Want to avoid a frozen garden tap?
If your garden tap freezes it won't be a problem - until the thaw! Then you may find your tap leaks or even that your pipework has
burst and you are losing mains water!
When water freezes, it expands by around 10% of its original volume and, as water doesn't compress, that extra volume has to go
somewhere - imagine taking a full glass of water then adding 10% more. If the pipe leading to your outside tap is already full of water,
where does the extra go? The answer is that the ice pushes against the walls of the pipe and the mechanism of the tap until it finds a
weakness, and it then pushes through.
You won't discover the problem until the ice melts and cold water, usually at mains pressure,
suddenly bursts out!
Preventing burst pipes or damage to your garden tap isn't just a matter of wrapping insulation
around (although this is definitely better than nothing at all). The best way to stop ice forming is
for there to be no water present, but how do we make sure of that?
Firstly, check whether the pipe supplying your outside tap is fitted with a stop tap or isolating
valve. If it isn't, get your plumber to fit one before next winter. This means that, at the first sign of
frost - or, better still, when you stop using it for the winter months - the supply of water to the tap
can be switched off.
If you have a drain valve on the pipework, this can be opened to allow the remaining water to
escape. If there is no drain valve fitted, don't panic, all you have to do is open the outside tap once
the supply has been turned off (just remember to close the tap before switching the supply back
on next spring!) Any residual water left in the pipework which may freeze will be able to expand
easily through the open tap, without causing damage.
These simple actions mean that, no matter how cold it gets, your garden tap and the pipe supplying it will safe from unexpected bursts.