Water Damage and Frost-Proof Faucets

Many homes and businesses are now equipped with something called a frost-proof faucet.  These devices are nothing new and have been around for several years.  They have all but replaced the old style water hydrants that had to be wrapped or covered and protected during winter months to keep them from bursting.  But, in order for a frost-proof faucet to work properly, it must be installed properly.  You would think that a plumber would be especially mindful of the consequences if they didn’t do the job right.  In any case, frost-proof faucets do rupture and the resulting water leakage can cause damage, either in a crawl space or inside a wall.  The photographs below show how the copper tube expanded at the point of rupture indicating where the water turned to ice and stressed the tube to the point of failure.  In order to understand what happened, it is necessary to understand that the faucet is equipped with a long stem that runs from the valve handle to the end of the copper tube where the water line is connected.  This is where the valve seat is located.  The valve seat is actually the part that stops the water flow when the valve is turned off.  If the faucet is installed horizontally or pitched upward, water will stay inside the copper tube instead of draining out of the hose connection end when the faucet is turned off.  The faucet must be pitched slightly downward with the hose connection end lower than the water line inlet end. Even if the valve seat is leaking, water must be allowed to drain out of the faucet.  In the case of the faucet in the photograph, when the water froze, its tendency was to expand to approximately 9 to 11% of its volume.  However, because of the enclosure within the copper tube, the ice could not freely expand.  As a result, the tube wall was stressed to a point where failure occurred.

Failed Water Hydrant
Expanded copper wall shown as bulge just to left of water line attachment
Area of copper tube wall failure

Faulty Installation of Frost Proof Faucet

We recently discovered an outdoor faucet that had been installed improperly.  The problem occured in a newly constructed home when water began flooding the interior.  The problem was discovered when the fuacet was used to water the homeowner’s lawn.  You would think that the installing plumber would know bettter than to install the faucet in a way that would result in its freezing during the winter.  Unfortunately, the faucet was installed pitched downward toward the valve seat end of the faucet.  Since the water inside the tube has no place to go, it froze when the temperature dropped below freezing.  The result was the bursting of the water tube just behind the valve seat.

Frost proof faucet damaged as a result of freezing, note crack at end of tube

Frost proof faucet damaged as a result of freezing, note crack at end of tube


Attorneys and Expert’s Depositions

Just this past week, I was scheduled to give a deposition in another of my investigated cases.  In this particular case, the issue was centered around whether a plumber was negligent in installing a 3″ pvc water supply line. Approximately 9 months after the line was installed, a coupling failed resulting in water damage to a healthcare facility.  The case is now coming full circle by the taking of witness statements by the attorneys for each side.  Answering the opposing attorney’s questions is not a problem as I am usually well prepared.  The problems arise when the opposing attorney doesn’t want to pay the expert’s bill for the deposition. This was exactly the situation I faced which, I might add, was not the first time. However, due to previous experience, I have learned to insist on receiving payment before testifying. The alternative is to leave the meeting without giving any statements. Those expert witnesses that have been in practice for seve Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: