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Thread: Best pipe material for refrigerator water line

  1. #1

    Default Best pipe material for refrigerator water line

    Planning on installing a water line for a new refrigerator by branching off a copper water line in the exposed ceiling of our basement and bringing the new line up behind the refrigerator. The space where the line needs to bend 90 degrees in order to penetrate the floor above is inaccessible from below except for whatever hole is made for the water line.

    Given the installation challenges I thought 1/4" PEX tubing might provide the best combination of flexibility and integrity. I plan on spraying foam insulation behind the pipe where it bends and is close to a cold exterior (New England) wall.

    Does anyone have any ideas on the best way to approach this job? Is PEX really the best material for this situation?
    I've not found any dedicated fittings for 1/4" PEX (not even Wirsbo). Should I just use brass compression fittings with plastic compression rings or the Watts push-on plastic fittings? The compression rings don't seem as tight on 1/4" PEX as regular Poly pipe or copper. I try to over do things where water and cold exterior walls are near each other.
    Last edited by Terry; 01-07-2014 at 01:20 PM.

  2. #2
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    I like using PEX for icemaker lines.
    I also use a hammer arrestor on the shutoff.
    The smallest PEX I carry is 1/2", though you can also use 3/8"

    I then use a braided stainless 1/4" supply with compression ends.
    If you have room, you could also put the box on the side, instead of behind the refrigerator.
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    Last edited by Terry; 12-18-2009 at 10:33 AM.

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    DIY Member Marty53's Avatar
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    Terry-

    Just out of curiosity, why do you prefer pex for icemaker installs specifically? I thought most of you pro's normally advised against the use of pex. It seems like if you are ok with using it in one part of the house, you might as well use it in all parts?

    I like that box though.. Right now my fridge is using one of those aweful clamp-on piercing jonnies and a direct 1/4" copper line to the fridge. Not ideal I know, but it was what was there already. Maybe I will replace it with pex and one of those boxes. Can you order online or best to get from a plumbing supply house?

    Thanks,

    Marty

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    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    Ordering on line will cost you an arm and leg for shipping such a small piece. Go to a local real plumbing supply. Get rid of that saddle valve while you are at it, those things are trouble waiting to happen. I like that box Terry pictured, I didn't know about them when I plumbed my ice maker, so I came off of the supply line with a tee into a ball valve then reduced to 1/4" copper. I have had problems with the copper kinking behind the refrigerator in the past, so I'll be changing to that box with a steel braided line from it to the refrigerator very soon. The copper is great as long as you don't ask it to move without kinking.

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    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    I can install PEX without soldering, which is nice, because everyone that wants a shutoff for their icemaker has this crazy idea that you can cut a pipe in the crawlspace and immediately start soldering.

    It takes a while before the pipes have drained down enough for soldering.

    PEX is also quieter when the trays refill.
    That is why I always use the hammer arrestor.
    It prevents the pipes from jumping and waking people up in the middle of the night.

    Last edited by Terry; 12-19-2009 at 01:44 PM.

  6. #6

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    Thank you for the advice.

    No saddle valves for me. I've done a bunch of soldering in the past, and will just T off an existing copper cold water line in the ceiling of the basement. Was also planning on putting a valve in-line before starting the PEX.

    Other than my issue finding the right fittings for 1/4" PEX, why not go off the copper with 1/4" (unless the issue is you just can't get good fittings for 1/4" PEX)? The smaller sized PEX will carry enough water and have a smaller safe bend radius than the 3/8" or 1/2". After penetrating the floor was going to adapt to a 1/4 compression fitting and then use an icemaker sized braided SS hose.

    If all of the above makes sense, what fitting should I use with 1/4" PEX or is it better to just upsize to 3/8" and make the bend as best I can.

  7. #7
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    I, personally, would not bother with PEX, and I would install a copper line. It doesn't take that much time to drain the line and solder in a tee.

