How to Install a Self-Piercing Saddle Valve

Saddle valve installed on copper pipe and connected to water supply tube

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 15 - 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10

When running a water supply tube to a new refrigerator ice maker, humidifier, or other appliance, you'll need a way to tap into an existing water supply pipe. An easy way to do this on a copper pipe is by using a special fitting known as a saddle valve or needle valve. The term saddle derives from the shape of the valve as it sits atop a water pipe; the term needle refers to the sharp, hollow needle inside the valve that punctures the water pipe after the valve is mounted.

Once the valve is attached to the water supply pipe by means of its saddle bracket, the sharp valve needle is then screwed down to puncture the wall of the pipe and tap its water supply. Most saddle valves are designed to work with standard rigid copper pipes but there are some that can work with PVC, CPVC, or PEX plastic pipe. They are also designed for water systems with a maximum pressure of no more than 125 psi. 

What Is Maximum Psi of a System?

Water pressure is measured in pounds per square inch, or psi, using a pressure gauge. Most residential water pressure systems should be between 45 and 80 psi; water pressure above that can damage home plumbing.

Saddle Valves Can Leak

Any plumber or building inspector will tell you that saddle valves are prone to leaking, and it's true. They are popular because they are easy to use and require no plumbing skills to install. Plenty of saddle valves have worked reliably and leak-free for many years, but due to the mixed track record of these devices, it's best to use them only where they are completely visible and can be inspected periodically. Never install a saddle valve where it is concealed inside a wall or floor cavity. Leaks in hidden locations are likely to cause significant damage before they are detected.

Tip

A similarly DIY-friendly but more reliable alternative to a saddle valve is a push-fit tee connector designed for ice makers and water dispensers. You install these by cutting out a short section of pipe and installing the tee right into the water line, then adding the small supply line leading to the appliance.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Fine wet/dry sandpaper or steel wool
  • Screwdriver
  • Adjustable wrench

Materials

  • Saddle valve kit
  • Water supply tubing

Instructions

Materials and tools to install a needle saddle valve

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  1. Turn off the Water

    Shut off the water supply to the water pipe being tapped. If there is no shutoff valve that can turn off the pipe locally, turn off the water to the entire house at the main shutoff valve. In either case, relieve pressure in the water lines by opening the lowest faucet in the house.

    Water turned off by pressing lever on main shutoff valve

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  2. Prepare the Pipe

    Make sure the water pipe is clean and smooth along the section where you will be attaching the valve. If necessary, lightly sand the area with fine wet/dry sandpaper or fine steel wool to clean the pipe. 

    Copper pipe sanded and smoothed where needle saddle valve will be installed

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  3. Mount the Valve

    Make sure the needle is completely retracted into the saddle valve before starting.

    Place the rubber washer or gasket on the underside of the top bracket of the saddle valve so its opening is directly aligned with the needle on the valve. Fit the top and bottom brackets of the saddle valve around the water supply pipe and hold them in place.

    Insert the bolts down through the holes on the top bracket and thread them into the holes on the bottom bracket until they are hand-tight.

    Tip

    Some saddle valves have nuts that tighten against the bottom of the bottom bracket.  

    Use a screwdriver to tighten the bolts completely, alternating side-to-side so the brackets are tightened evenly on both sides of the pipe. The rubber washer under the top bracket should compress slightly against the water pipe.

    Warning

    Be careful not to overtighten; it is possible to crush the copper pipe.

    Saddle valve mounted on to copper pipe with screwdriver

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  4. Install the Water Supply Tube

    Fit the compression nut and compression sleeve onto the water supply tube so the tapered (narrower) part of the sleeve faces the end of the tube (plastic or nylon tubing may also have a brass insert to stiffen the end of the tubing).

    Insert the water supply tube into the threaded outlet on the saddle valve, push the sleeve against the outlet, then screw the compression nut onto the threaded outlet. Tighten the nut by hand until snug, then use an adjustable wrench to tighten the nut another one-half turn. 

    Water supply tube inserted into threaded outlet on saddle valve

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  5. Pierce the Pipe

    Turn the saddle valve handle clockwise slowly. This will force the needle in the valve to pierce the wall of the pipe. You should be able to feel the needle force its way into the copper pipe. Keep turning the handle until it stops.

    Saddle valve handle turned clockwise to pierce pipe wall

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  6. Turn on the Water

    With the saddle valve still in the off position (turned fully clockwise), turn on the water supply to the pipe, then check all around the saddle valve for leaks.

    Water turned on through main shutoff valve

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  7. Connect the Supply Tube

    Complete the water connection by attaching the opposite end of the water supply tube to the appliance you are feeding.

    Water supply tube connected to appliance tubing

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  8. Open the Saddle Valve

    Confirm that all connections are tight. Open the saddle valve fully by turning the handle counterclockwise until it stops. Check again for leaks at all connections. 

    Saddle valve handle turned counterclockwise to open connections

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Service Water Pressure. U.S. Department of Energy.