Whether you’ve purchased a new refrigerator with an ice maker and/or water dispenser, or have a fridge with an unused one, running a refrigerator waterline will let you get the most use out of it. Newer fridges use a ¼-inch flexible water supply tube to tap into the nearest source of water. This makes the process easier and more convenient than the ¼-inch bendable copper tubing used in the past.
Usually, you can run a waterline from the kitchen faucet supply line or a shutoff valve. This is often through the kitchen cabinets, but an alternative is to run it through the floor to the refrigerator. But first check that a waterline and shutoff valve isn’t already sticking out of the wall or up through the floor.
If you don’t have a refrigerator waterline, here is a step-by-step guide for running one:
Plan How You’re Going to Run the Water Line
If a water supply valve is already installed near the fridge, all you need to do is connect a ¼-inch waterline supply tube. But if there isn’t one, you’ll need to plan to run one from the sink or dishwasher. From the nearest connection, map the shortest path from there to the rear of the fridge. Your plans need to include where the waterline is going to run so it won’t be accidentally damaged.
Measure the length of the future waterline path. Then add 6 to 8 feet of tubing to account for that which will be coiled behind the refrigerator. This will give you slack so the unit can be moved during cleaning.
Select the type of water supply tube before starting. It can be made of flexible braided steel, which is stronger yet more expensive, or plastic nylon mesh, which is also quite tough. However, you want to focus on quality as a water leak can lead to expensive damage.
In addition to the tubing along with compression connectors, you’ll need the following:
- Add-a-tee adapter
- Two pairs of pliers (tongue-and-groove type), or two adjustable wrenches
- An absorbent rag or bucket.
Install the Refrigerator Waterline
We’ll first cover the easiest way to run your water line. There are a few methods depending on whether your sink has a valve or not. Assuming it does have a shutoff valve, here is how to proceed:
- Turn the Water Off: Turn the cold-water shutoff valve clockwise. It should be located under the kitchen sink. Some valves have a lever-type handle, which should be turned perpendicular to the pipe to close the valve. Then turn on the cold water tap to release pressure.
- Disconnect the Waterline from the Faucet: With a bucket or rag under the supply valve, disconnect the supply tube with pliers or wrenches. Water will drain from the supply tube. To disconnect it, hold the valve body with one pair and loosen the compression nut with the other.
- Attach the Adapter: The add-a-tee adapter should easily thread onto the valve’s outlet port. Tighten it by hand and then hold one pair of pliers to secure the valve and another to tighten the adapter in place.
- Connect the Supply Tubes: The faucet supply tube attaches to the 3/8-inch outlet on the adapter; use the pliers to tighten the connection. On the ¼-inch outlet of the adapter, tighten the flexible supply tube that will run to the refrigerator.
- Run the Supply Tube to the Fridge: Run the supply tube to the ¼-inch water supply fitting on the appliance, being careful not to tighten it too much. Use the pliers to secure it slightly more than what you can do by hand.
- Open the Water Shutoff Valve: Turn the valve’s knob counterclockwise, or the lever handle parallel to the pipe. Inspect each connection for leaks. If the connections are secure, move the refrigerator to its normal position and run the water dispenser/ice maker to make sure the system is working.
If Your Sink Does Not Have a Shut-Off Valve
The line will have to be tapped directly through the sink’s piping if there is no valve. A saddle valve was once commonly used, but since it’s leak-prone, many codes no longer allow it. Saddle valves should be replaced with standard fixture shutoff valves or a special adapter tee with a shutoff (splice it into a straight run of pipe). This step requires removing part of the sink’s water supply pipe by using pipe cutters, then deburring the pipe ends, and attaching a new valve to both of them.
If you can’t run the waterline through any cabinets, or there are none to do so, you may have to access another water supply line through the floor or wall. This requires a fair amount of drilling. But otherwise, the process is the same as installing a new valve.