Saddle valves: cheap, easy, and wrong

I blogged about how saddle valves are illegal products in Minnesota nearly five years ago, and it's time for an update on that topic with some more information.

Saddle ValveTo start, that's a saddle valve pictured at right.  These are devices that allow for a very fast, cheap, do-it-yourself installation of a ¼” water supply line, typically used to supply water to ice makers and whole-house humidifiers.

Saddle valves are installed by tightening a metal clamp onto a water pipe, then tightening down a needle valve until it pierces the water pipe.  No cutting of pipes is required, no soldering, no special tools… simple.  Very DIY.  The needle just pokes a hole in the pipe, and I've heard it can be done without even turning off the water… not that I've ever tried.   There has to be a catch, right?

There is.  These saddle valves are prone to leakage, and they're not allowed by the Minnesota State Plumbing Code.

Leaking Saddle Valve  Leaking Saddle Valve2

There is actually nothing in the Minnesota State Plumbing Code that specifically prohibits these types of valves; they're just not approved.   Section 4715.0420 of the MN State Plumbing Code gives a list of approval standards. Saddle valves don't have one.

Most of them don’t leak, but they have a much higher chance of leaking than a properly installed water valve.  My advice is to not use saddle valves.  When installing an ice maker or whole-house humidifier, tap off of an existing water line with a proper tee fitting and have a proper shutoff valve installed.  It will take a little more time to do it right, but you'll dramatically lower the potential for leaks.

If you already have a saddle valve in your home, try to leave it alone.  Every time you operate the valve, you increase the potential for a leak.  If you already have a saddle valve installed and you'd like to replace it with a proper stop valve, read on.

How to replace a saddle valve

There has been a saddle valve installed for the ice maker at my own house since I moved in over four year ago.  I haven't touched it and it hasn't leaked, but I thought this would make for a nice little project where I could lay out the basic steps of replacing a saddle valve.  This isn't a full how-to, however; I'm just laying out the basic steps that are involved.

To replace a saddle valve or tee off an existing water line, start by obtaining the needed parts.  I'm assuming the saddle valve is connected to a ½" copper water line.  If you're comfortable soldering copper tubing and you already have the equipment to do it, this project will cost about $10.  If not, this project will cost about twice as much by using a push fitting tee.

Push fittings are extremely easy to use, requiring no special tools to make connections to copper, PEX, or CPVC tubing.  They've proven to be reliable, but they're far more expensive than traditional copper fittings.  The most commonly known push fittings are made by SharkBite®, but there are several other ones available, such as PDQ™ and Blue Hawk.

The photo below shows the stuff you'll need for this project.

Stuff Needed

You'll need a pipe cutting tool whether you decide to solder the copper fittings or use a push fitting.  The parts needed for this project are a ½" copper tee or a ½" push fitting tee, a short length of ½" copper tubing, and a stop valve with a ½" copper tubing inlet and a ¼" compression outlet.  Oddly enough, a ¼-turn push fitting valve goes for $8.72 at Home Depot, while the inferior-in-every-way multi-turn compression valve goes for $9.76.  Naturally, I bought the push fitting valve.

Once you have the stuff that's needed, shut off the water to your home and drain the water lines.  Remove the saddle valve and cut the water line just before and just after the location where the saddle valve was located.  This should leave a small gap in the water line, which you'll bridge with the tee fitting.  Here's a video on soldering a tee, and here's a video on using a push fitting.  Stick the short length of copper tubing into the open end of the tee fitting; this is what you'll need to connect the stop valve to.  Once that's in, you should have something that looks like the photo below:

Copper tee installed

Don't bother commenting on the super ugly soldering job.  I know.

Now, all that's left is to install the stop valve.  If you're using a push fitting valve, push it onto the end of the ½" copper tubing, then connect the ¼" water line to the other end.  It should now look like this:

Reuben's new valve

That's it, that's all.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections


Written By

Reuben is a second-generation home inspector with a passion for his work. He grew up remodeling homes and learning about carpentry since he was old enough to hold a hammer. Reuben grew up thinking he was going to be a school teacher because he enjoyed teaching others so much. In a sense, that’s a lot of what home inspections are about, so Reuben truly does what he loves. Sharlene has worked with Structure Tech since 2000 and Reuben has been contributing to her blog since 2008.

Related Posts

Don’t Poke Holes In Your Pipes

Saddle valves allow for a very fast, cheap, do-it-yourself installation of a ¼” water supply line. There has to be a catch, right? There is. They leak, and saddle valves...

Subscribe to Our Newsletter for Market Updates & Mid-Century Modern Listings

Our weekly HomesMSP Update includes current local market information and a curated list of mid-century modern properties for sale, plus posts from an inspector, a lender, a stager, info about neighborhoods, life in the Twin Cities… even recipes!


Blog Categories


Sharon and John Hensrud

About Us

The HomesMSP Team is committed to meeting you where you are and listening… really listening to understand you so we can use our extensive knowledge of the market and local neighborhoods to give you personalized service.