How to Install a Water Line for a Refrigerator

Modern Open Concept Home Interior
RichLegg / Getty Images
Overview
  • Total Time: 2 hrs

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 type of fitting. Now, there are convenient (and less kink-able)1/4-inch flexible water supply tubes in lengths from 1 to 20 feet as well as convenient "Add-A-Tee" adapter fittings that can be installed pretty much anywhere there is an existing shutoff valve. This type of fitting is easy to install and is less prone to leaking than a saddle 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 it through the floor and up to where the refrigerator is located.

Tip

Before you get started, check behind your fridge to make sure there is no water line and shutoff valve already there—either extending out of the wall or sticking up through the floor. If so, all you need to do is connect a 1/4-inch x 1/4-inch flex supply tube to the shutoff valve and to the fridge.

Supplies for the Job

An Add-A-Tee adapter is an ideal plumbing fitting for this purpose. It simply threads onto the outlet of a standard fixture shutoff valve, like you have under the kitchen sink. The fitting has a 3/8-inch outlet port for connecting the faucet line and a smaller, 1/4-inch port for connecting the flexible water line to the fridge. Add-A-Tee fittings come in a few different sizes and can be connected to 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch water supplies. For a standard kitchen sink shutoff valve, you need a 3/8 x 3/8 x 1/4 Add-A-Tee.

You also need a 1/4-inch flex water supply tube that is long enough to run from the Add-A-Tee to the refrigerator, plus several feet so you can pull out the fridge without yanking on the water line. Measure the distance carefully, and buy a supply tube with plenty of length for the job. 

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. Water leaks can cause significant (and very costly) damage, so buy the best-quality water supply tube you can.

Add-A-Tee adapter
Choose the correct size of adapter for your water shutoff valve and faucet supply tube. Aaron Stickley

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Rag or bucket
  • Two pairs of tongue-and-groove pliers or two adjustable wrenches

Materials

  • Add-A-Tee adapter
  • 1/4-inch flexible water supply tubing with compression connectors

Instructions

  1. Turn Off the Water

    Locate the fixture shutoff valve on the cold water supply line under the kitchen sink. Close the shutoff valve by turning it clockwise until it stops. If it has a lever-type handle, turn the lever so it is perpendicular to the water pipe. Turn on the cold water at the kitchen faucet to relief pressure in the water line.

  2. Disconnect the Faucet Water Line

    Place a rag or small bucket under the supply valve to catch water draining from the supply tube. Disconnect the faucet supply tube from the valve, using two pairs of pliers or two adjustable wrenches. Use one pair to hold the valve body securely to prevent it from moving. Use the other pair to loosen the compression nut on the supply tube.

    Disconnecting the faucet water supply line
    Aaron Stickley
  3. Connect the Tee Adapter

    Thread the Add-A-Tee adapter onto the outlet port of the shutoff valve, tightening by hand at first. Finish tightening the adapter with two pairs of pliers, using one pair to hold the valve and the other to tighten the adapter.   

    Connecting a water line tee adapter
    Aaron Stickley
  4. Connect the Faucet and Refrigerator Supply Tubes

    Reattach the faucet supply tube to the 3/8-inch outlet on the Add-A-Tee. Tighten the connection with pliers, as before. Attach one end of a 1/4-inch flexible supply tube onto the 1/4-inch outlet on the adapter, and tighten it with pliers. 

    Connect water supply lines to the tee adapter
    Aaron Stickley
  5. Connect the Supply Tube to the Refrigerator

    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.

    Connecting water supply to the ice maker water line
    Aaron Stickley
  6. Turn On the Water

    Open the shutoff valve under the sink by turning the knob counterclockwise all the way or turning the lever so it is parallel to the water pipe. Check for leaks at all connections, then push the refrigerator into place, as needed. Confirm that the water dispenser and/or ice maker are working properly.

    Flush out several gallons of water from the dispenser to purge the water line of air and any contaminants that may be in the line. If you have an ice maker, throw away the first two batches of ice.

Why Not Use a Saddle Valve?

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, due to the valves' tendency to leak. If you have this kind of fitting, you should replace it with a standard fixture shutoff valve or install a special adapter tee with shutoff valve that you can splice into the straight run of water pipe.