Informational Guide

How To Fix a Leaky Outdoor Faucet

Our spigot guide will teach you how to fix a leaky outdoor faucet. Learn about frost-free models and fixing leaks.

by Ian Haynes

One thing that a lot of people don't realize can be a huge problem is a leaky outdoor faucet.

Leaky spigots might not seem like a big deal but let alone they can cause foundation damage due to water rot, back up water into your home, and contribute to excessive mold and mildew growth.

So, we put together this guide on how to take care of a leaky outdoor faucet before it causes problems.

outdoor faucet

As a general rule of thumb, if the handle for your faucet is perpendicular to the faucet itself, then it’s probably a frost-free faucet. If the handle is not perpendicular, then it’s probably not a frost free spigot.

Here are the main parts of an outdoor spigot:

  • Faucet stem - This is the part that contains the pipe that lets water flow to the faucet.Usually, it’s inside the house wall but not always.
  • Washer assembly unit - The washer assembly unit is the tip of the stem that secures it to the pipe.
  • Vacuum breaker - The vacuum breaker prevents water from entering the pipe if it does not go out of the faucet.
  • Retaining nut - The retaining nut is located directly under the handle and is connected to the faucet stem. 

Water can leak in from any of these parts if they are loose or worn down.

What Causes a Leaky Outdoor Faucet or Spigot?

A leaky faucet or spigot can be caused by a lot of things. Here are some of the most common causes of a leaky water spigot.

  • A damaged washer assembly unit can mean the pipe is not connected to the water correctly, and some is leaking out.
  • A cracked stem is also a common cause of a water faucet leaking.
  • If the vacuum breaker does not close entirely, water can leak through and come out of the faucet.
  • A loose retaining nut is the most common cause. A loose nut prevents the faucet stem from being sealed fully.
  • There could also be general damage around the faucet from mechanical stress or frost damage.

How to Fix a Leaky Outdoor Faucet (& Tools Required)

Fortunately, a leaky outdoor spigot is normally a simple issue that you can often fix yourself. Here is a quick rundown of the tools you will need to fix a leaky faucet.

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Flathead and Phillips screwdriver
  • Tape measure
  • Graphite or plumber’s putty
  • Replacement parts (e.g., washer assembly, vacuum breakers, etc.)

It can also help to have a bucket and some rags around to catch any excess water that leaks out while working. You can buy replacement parts at any local hardware store.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to fix a leaky faucet.

  • First, start by tightening the retainer nut to see if that fixes the problem. A loose retainer nut causes the majority of leaky faucet issues. If tightening the nut does not work, then remove the nut to fix the other parts of the faucet.
  • Once the retaining nut is gone, remove the pipe stem and inspect the material for any cracks or deformities. If there are visible cracks, then you will have to replace the faucet stem.
  • If the faucet stem seems to have integrity, inspect the washer assembly unit on the end of the stem. A failed washer will be deformed or possibly cracked. If you see that your washer assembly is broken, replace it by using your screwdriver. The washer assembly can also just be loose and need to be tightened. 
  • If the washer assembly is still in good condition, then that means the problem is likely the vacuum breaker. Remove the vacuum breaker plate using your screwdriver and then a pair of pliers to take the fixture out. Sometimes, you may just need to clean the edges of the parts to fix the problem. If the parts are visibly deformed or damaged, replace the vacuum breaker with the new one. 

Once you have diagnosed and repaired the problem, reassemble the faucet and test it out by turning it on then off. Wait a minute or two to see if the leaking persists.

Learn about regular kitchen faucets here.


People also Ask (FAQs)

Do you need a plumber to replace an outside faucet

No, often, you can fix a leaky faucet by yourself without a professional plumber.

How much does it cost to replace an outdoor spigot?

It depends on the part that is broken, but the typical outdoor spigot can cost anywhere between $30-$100 to replace/fix.

Will a leaking outdoor faucet freeze? How do you prevent this?

Yes, leaking outdoor faucets are more prone to freezing during the winter because excess water is still stuck in the pipes. You can prevent this problem by making sure your faucet does not leak or turning the water line off during the winter.

What are the main types of outdoor faucets?

The two main types of outdoor faucets are regular and frost-free faucets.


A leaky spigot might not seem like a big issue, but it can balloon into a serious problem if not take care of quickly. A frost-free faucet will also help prevent any damage caused by a leaking faucet during the winter.

Ian Haynes is an expert writer who has successfully deployed over 500 plumbing pages and other related content. He has an excellent understanding of home plumbing issues and translates his experiences via Plumbing Lab so readers can have a better understanding of common household problems. Outside of his work, Ian likes exploring Brooklyn with his Labrador.