Tip 25: Fix a Leaky Sillcock

You have two or more sillcocks on your house even if you don’t know the name sillcock. They are the outside faucets where you connect garden hoses, and they often leak. If a sillcock leaks when the water is on, you are in luck, as the fix is relatively easy. This leak is caused by a loose packing nut. To tighten it, remove the handle by removing the screw. It is usually a Phillips head screw. Behind the handle, you will see the packing nut, which is usually white plastic. To tighten it, use a ¾-inch open-end wrench or an adjustable wrench. This nut has a left-handed thread, which means you turn it counterclockwise to tighten it. Do not over-tighten it, as it is plastic and can be damaged with too much force.

If the sillcock drips when it is turned off, you have a more complicated problem. The fix is internal and will require that the water main is turned off so you can disassemble the sillcock. Most of the houses in Sun City do not have a ball valve on the water line to the sillcock, so you must turn off the water to the house.

When you turn the knob on the sillcock to turn off the water, you are actually closing a valve twelve inches inside the house. It is designed this way so that in the winter, the water is in the warm zone and not exposed to the cold, outside air, where it might freeze. The sillcocks on most Sun City houses have a 12-inch extension. There are kits containing the replacement parts to fix a leaky sillcock available at hardware stores and home centers.

To install the replacement parts, turn off the main water shut-off to the house. Remove the handle to the sillcock. Under the handle, you will see a white plastic packing nut. With a ¾-inch open-end wrench, turn this nut clockwise to remove it (left-handed thread). Sticking out of the sillcock where you removed the packing nut, you will see a square ¼-inch copper piece where the handle attaches. Using a ¼-inch wrench, unscrew this piece by turning it counter-clockwise. Pull this piece out, and you will have a 16”-long copper rod. All of your replacement parts consisting of rubber washers and o-rings will be installed on this rod. Follow the instructions that come with the replacement parts kit.

Reverse the disassembly steps to reassemble your sillcock. You should now have a leak-free sillcock.

Break-in prevention

As most of you know, there have been several break-ins in Sun City this year. A couple of them were done by busting in the front door. They were able to do this because the latch plates were not secured with long enough screws. The screws holding the two latch plates into the door jamb should be long enough to secure them into the two-by-four framing for the door opening. Many are only secured into the door trim so that anyone over 100 pounds can hit the door with a shoulder and bust it open.

A survey of Woodchucks revealed that most of the latch plates (the plate opposite the door handle, as opposed to the deadbolt) are held on with one-half-inch screws. These should be changed to two-inch screws. There are a variety of fasteners on the deadbolt latch plate. Some had two 1½-inch screws, but some had only 5/8-inch screws. Some of the deadbolt latch plates are secured with four screws. In any case, all the latch plate screws should be replaced with two-inch screws as soon as possible.

To check your latch plate screws, remove one of the screws with a Phillips screw driver. The latch plate is on the door jamb, not on the door. Measure the length of the screw, and if it is not two-inches long, take it to the hardware store and ask for four or six two-inch-long replacement screws. Drive these screws into the holes where you removed the shorter screws. You don’t need to drill the hole deeper, but if you are a purist and insist, drill 3/32-inch diameter holes two-inches deep. If you have trouble driving the screws, ask a neighbor to help you.

Until you replace the latch plate screws, your front door is essentially unlocked. Please don’t delay making this simple fix.

If you have suggestions for future tips or have questions about maintenance around your home, submit them to ask.the.woodchucks@gmail.com.

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