How to Install a Water Line for a Refrigerator

  • 01 of 07

    Installing a Refrigerator Water Line Is Easy

    Getting glass of filtered water from refrigerator.
    JazzIRT / Getty Images

    Running a water line to a refrigerator to supply its ice maker and drinking water dispenser has never been easier. At one time, this was typically done with 1/4-inch bendable copper tubing that was snaked from the refrigerator to the nearest source of water and tapped into the water line using a saddle valve or other fitting. Now, there are convenient 1/4-inch flexible water supply tubes in lengths from 1 to 20 feet that can be used, and convenient "Adapt-a-Tee" fittings that can be installed pretty much anywhere there is an existing shutoff valve. 

    In most cases, the water line can be run from a kitchen faucet water supply line through the kitchen cabinets and over to the refrigerator. If running the line through the cabinets is not feasible, you might need to run a line through the floor and up to where the refrigerator is located.

    Flex water supply tubes are available in either a tough plastic nylon mesh or braided steel. Although the braided steel is considerably more expensive, the extra strength it provides is well worth the investment. It can be very inconvenient to move a refrigerator to get at a water line that has failed, so buy the best-quality water supply tube you can.

    • Tip: The saddle valves that were once commonly used to make water supply connections to refrigerators, dishwashers, and other appliances are no longer allowed by code in some communities. If you have this kind of fitting, you should replace it with a traditional fixture shutoff valve rather than reusing it to hook up your refrigerator. 

    Tools and Supplies You Will Need

    Continue to 2 of 7 below.
  • 02 of 07

    If a Water-Supply Pipe Is Accessible

    Kitchen water valve
    Tomwsulcer/Wikimedia/Public Domain

    It's entirely possible there is already a water-supply stub-out and shutoff valve located behind the refrigerator—either extending out of the wall or sticking up through the floor.  If so, your job is very easy. 

    Just buy a 1/4-inch x 1/4-inch flex supply tube in the length you need, and connect one end of the tube to the fitting on the back of the refrigerator and the other end to the fitting on the water supply valve. Turn the water supply valve on and check for leaks. Tighten the fittings as needed, using channel-type pliers or an adjustable wrench. 

    Continue to 3 of 7 below.
  • 03 of 07

    If There Is No Water Supply Pipe

    Adapt a tee adapter
    Aaron Stickley

    If you don't have a convenient water supply pipe and valve near the refrigerator, you must instead find another spot to hook up the water line. Usually, this will be at some other existing water hookup point, such as the water supply lines connected to your sink faucet or dishwasher. You'll simply replace one of those cold-water valves with a new 3-way angle stop, or add a tee fitting between the water supply shutoff valve and the pipe. 

    An Adapt-a-Tee is an ideal plumbing fitting for this purpose. Adapt-A-Tees are easy to install, and they provide the extra line you need with the least amount of work. The type designed for copper pipe uses simple compression fittings, and there are other types designed for attachment to CPVC or PEX water supply pipes. 

    Adapt-a-Tees can be used in many situations where you need an extra line. They come in various sizes to suit whatever situation you have. The following steps show how to install this tee adapter to supply water to a refrigerator.

    You will also need a longer flex water supply tube to run from the water pipe to the refrigerator. Measure the distance carefully, and buy a supply tube with plenty of length for the job. 

    Continue to 4 of 7 below.
  • 04 of 07

    Disconnect the Existing Water Line

    Disconnecting the faucet water supply line
    Aaron Stickley

    First, locate the fixture shutoff valves under the kitchen sink where you want to connect the new water line. Shut off the water at the valve that controls the cold-water supply pipe to the faucet. (If there are no fixture shutoff valves, you can turn off the water by closing the main water supply valve to the entire house.)

    Next, disconnect the faucet supply tube from the shutoff valve. Use two sets of pliers to safely remove the tube—one to hold the valve and one to unscrew the tube's connection nut. Be prepared for a small amount of water leakage as you remove the valve—this is just the standing water in the water pipe, and it can easily be sponged up. 

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Connect the Tee Adapter

    Connecting a water line tee adapter
    Aaron Stickley

    The tee adapter connects to the water supply shutoff valve. It needs to fit the threads on your valve, but make sure one of the outlets is 1/4-inch O.D. (outside diameter) for the new refrigerator water supply line.

    Attach the Adapt-a-Tee adapter to the shutoff valve, tightening by hand at first. Finish tightening the adapter with pliers; sure to use a second set pliers to hold the shutoff valve and prevent it from twisting on the pipe while you tighten it.  

    Continue to 6 of 7 below.
  • 06 of 07

    Connect the Water Supply Tube to the Adapt-a-Tee

    Connect water supply lines to the tee adapter
    Aaron Stickley

    Reattach the faucet supply tube to the 3/8-inch nipple on the Add-a-Tee. Use two pairs of channel-type pliers—one to grip the tee fitting, the other to tighten the supply tube onto the tee fitting.

    Now attach the 1/4-inch refrigerator flex supply tube onto the tee and tighten, again using two pairs of channel-type pliers. 

    Continue to 7 of 7 below.
  • 07 of 07

    Connect the Water Supply Tube to the Refrigerator

    Connecting water supply to the ice maker water line
    Aaron Stickley

    Run the new supply tube to the back of the refrigerator. Connect the end of the tube to the 1/4-inch water supply fitting on the refrigerator. Tighten the connection just slightly more than hand-tight, using pliers.

    Now, turn on the faucet shutoff valve under the sink and check for leaks at the Adapt-a-Tee connections. Also, check for leaks where the supply tube connects to the refrigerator before pushing the appliance back into place.

    If the refrigerator has a water dispenser, flush out several gallons to purge the line of all the air. If there is no water dispenser, throw away the first full batch or two of ice to make sure it is all clean and ready to use.