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    DIY Junior Member smjm1982's Avatar
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    If PEX is anything like with my baseboard heating system, i prefer it here cause I would have to run copper tubing to the other side of my kitchen past the outside door and i have a concrete slab floor.

    The route I have to take is to remove the capping along the floor and around the outer door and route the PEX tubing through its crevices to the fridge, then cut a hole in the drywall just above my capping behind the fridge to get the tubing out.

    I would need a solution that can handle sudden cold temperature without the line busting unlike copper will. From what I understand, PEX will contract & expand.

    If what I said above is accurate, its not only another reason to use PEX but my only sure solution for outer wall running of a line which could get exposed to the cold.

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    DIY Senior Member asktom's Avatar
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    I'd use copper.

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    DIY Junior Member Eddie_T's Avatar
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    I know this is an old thread but why throw it out to start anew?

    My situation is that my plumber in 1973 installed copper lines (under the slab) but forgot the ice maker and ran 1/2" copper overhead. That part of the house is only 14" wide so the pipe is close to the eave on both sides of the kitchen. When it gets down to single digits the line freezes (probably only at one end or the other). My concern is how many times can it freeze without cracking the soft copper. I am considering running pex inside my overhead cabinets to eliminate the problem as my attic is too small to comfortably work in the width being 14" with a 1 in 4 pitch on the roof.

    My question is whether it would be best to get a coil of 1/4" flexible pex and have only one piece including the coil behind the fridge? Fortunately the plumber did tee in a real 1/2" shut-off valve which I would have to adapt to accept a 1/4" connector. I have never worked with flexible pex so am unsure how hard it might be to route. I have to fish up one hollow interior wall and down another unless I leave it exposed behind the fridge. The rest of the run would be against the ceiling in overhead cabinets.

    As a sidebar, we have a low water pH in my area so copper does not outlive pex.
    Last edited by Eddie_T; 01-07-2014 at 01:23 PM.

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    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eddie_T View Post
    My question is whether it would be best to get a coil of 1/4" flexible pex and have only one piece including the coil behind the fridge? Fortunately the plumber did tee in a real 1/2" shut-off valve which I would have to adapt to accept a 1/4" connector. I have never worked with flexible pex so am unsure how hard it might be to route. I have to fish up one hollow interior wall and down another unless I leave it exposed behind the fridge. The rest of the run would be against the ceiling in overhead cabinets.
    Is the shutoff behind the freezer? You just need to find a way from the shutoff to the back there.
    Sometimes people put shutoffs under the kitchen sink in a retrofit and then run through the cabinets.

  12. #12
    DIY Junior Member Eddie_T's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terry View Post
    Is the shutoff behind the freezer? You just need to find a way from the shutoff to the back there.
    Sometimes people put shutoffs under the kitchen sink in a retrofit and then run through the cabinets.
    The shutoff is at the supply end under the laundry room sink. I would need to go up that wall into overhead cabinets in order to bypass the hot water heater then over a doorway into a pantry then through the wall into overhead kitchen cabinets with pretty much a straight shot to the fridge/freezer which is pretty well enclosed with cabinets to either side. My thought is to try the one piece run all the way from the shutoff to include the coil for moving the fridge/freezer out/in if the pex is easy enough to work with. I suppose if I started the project and got into a bind I could add couplers or elbows as needed, but I had rather avoid potentials for a leak.

  13. #13
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    In that case, I like the idea of putting a shutoff behind the fridge. You can run 1/2" to that location with a shutoff there, and then use 1/4 from the shutoff to the icemaker.

  14. #14
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Could you get to the back of the frig and just poke a hole in the floor, then run the new line from the basement?

    My situation is that my plumber in 1973 installed copper lines (under the slab) but forgot the ice maker
    Eddie T
    Last edited by Terry; 01-07-2014 at 04:20 PM.
    Jim DeBruycker
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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    A slab floor, which is what was stated, does NOT have a "basement" or any access UNDER the floor, which is why it was run overhead.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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