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Another Frost Free Hydrant Thread... Help!

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  • Another Frost Free Hydrant Thread... Help!

    So, I know so many of you knowledgable types have been kind enough to share your wisdom before on this topic. I'm hoping you have the patience to go through this one more time.

    I currently have a Simmons hydrant that was installed before I bought the house 2 years ago. During the winter, we've lost use of the hydrant because it has frozen at the top (i am pretty sure), because it had a small leak.

    I decided (since I recently replaced a toilet all on my own) that I might be able to tighten the whole thing up to stop it leaking. In doing so, I made it so the whole thing doesn't shut off at all.

    My thought is that the guts at the top of the hydrant need replacing, but called a plumber to come and look at it. He said it must be dug up and a new one installed, which would cost $750.

    My questions are
    1) Is that a normal cost?
    2) Does the hydrant need to be dug up or can I somehow fix it?
    3) If the whole thing does need replacing, could I in fact do it myself, if I listened really carefully to you experts and buy the right tools?

    Thank you so much for any nuggets of wisdom that fall this way!

  • #2
    We are talking about the basic outdoor hydrant, which is a piece of metal pipe topped by a simple handle/spout that flows when you lift the handle, right?

    The last time I replaced one, a new 7 ft hydrant unit (6+ feet of metal pipe, with the handle/spout assembly screwed on top) and incidental materials cost less than $100 total. I did all the labor myself, though it would have been a LOT easier with two people since you need three hands for the actual hookup, and it took a couple of hours. Most of that was digging a big hole.

    So, for $750, that sucker had better be gold-plated.


    • Original Poster

      Yes, we're talking the same thing and looking at Bert and Ernie who showed up, my guess there'd be nothing gold plated about the job being done.

      I figured they were having a laugh at my expense, but realize that I sometimes need to check in with reality - so Thank you!

      Next step, how do i do it?


      • #4
        I just got an estimate for replacing an entire hydrant (Woodford) for $250. This is from a highly experienced, highly referred plumber.

        I've gotten (and taken) crazy high estimates in the past too, and in my case, they were from people that really didn't know what they were doing and did terrible work.

        Maybe ask them to break the estimate down into parts and labor and try to figure out what exactly they're charging for. If they guarantee it for an extremely long time it might be worth it.


        • #5
          Mine has started leaking from the top too. Does this leak mean that it will freeze shut in the winter? Darn...


          • #6
            Originally posted by GallopHer View Post
            Mine has started leaking from the top too. Does this leak mean that it will freeze shut in the winter? Darn...
            Yup. The basic principle behind frost-free pumps is that once you shut them off, they drain the water back down below the frost line. Your dripping means that there is still water in the pipe above the frost line...which will freeze.


            • #7
              I just replaced mine.

              It was just not working properly, in that it would leak, not shut off, not turn on, etc.

              COuple of things.
              There is a repair kit, with plunger...which might be your problem.

              In my case, I replaced all the parts earlier this summer but the plunger...requires heavy arms to wrench the handle off. No thanks.

              Soooo, I hired someone to dig up the hydrant.
              Make sure you shut off the water.

              to remove the old hydrant, you have to cut off where the poly pipe meets the hydrant...it will not pull off.

              Its really basic plumbing.

              Poly pipe meets hydrant with a brass angle joint(you buy). screw it on, put in stone and fill in.

              Make sure the hydrant and connection to the poly pipe are sitting on a brick or some other solid thing to keep it from sinking down, etc.

              If you buy the hydrant...all the directions, with pics are included.]]

              The hardest part is digging it up...make sure you dig a big enough hole, since you have to get down there to hook things up.

              Get a hair dryer to warm up the poly pipe to slip onto the angled brass attachment.

              It took about an hour to dig up the hole.
              Another hour to put the connections together...only cause its hard working 3' down
              and an hour to fill in.

              In reality it took us 6 hours, because we tried forever to pull the polypipe away from the old hydrant. I went into town and asked the plumbing store who told me, no, cut it.

              I am really happy with this hydrant. I think the previous one was a lemon...it never worked correctly, and why I just said, screw it, I had help, and thought, replace it while you can.
              Good luck.

