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What Causes Refrigerator Leaks?

Thursday, August 20th, 2020
Refrigerator Leaks

Refrigerator leaks probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of kitchen water damage. A busted water supply line under the kitchen sink or an overflowing dishwasher seems to be a more likely suspect. While refrigerator leaks may not be dramatic—frequently they appear as a recurrent “mystery puddle” around or behind the refrigerator—chronic leakage can rot the floor underneath the unit, spread under nearby baseboards into wall voids, and trigger mold growth.  

Here are two common sources of refrigerator leaks and what needs to be done to eliminate them.

Water Line Connection

Many refrigerators are connected to household plumbing that provides water for the internal ice maker. This is typically a 1/4-inch water supply tube that connects to the rear of the refrigerator with a compression fitting.

Two issues may trigger refrigerator leaks:

  • New refrigerators frequently come standard with an inexpensive plastic water supply tube that loosens and leaks over time at the compression fitting on the back of the unit. Gently tightening the compression nut at the fitting with a wrench may stop minor refrigerator leaks at that point.
  • If tightening the tubing connection doesn’t stop leakage, the water supply line and connection hardware at both ends should be replaced. Copper or stainless steel replacement water supply lines are more reliable than original equipment plastic tubing. While not out of the range of experienced do-it-yourselfers, replacing the refrigerator water supply line may be best left to a qualified plumber.

Drain Tube Clog

Most refrigerators generate a small volume of water during the automatic defrosting cycle. This water is diverted down a tube from the freezer section into a pan in the bottom of the unit where hot air from the compressor fan evaporates the water. A clogged drain tube may cause water to back up and drip out of the freezer, eventually puddling on the kitchen floor. A drain tube clogged by debris such as food particles will usually need to be blown out with compressed air to clear the clog and stop leakage.

3 Main Causes Of Refrigerator Leaks

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

leaky refrigeratorRefrigerator leaks can be quite small. Unfortunately, that means a chronic refrigerator leak can cause water damage to the floor underneath it or the wall behind it—areas not frequently inspected by most homeowners—before anyone’s aware of it. Mold growth in these areas may also thrive undiscovered for some time. The good news is, in most units, there are only a few common causes of refrigerator leaks and they can be checked in a quick process of elimination.

  • Leaky water supply line. If your refrigerator incorporates an ice maker, it gets water from a 1/4-inch tube—typically made of plastic—routed from the kitchen sink water line. The tube connects to the back of the refrigerator with a screw-on connection. Inconspicuous water leakage, usually seepage or drips, may result if this connection loosens. The plastic supply tube itself is also prone to deteriorate and eventually crack. However, this usually causes obvious leakage and may flood the kitchen floor if the flow isn’t shut off at the valve under the kitchen sink.
  • Clogged defrost drain. Refrigerators with auto-defrost feature discharge water created by defrosting into a drain line that extends to a drip pan underneath the refrigerator, where the water evaporates. If the defrost drain line clogs with food particles or other debris, water may drip behind or beneath the unit, missing the collection pan. This leakage is intermittent and may not be obvious as it only occurs when defrost cycle kicks in. However, over time it can cause water damage to the floor or wall behind the refrigerator.
  • Condensation leaks. Condensation forming inside the refrigerator compartment should drip through a drain tube directly into the drip pan beneath the unit. If the drain hole is clogged or obstructed by some object, leakage may occur. Another cause can be that the refrigerator is not level, so collecting condensation does not flow toward the drain hole. A typical sign of this is small amounts of water leaking out the front of the refrigerator.

Refrigerator leaks can be a major or minor cause of household water damage. Catching these leaks early is the key to prevention.


Simple Tips To Prevent Water Damage From Home Appliances

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

leaky applianceWhen thinking about ways to prevent water damage, don’t overlook home appliances. While ruptured water supply lines are certainly a major cause of indoor flooding, appliances connected to those pipes also contribute to the risk of household water damage.

How to prevent water damage

To prevent water damage, be aware of the condition of these common appliances, follow manufacturer’s recommendations for regular maintenance and keep the following tips in mind:

Washing Machine – Washers usually come standard with rubber water supply hoses. Over time, they become brittle, crack and may rupture without warning. Make it a habit to replace rubber washer supply hoses every five years. Even better, replace them with braided stainless steel supply lines, instead, that have longer service life. Another preventive measure: Don’t start a load in the washer and then leave the house. If you’re going to be away for an extended time, turn off the water supply to the washer at the valves on the wall behind it.

