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Reuben Saltzman

Don’t Poke Holes In Your Pipes

Most ice makers and whole house humidifiers I inspect have a saddle valve supplying the water. These are devices that allow for a very fast, cheap, do-it-yourself installation of a ¼” water supply line.

Saddle ValveSaddle valves are installed by tightening a metal clamp on to 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

Most of them don’t leak, but they have a much higher chance of leaking than a properly installed water valve.  If they do end up leaking, the repair will involve doing all the stuff that you’re supposed to be able to avoid – cutting, fitting, reaming, cleaning, soldering, etc.

My advice is to not use saddle valves.  If you plan to install an appliance that needs a ¼” water pipe, have a proper shutoff valve installed.  It will take more time to do it right, but you’ll dramatically lower the chances of it leaking.

Proper Shutoff Valve

If you already have a saddle valve in your home, try to leave it alone.  Every time you operate the valve, you increase the chances of creating a leak.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email – Minnesota Home Inspector



No responses to “Don’t Poke Holes In Your Pipes”

  1. Ken Rowe
    February 16, 2012, 11:52 pm

    We were just having this discussion at an ASHI meeting.

    MN plumbing code does allow approved saddle valves:

    2009 Minnesota Plumbing Code

    4715.0800 Mechanical Joints

    “Saddle-type fittings secured by steel
    electroplated U-bolts may be used for
    aboveground water distribution, if the fittings
    are galvanized, include a collar fitting into the
    pipe opening with a gasket, and have IAPMO

    Here’s an example of approvals:

  2. Reuben Saltzman
    February 17, 2012, 5:10 am

    Hi Ken,

    I wish I would have been at that meeting, it sounded like a good discussion.

    The saddle valves that everyone uses on copper tubing, and the ones that you gave a link to as an example of approvals, are not the type mentioned in 4715.0800. They are not secured by steel electroplated U-bolts, the fittings are not galvanized, and they do not have a collar fitting into the pipe opening with a gasket.

    – Reuben

  3. Ken Rowe
    February 17, 2012, 1:56 pm


    You are correct, I did give the wrong example of approvals. Here’s a picture of an approved saddle valve.

  4. Reuben Saltzman
    February 17, 2012, 3:00 pm

    Hi Ken,

    That valve looks like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Have you?

    The description says “saddle clamp”, not “saddle valve”.

  5. Ken Rowe
    February 17, 2012, 3:12 pm

    Actually, I had one on the galvanized pipes in my own house (St Paul, 1948 build). They used it to connect a pressure relief valve to the cold water pipe going to the laundry sink.

  6. Reuben Saltzman
    February 17, 2012, 3:23 pm

    You don’t have a photo of it, do you?

  7. Reuben Saltzman
    March 17, 2012, 6:31 am

    It took me a month, but I was finally able to take a few photos of the old style saddle valves that the Minnesota State Plumbing Code accepts (I think). These were at a house in Saint Louis Park.

    Saddle Valve 1

    Old Saddle Valve 2

    Old Saddle Valve 4

    Old Saddle Valve 5

    Saddle Valve 6

  8. Illegal Plumbing Products in Minnesota | Structure Tech Home Inspections
    November 21, 2012, 4:26 am

    […] Saddle valves are usually used for whole house humidifiers, which I’m not a fan of to start with, and ice-makers.  They work by piercing a hole in your water pipe, and they’re prone to leaking.  They’re also not allowed in Minnesota. […]

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