              I want to add, things to have on hand.
              a battery lantern to see in the dark hole
              a flash light to focus in
              hair dryer to warm up poly pipe
              bricks if the hydrant was not put on something solid
              a good foot or two of stone to fill in the bottom
              good shovel
              good pick axe or ice chopper to break up dirt while digging
              new hydrant
              white plumbing tape where any threads are connecting pipe to brass fittings
              angle brass to connect the bottom of the hydrant to the poly pipe

              Fill up all horse buckets and livestock tanks in case it turns into a disaster and two day job! which it should not. Its really easy, just physically hard work.
              save lives...spay/neuter/geld


              • #8
                Buy kit; http://www.hardwareandtools.com/Simm...t-6927826.html

                Follow instructions. $17.19 + shipping.

                The only reason to replace a unit is if it has split when frozen.
                ... _. ._ .._. .._


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Equibrit View Post
                  . . .
                  The only reason to replace a unit is if it has split when frozen.
                  Not always. Our Woodford had a pinhole leak in the thinner pipe of the exposed threads, just above where the plunger seated, so it would shut off just fine but when you turned it on you had a veritable geyser around the base. This was caused most likely by not enough sump area under the bottom of the hydrant, so it never really drained properly and stayed wet around the bottom of the hydrant. We had no perc there at all and when we dug it up it rained and the pit filled up and stayed filled up till we siphoned it out.
                  We have slope away from the hydrant so DH dug a long trench and carried the downspout from the roof and the hydrant drainage down to the parking area.

                  This was two years ago now so I don't remember well and I've posted too much to go back easily, but Tom King had a list of exactly what parts to buy and install to make the connections so that your PVC won't fail. It really belongs up in the FAQ section, or you could try searching.

                  We were lucky in that our hydrant had a shut off of its own and you might consider putting one in when you do the job. Our house is plumbed so the water has a main shut off at the meter and two sub shut offs, one for the hydrant and the other for the house. Since the hot water heater died a gruesome death we now have a shut off ahead of it, too, so we can have at least cold running water in the house and not have to bucket water inside from the hydrant.

                  DH has a backhoe attachment for the tractor and it made life so much easier but you can certainly dig it by hand.

                  For $750 I'd expect, well, not gold plate but to have it done in one day with no hassles whatsoever, including putting sod down in the disturbed area, and the shut off put in too.
                  ETA found a thread that may help a little
                  Last edited by ReSomething; Oct. 12, 2011, 11:07 PM.
                  Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                  Incredible Invisible


                  • #10
                    Hey ladies; im new here but wanted to share. I was just told my simmons hydrants start leaking/splitting and spewing out the sides bc I didnt "winterize" when temps dropped.

                    I was told bc the hoses were left on all the locations to fill the water troughs, that water still sits in the hose to blue faucet and freezes. My plumber told me this year to put those snap on attachments at each location and only use a short hose. Everytime I am done filling the water trough, unsnap the hose and turn the handle off.

                    Well this winter - time will tell - we shall see. But those snap on and off attachments are pretty cheap and we just replace 5 faucets, so for an extra minute of snap on snap off with each use, I figure I can do that and lets see this winter if it works.

                    When the weather gets really cold and freezes here (Dec-Feb) I am going to even snap the replacement hose (short hose) off and just throw it in the Kubota so as I drive to each paddock, I can use the same hose, snap it on and off and not leave it out there to freeze during the night.
                    Lets see if this guy's knowledge is worth his salt!


                    • #11
                      Fxhtr, what happens is that the hydrant stand pipe has to drain out of a little valve down beneath the frost line and it can't do that if it is pulling a vacuum, ie you have it hooked up to a hose that won't let air come back.
                      What we have is a four connection brass manifold that we put on the hydrant and we leave one not hooked up, twist the petcock to open it and viola the stand pipe can drain. We try not to leave the hoses full of water just because it's bad for the hoses to have to be stretched by frozen water expansion (plus they are pretty useless frozen full, too).
                      I've also unscrewed the hose just enough to hear the air suck. Snap on hoses sound nice and should work too.
                      Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                      Incredible Invisible


                      • #12
                        If you do use the quick-connects make sure the piece that is left on the faucet is open. That is ... doesn't have a valve that shuts off the flow when the hose is disconnected. Otherwise you're left with the same problem.
                        Equus makus brokus but happy


                        • Original Poster

                          Wow, Thank you!

                          This is great and I really appreciate you all taking the time to help me out.

                          I'm pretty sure at this point, we're going to just dig the sucker up and replace the whole thing ourselves - Five horses, your step by step guide is fantastic!

                          Now for the million dollar question - Which type (brand) of hydrant would you get? And where from?