Dishwasher – Dishwasher water supply is under household pressure of 40 p.s.i. or higher—enough to cause water damage like any broken pipe elsewhere in the home. Early signs of dishwasher leaks often occur at plumbing connections that are out of sight beneath or behind the unit. It’s a good idea to remove the front kick plate two or thee times a year and look underneath the dishwasher with a flashlight for dripping or other signs of water. Check both while the unit is off and also while it’s filling.

Refrigerator – The 1/4-inch plastic or copper water tube that supplies the icemaker with fresh water connects to the rear of the refrigerator. If the unit is shoved too close to the wall, a plastic tube may be crushed or otherwise damaged and leak. If the refrigerator’s pulled too far away and over-stresses the supply tube, the connection may leak or totally detach and flood the kitchen. Be careful when moving the refrigerator and always check behind the unit for leakage when you do.


3 Common Kitchen Flooding Issues Caused By Appliances

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

kitchen sink leak
A kitchen flood is an all-too-common occurrence, largely because there’s more than one potential cause. Kitchens typically incorporate multiple fixtures and appliances that connect to water supply lines under municipal water pressure. Note that kitchen flooding doesn’t necessarily stay in the kitchen: In one recent report, an overnight kitchen flood spread water damage throughout two-thirds of an entire residence. Keep up with the status of kitchen plumbing and appliances to reduce likelihood of these incidents. Here are three common causes of a kitchen flood:

Refrigerator Ice Maker

Most kitchen floods are caused by a broken refrigerator ice maker water supply line or connection.

  • Be careful when moving the refrigerator. The supply line may become kinked or break if the refrigerator is shoved too close to the wall. Conversely, if the refrigerator is pulled too far from the wall when cleaning behind it, the water line or connection could be over-stressed and may rupture.
  • The typical OEM plastic water supply line degrades and cracks. It’s a good idea to replace the inexpensive plastic with a copper or stainless steel line that offers better durability.


A dishwasher water line may slowly and silently degrade, leaking into the enclosed space underneath the appliance, then rupture entirely. Twice a year, remove the kick plate at the front of the dishwasher and inspect the space with a flashlight. Consider leaks or unexplained wetness a warning sign. Shut off the dishwasher water supply valve under the kitchen sink and call a plumber.

Under-Sink Systems

The cabinet beneath the kitchen sink may include water quality accessories such as canister filters or a reverse-osmosis filtration unit. A canister filter can leak around the seal or the canister itself may fail entirely, releasing water under pressure. A cracked plastic supply line from the sink cold water line to the reverse-osmosis filter unit and holding tank could also pose a risk of flooding. Inspect the system twice a year for signs of leakage or degradation of the plastic supply lines.

Ask the water damage experts at Rytech, Inc. for additional preventive measures to avert a damaging kitchen flood.

3 Unusual Water Leaks To Watch For…

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

pinhole leak in copper pipeUnexpected sources like an air conditioner water leak can cause substantial indoor water damage. Most people associate water damage with ruptured pipes or flooding that originates outdoors. However, some less-than-obvious sources also present a threat, including your air conditioner. Here are three unusual water leaks to watch out for.

Air Conditioner

A central air conditioner extracts both heat and humidity from indoor air. On a humid summer day, a residential A/C can condense over 20 gallons of water out of the air at the evaporator coil located inside the indoor air handler. As long as everything’s working right, that water is collected in a condensate drip pan and drained away through a line connected to the household sewer. If a clog occurs, however, the condensate drip pan will rapidly overflow, spilling multiple gallons of water every time the air conditioner cycles on. Because the indoor air handler is typically located in an unseen part of the house—inside a closet or even up in the attic—an air conditioner water leak may cause significant water damage before it’s noticed.


The water supply for a refrigerator ice-maker typically travels through a plastic supply tube that attaches to the back of the unit. Pulling the refrigerator slightly away from the wall—commonly done to clean behind it—may stress that connection. Similarly, pushing the refrigerator back too close the wall may compress it. Either scenario can cause hidden water leakage behind the refrigerator, which may soak into the subfloor, causing rot and triggering mold growth.

Copper Pipe Pinholes

Copper indoor water lines are far more resistant to catastrophic rupture than old-school galvanized steel. However, they may be vulnerable to pinhole leaks caused by the chemical reaction between chloramines in the water supply and the copper. Because these supply lines are typically routed through hidden locations including inside wall voids, the tiny spray from a pinhole can cause significant water damage to wooden structural components as well as creating an environment for toxic mold contamination.

For professional advice about an air conditioner water leak or other unusual sources of water damage, contact Rytech, Inc.