typically located indoors, in a basement, crawlspace, or utility closet. Find where the water line that feeds your hose enters your home and search for the shutoff valve. Turn the valve all the way to the right (clockwise) to close it. This will shut off water to the hose.
- Locate the shutoff valve on the water line that runs to your hose bibb.
- The shutoff valve is typically located in a basement, crawlspace, or other area where the water lines are exposed.
- Turn the shutoff handle fully to the right to close off the flow of water to the hose.
By turning off the water flow to the hose, you take the first step in protecting your pipes from damage. Pipes burst when water trapped inside them freezes and expands. The frozen water gains up to 10% in volume, straining pipes from the inside out. You may not notice a water leak right away, but it will make itself apparent once temperatures rise enough to melt the ice.
Thaw the Exterior Faucet
In many cases, the valve and hose on the outside of your home will be frozen solid, making removing the hose difficult or impossible. The best way to thaw an outdoor faucet and hose is by directing warm air onto it with a blow dryer or heat gun. This process works better than pouring warm water on the faucet. Water can refreeze and create a larger issue.
- Thaw out the faucet handle and the hose connection with a blow dryer or this heat gun.
- Hold the heat tool 1–4 inches away from the handle and hose connector while directing hot air onto it.
- Thawing out the faucet may take anywhere from 2–10 minutes, depending on outside temperatures and the amount of ice buildup.
Hold the blow dryer or heat gun 1–4 inches (5–15 cm) away from the valve and hose connection. Work slowly, allowing the heat tool to melt away the ice. This will free the hose for removal and allow the faucet handle to turn.
Disconnect the Hose
With the hose and faucet thawed, disconnect the hose from the bibb itself. If you fully thawed the ice, it might be possible to do this by hand. However, it’s a good idea to have a pair of pliers handy to help loosen the hose.
- Remove the hose from the thawed spigot.
- If necessary, use pliers to assist in unscrewing the hose.
- Store the hose in a garage, basement, or other indoor storage area.
Once the hose is disconnected, coil it and store it indoors in a garage, garden shed, or basement. Keeping your hoses indoors during the winter months increases their longevity. Exposure to ice, snow, and the elements can damage the hose itself, resulting in leaks.
Open the Faucet
Now that the hose is removed, turn the hose bibb handle to the left (counterclockwise) to open it. Ideally, a trickle of water should come out. This is the water that remains in the line after you shut off the main water supply. If no water comes out, this likely means the water has frozen inside the pipe.
- Turn the faucet handle to the left fully to open it.
- Allow any liquid water to exit the faucet.
- Leave the faucet open all winter to allow water and water vapor to escape and prevent burst pipes.
Leave the valve open during the winter with the water supply turned off. An open valve allows remaining water to escape if there is a thaw, lets water vapor exit the pipe, and even provides a place for trapped water to expand out of in the case of a freeze. If you’re lucky, you will have opened the valve before any damage was done to the plumbing.
Bleed Excess Water From the Line
Return indoors to the main water shutoff valve for your outdoor faucet. Now that you have allowed excess water to escape from the hose bibb, turn your attention to the water line bleeder valve to get rid of any remaining water. To do this:
- Locate the water shutoff valve used to close off water to the hose in step 1.
- Search for a small metal cap on the valve below the valve handle.
- Position a bucket or bowl beneath this valve to catch any water that drains out.
- Unscrew the small metal bleeder cap.
- Allow water to drain from the bleeder valve into the bucket.
- Screw the bleeder cap back into place once all water has drained.
This step provides extra insurance against frozen water inside your pipes. By removing hoses, turning off the water supply, and purging the line of trapped water, you will protect your hoses and your water lines from damage for the remainder of winter.
What Happens if You Forget to Turn Your Hose Off in Winter?
If you neglect to turn off the water to your hose and leave your hose in place during winter, you can trap water in the line leading to your hose bibb. Frozen water in the plumbing can cause pipes to burst. Plus, water trapped in the spigot by the attached hose may crack the faucet itself. If winter arrives before you had the chance to detach your hoses, take these steps:
- Turn off the water supply to your outside faucets.
- Use a blow dryer or other heat tool to thaw the exterior faucets and hose couplings.
- Unscrew the hose from the spigot.
- Store the hose indoors.
- Open the faucet valve to drain remaining water from the line.
- Leave the exterior faucet open all winter.
- Drain trapped water in exterior lines by opening the bleeder valve located at the water shutoff.
Leaving a rubber hose attached to your hose bibb may not seem like it can cause much harm, but trapped water and burst pipes can result in water leaking into your home. The resulting water damage can be costly to repair and require the help of a licensed contractor. To avoid this, take the time to detach your hoses and shut off water to your outdoor faucets.