                          I can't tell you how helpful this is!


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by fxhtr View Post
                            I was told bc the hoses were left on all the locations to fill the water troughs, that water still sits in the hose to blue faucet and freezes. My plumber told me this year to put those snap on attachments at each location and only use a short hose. Everytime I am done filling the water trough, unsnap the hose and turn the handle off.
                            Snap on attachments freeze and don't allow the hydrant to drain. You're better off with a short hose which screws on, removing and draining it after every use.
                            ... _. ._ .._. .._


                            • #15
                              Cagey, if you are putting in a new frost hydrant, consider
                              getting a Woodford. First, their website is very good
                              on giving advice on troubleshooting. Second, Tom King
                              likes them <g> (so do I). Ours has proven to be reliable
                              and easy to repair when necessary (we have had it 20+
                              years watering 40-50 horses daily in a climate where
                              winter temperatures can hit 20 below). And be sure to
                              dig a sizeable drain pit below the hydrant foot valve and
                              fill with a generous amount of sewer rock.

                              And fxhtr your plumber is right, you can't leave hoses
                              connected without special provision to let the frost hydrant
                              drain. If you are buying plastic quick disconnects for the
                              hoses, buy plenty of extras. The plastic will crack in the
                              cold and have to be replaced. And it is hard to find
                              replacements to buy in winter as stores think these are
                              a summer item. If you don't want to keep replacing them
                              and are willing to spend about 5X what the cheap ones
                              cost, buy GatorLock Garden Hose Couplings made by
                              Green Leaf. They don't freeze closed and they don't
                              crack even at -20F. I've been using them for 4 years now
                              filling water tanks at least 2-3 times daily (300 gallon tank)
                              so I have a fair amount of winter water experience. Oh,
                              and for short hoses, I find the ones sold for washing
                              machine connections to waterlines work well.
                              Robin from Dancing Horse Hill
                              Elmwood, Wisconsin


                              • #16
                                Is a snap on hose similar to a quick connect air hose? Then I was wrong,because those things shut automatically and you don't want that. The hydrant has to have air to drain.
                                Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                                Incredible Invisible


                                • #17
                                  No, they're different than air quick connectors.

                                  The hose quick connectors restrict flow rate because the hole inside is smaller than the water hose inside diameter.

                                  Also, when it gets really cold enough below freezing, enough drops of water (1 even) will stay in the mechanism that slides to connect, and then you have to either thaw it or take it off.

                                  In short, forget water hose quick disconnects!!!!

                                  When installing a new hydrant on a PVC water line system, do NOT use a PVC elbow at the bottom. Use a galvanized street elbow, and a PVC male threaded adaptor on the end of the pipe that screws into the street elbow.

                                  The hydrant has a female treaded hole straight into the bottom. A street elbow has one side with female threads, and the other side with male threads.

                                  Never use a plastic female threaded adaptor anywhere in a water system. They are always the first point to leak, especially on the bottom of a hydrant. Any flexing will stretch it open enough, so that it will either leak or split.

                                  edited to add: I looked at the Gator Locks, and they look promising, better than the slide connectors. But I'll bet the difference in amount of time that it takes to screw on a water hose, versus connecting the gator lock is still more than made up for even in filling one 16 gallon water trough. Time it and see.

                                  I use a 3/4" Flexogen 25' long for watering duties. I timed it compared to a 5/8" hose. It's been so long ago that I don't remember the savings exactly but I believe it was something like 10 minutes a day for our 7 hourses. Flow rate saves time in a day.


                                  • #18
                                    Tom, I can freeze any kind of snap you can name shut in the winter, I don't doubt a quick connect water hose isn't for me. It's really embarassing to have to drag the hairdryer and a mile of extension cord out to get the carabiner on the dog pen un-stuck so he can come on out.
                                    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                                    Incredible Invisible


                                    • #19
                                      I keep a push-button starting propane torch close at hand when it gets really cold. Sometimes even the end of the hose needs a quick touch to co-operate.


                                      • #20
                                        I replaced mine with another simmons.
                                        I did use brass connectors, galvanized would be fine too. Just couldn't get those up here, only had brass.

                                        I would not, and emphasize, do not use plastic!!!

                                        Its easy cagey like I said, hardest part is the digging, and reaching down into the hole to connect everything.
                                        Up here, we have to go down 3'+.

                                        Get it done before the cold comes...which means soon!
                                        save lives...spay/neuter/geld