Icemaker Water Line: Quick Fix or More Expensive Fix

Answered by Jeffrey ~ May 9, 2010 ~ No Comments

We have a new fridge with icemaker. The pre-existing water line (copper) has never been used - put in with a remodel 7 yrs ago, is not yet connected to the water source. We called in a plumber who advised against using it: 1) it shows some signs of oxidation; 2) it's threaded behind solid wood cabinets, and somehow was threaded over/around a doorway (it must be inside the wall) and 20+ feet later, reaches the fridge alcove. Plus, we have very hard water (no water softener). Instead, he proposes running an aqua flex line from an upstairs bathroom line, through the ceiling, and down to a box behind fridge (shorter distance, less risk of leakage) - for $1000+ (will include some other minor plumbing issues). Is he overselling the risk? He said the original lin e would be a home inspector's red flag, and he wouldn't guarantee the quick fix, other than the installation of the valve. What do you think?

Sally J. ~ San Diego, California

Jeffrey Anderson

Hi Sally, Copper lines can oxidize and leak, I had it happen on a house many years ago. The home had a long driveway down to the main road, and a copper water supply line that paralleled the driveway. Over a period of a couple of years we dug up that water line several times due to leakage from oxidation, and eventually replaced the entire line with a different type of material. I have also heard of other copper water lines leaking due to oxidation. Not seeing your copper ice maker line, I can't say for sure how much of a risk you would be taking by using it, but with most of it being hidden, it would be a gamble regardless.

That being said, $1000 seems like an incredible amount to run an icemaker line. There may be issues I am not aware of, and you mentioned that the price included some other work, but that still seems to be a high price. I also have to say that I am not sure of plumbing rates around San Diego, California, perhaps that is not considered high there.

My suggestion would be to have several other reputable plumbing contractors come in and give you an estimate. Don't mention your $1000 estimate, just let them know that your are getting several estimates on the work, and mention that you have a concern about the age of the copper line. I wouldn't even mention oxidation, I would wait for them to mention it to you, but try to make sure the plumbing contractors looking at the work have been in business for awhile, and have worked with copper water piping in the past.

Once you have your prices and recommendations then you have a decision to make concerning the copper line. If you get a decent price for installing a new line, I believe I might choose that option. I once had a refrigerator stolen out of a house I was building over a weekend. The thief didn't have the decency to shut off the icemaker line, they simply cut it, and it ran out into the house all weekend. That little icemaker line caused many thousands of dollars of damage, I ended up replacing all of the hardwood floor on the main level of the home.

If you decide to use the copper line, even if the plumbing contractor warrants their work, I think I would turn off the icemaker line if I was going out of town for several days.

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