A coworker mentioned that he was having a refrigerator delivered and his weekend project was connecting the water supply line. I told him to grab a saddle valve and turn his weekend project into an hour-long project. Saddle valves make it easy to tap into water supply lines. Here’s how to install one and a couple of things to keep in mind.
Refrigerator Water Supply
Most modern refrigerators include filtered water and an ice dispenser. For that to work, the refrigerator is equipped with a flexible, 1/4″ water supply line on the backside. The only question is how to attach it to your water system. Assuming copper pipe, you could solder a new junction, which is time consuming and messy. Fortunately, there’s an easier way.
Self-Tapping Saddle Valves
Just like the name implies, these valves look like a saddle seated on top of a pipe. They are secured in place with two bolts that tighten around the pipe, compressing a small rubber gasket. It’s called self-tapping because there is a pin that pierces the pipe and acts as an on/off valve.
Saddle valves are intended be installed on a cold water supply line (usually copper only). They very easy to install and designed to accommodate copper, brass, aluminum, and thermoplastic refrigerator lines.
Easy Step for Installing a Saddle Valve
Plan the location
Before you start clamping the valve anywhere, take some time to plan out a location. They work best on 3/4″ or 1/2″ diameter pipe. Make sure it’s not downstream from a valve that you turn off seasonally (i.e. exterior hose connection). Pick a location that you’ll be able to access for future maintenance and that allows enough slack to move the fridge if needed.
I installed my saddle valve in my basement, below my refrigerator. That meant drilling a hole through my ceramic floor and subfloor.
Step 1: Shut off the water
Shut of the water and turn on a faucet to drain the pipe / relieve the pressure.
Step 2: Clean the pipe
Clean away any dust or dirt on the pipe that might prevent the valve from forming a watertight seal.
Step 3: Install the valve
Place the top portion of the valve above the pipe and slide the lower piece in place, through the bolts. Tighten both sides equally, taking care to not over tighten or crush the pipe. Make sure the rubber gasket is well seated against the pipe. Connect the 1/4″ fridge supply line using Teflon plumbers taps around the threads.
Step 4: Puncture the pipe
Tighten the pin to puncture the water pipe. It takes a lot of turning but don’t rush it. Next, back the pin all the way out.
Step 5: Turn on the water
Keep an eye out for any leaks. The most common trouble spots are where the at the rubber gasket, the packing nut that holds the valve handle to the valve body, and the water line connection.
What do you think? Ever install a saddle valve?
Ethan – Saddles valves are definitely the easiest way to set up a refrigerator water line. I personally don’t like them as I’ve seen far too many leak and cause problems. Your tips are spot on though, cleaning the pipe is essential when it comes to getting a good seal.
Hey Todd, I’ve read about quite a few people having problems but I think a lot comes down to proper installation. My saddle valve (pictured) hasn’t had any problems since I installed it about 4 years ago. Thanks for the input.
One thing that I’ve seen causes saddle valves to leak is actually using them as valves – they only seem to work a handful of times, then they will start to leak.
I’ve installed a handful of reverse osmosis systems and one fridge with saddle valves, and always put another ball valve in-line as an actual shut-off valve. Install the saddle then don’t touch it again.
It kind of looks like you’re using 3/8 NPT tubing (like you’d use for a sink or toilet supply hookup), so in that case you can get a ‘retrofit’ shut-off valve that will screw right onto the saddle valve, and then your hose connects onto that. You can also get valves with barbs at each end for a poly line, or compression fittings for flexible 1/4″ copper, which cover the usual types of lines used.
The last water line I ran to a fridge, I swapped out the angle stop valve under the sink for a 1/2″ x 3/8″ x 1/4″ stop. For me it was faster than the the saddle and it gave me a chance to replace my 30 year old corroded stop. If I had been plumbing to the basement I would’ve used a saddle instead of sweating in a T.
I second the proper preparation steps to get saddle reliability.
For convenience sake I started with a saddle valve when I installed my new fridge. I was aware of leaking potential, but after 5 years I had a different problem. The small hole apparently was becoming occluded by mineral build-up and my ice cubes were very small. So I bit the bullet and replaced the saddle valve with one of those new(er) pvc slip “T” fittings with a 1/4 turn chrome shutoff. I bought a valve with a 2nd outlet and capped it. Now I have easy water access incase I ever need it in this remote area of the basement, and my ice is mongo:)
i have a saddle valve, do i just tighten the pin all the way in to stop the flow of water? will be away and want the water to icemaker off, thanks
Hi Bruce, Tightening down should close it but over time that may not be enough. Saddle Valves are not really intended to be an on / off switch. For that sort of application, I’d suggest installing a ball valve or something similar.
does anyone know if self piercing valves are out lawed in any state?
Learned by experience that a Saddle Valve doesn’t turn off the water! The explanation of piercing the pipe clarifies why. Will placing a compressor cap on the area where the former tubing fit solve the problem or will the pierced pipe still need to be plugged? If so, how &/or with what? Thanks for the help and this site.
Hi Marilyn, Thanks for stopping by. Fred actually wrote a post for your exact question. Read how he fixed a small leak from a saddle valve here.