leaky outdoor faucet repair

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So we’re going to call this technically a tutorial, but in all honesty, fixing my dripping outdoor faucet was one of those figure-it-out as you go things. And whenever I post about something like this, I feel like it’s only fair to remind you guys that I am not a professional contractor or have a lot of clues on what I’m doing before I start trying to fix something in my house. And that’s also why I often screw up a couple of times before I finally figure out how to resolve the issue long-term. Got it? Good. But anyway, my outdoor faucet no longer leaks or wastes water, and I can finally put my laundry room back together!

how to repair a leaking outdoor faucet

Disclosure: a handful of affiliate links to products I used are in this post.

Remember how I made over my little laundry room last winter? Well, what I didn’t mention — and actually forgot about until spring — was that the outdoor faucet that sits directly on the other side of the back wall was dripping and had been turned off all winter. For obvious reasons, I had postponed this fix until the weather started to warm up, but in my haste to meet a makeover deadline, I forgot all about how quickly I would need to take the new plywood counter back out of the laundry room so I could get access to the shutoff valve behind the dryer. Sigh. Two steps forward…

laundry room shutoff valve

Gaining access to turn the shutoff valve on and off proved to be… a bit cramped. To take the counter out, I would need to also remove the mirror on the right side. I would also need to remove the items on the counter, remove the antique washboard, and move the dryer back out of its neatly tucked-in spot. So, I basically had to deal with an unkempt, disorganized room again until I finally fixed the faucet. But, man — I got a brief taste of that sweet, sweet organized laundry room life — and I really wanted it back.

finished laundry room makeover

The main problem with fixing a leaky faucet like this is that it looks pretty intimidating. The faucet is clearly old and weathered, not to mention is directly embedded right into the stonework on the front entry porch. With every turn of the handle, water was leaking directly out of the valve, and I could never seem to tighten it enough before it would slip and the connection would be leaking again (you know when you’re turning a faucet to tighten it closed, and then it slips, and then you try to tighten it again? That.). When the hose was attached, most of the leak could be somewhat contained, but I also knew that this was wasting a lot of water. And I really, really didn’t want to have to solder on a whole new faucet, so I started researching what the likely problem could be.

old leaking outdoor faucet

I was hoping this would be quick and easy, and most videos I found online (like this one) suggested it could be as quick as needing to tighten the packing nut with some locking pliers (the chunky hexagonal part) or switching out a worn washer that was causing the slippage. But after trying to tighten things down, the leak remained.

tighten packing nut

According to the videos, that meant the next least-expensive fix was to try to replace the washer. To do that, I would have to turn the water off, and that’s where I started to get frustrated. The simple math is that there are only so many times a gal can mash her boobs and contort herself between a dryer and a wall until she starts to lose her patience — especially when you think you’ve removed the right part only to realize that you basically just mashed and removed a different part of the faucet components (or if you’re a vocabulary nerd, the “hose bibb”). What I thought was a washer just wound up being another worn, rubbery part of the existing faucet. Womp, womp.

jeopardy parody joke

Another challenge with a “simple” fix like this is that there aren’t a lot of laymen’s terms involved with trying to find the correct replacement parts. The washers are in a totally different part of the store (or at least, in the stores near me) than the section where you’d find new outdoor faucets, so I wasn’t sure if I was buying the right thing or not. And you can go to a store all confident, telling yourself “ok, 1/2-inch washer, looks black and rubbery, I totally got this” and still find yourself staring at an entire display of lookalike washers like a deer in the headlights. And that’s when your doubt starts to creep in.

Could the new ones be a different color these days? The one I’m trying to replace is like 30 years old; perhaps there’s a new standard and it looks totally different? Why can’t I find a nice variety pack like there are for wire nuts? Argggg, I’m out of here.

It’s also how a project that’s supposed to be easy can be undone as quickly as your confidence, and gets delayed with another two months of chaos in your laundry room.

leaky outdoor faucet repair

In the end, I went back to the store and just bought an entirely new outdoor faucet that looked pretty much like (albeit, much shinier) the one I was trying to fix. When the difference is between the $2 bag of washers you aren’t sure is going to work versus the $6 faucet that you can take apart and just replace the entire valve stem, you go with what seems to be the path of least resistance. Plus, I figured that even if I did fix the washer issue, there was still a chance I would have leaks with having removed the wrong thing beforehand (so take that lesson from me: you could save a few bucks by not making a simple fix more complicated).

bad washer on outdoor faucet

So, that’s what I did; I took home a new faucet and took apart the valve’s “stem” components from the section on the bottom (since that was already attached to the stone facade, I didn’t need that). To loosen the one on the faucet, it was suggested I try some acetone to clean the gunk (I used nail polish remover) and yank it off with locking pliers. That thing was really on there, and I was bleeding from my knuckle, but eventually, it finally popped off.

removing the old valve stem

The new version came with all of the washers it already needed, and since it was the same size (1/2″), it went right into the old pipe without needing further modification. A quick turn in the laundry room to let the water flow once more, and voila! No leaks!

new outdoor faucet replacement

Now, I just need to put the laundry room back together again, and we can call this home repair project complete!

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  1. Hat’s off to you for getting this done. I truly despise any type of plumbing work. It seems not matter what, you always find yourself wet and in an awkward position. Thanks for sharing.

  2. so you just pushed the new piece into the old piece and it sealed itself? or did you have to tighten anything? i need to do something similar to our leaky faucet.

    1. Basically, it just went right on and fit snugly, no extra tightening required really. Because it was an exact fit and the washers were already on it. I was sure it would leak but it didn’t. I was able to turn full water pressure from the shutoff valve on and leave it alone.

  3. You Go Girl- Good job! Thanks for the tip. I bet that could be the issue with my old outdoor water, I now have a puddle right beside my ac unit & can’t be a good thing for the ac unit. My water bill hasn’t been effected yet, but going to the main water shut off just to stop the leak sucks!. so- Thanks again
    Happy Belated Birthday to Charlie. I’m going to have my grand puppy a Happy 1st b-day on 7-6-17 & invite 6 other k-9s ( family & friends) dogs over for the Doggie Party, none of these dogs have ever seen each other. I hope they play nice. Pinterest HAS ALL THE DOGGIE RECIPES & make your own doggie party stuff. I hope it goes well.
    It’s getting hot up in Cumming, Ga. I’m GOING TO FIND A SHADY SPOT & ponder on what to work on next.
    See ya soon

    1. Ha, my sister made some pretty great pupcakes for her last birthday thing (which I think, actually, is coming up soon). I’ll definitely tell Charlie happy birthday for ya :)

  4. Great job on this tutorial, it was the before and after picture that made me read all the way through the post. I’m a professional plumber so kudos to you for saving some money and doing it with style.

  5. As an old DIYer, I’m impressed! I guess I can’t be a sexist anymore. So many times, a simple job has taken me hours. The last one was replacing a washer on the kitchen faucet. What should have been a 20 minute job took me 3 hours! What happened? Well, I guess I used the wrong allen wrench size on the hold-down bolt, so I rounded the allen hole out. I couldn’t grab the bolt head with pliers, since it was set into a hole. I had to go to the hardware store and buy several types of EZ outs. I then drilled a hole into the head of the allen bolt and used the EZ out to extract the bolt. Now, I have an allen bolt that protrudes beyond the hole so that I can grasp it with pliers, if need be. Ah, the fun of plumbing.