We just moved into a new place, and need to get a refrigerator -- and would like to get one with ice maker/water dispenser if possible.

This capped pipe (below) is right behind where the refrigerator would go, and my best guess is that it's a water source, but how can I be sure, short of uncapping it and seeing if water blasts out? Is there anything else it might be? I'm not there right now to measure it, but I think it's about 1/2", maybe a bit larger.

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  • Is the pipe Cooper under the paint?
    – tcsgeek
    Aug 27, 2014 at 22:25
  • 1
    If it is, there must be a shutoff somewhere, otherwise you'll never be able to hook it up (unless you shut off the whole house). Looks like it's PEX or some other type of plastic pipe, but it's hard to see since I'm on my phone. If there's a basement or crawlspace below, you might be able to follow the pipe back to its source.
    – Tester101
    Aug 27, 2014 at 23:16
  • +1 for tracing the pipe back to the source -- which among other things will tell you whether there's a cutoff valve somewhere short of turning off the whole house. The water feeds I've seen for fridges have tended to be mounted higher on the wall, to allow the hose to form a dangling "service loop" so you can slide the fridge in or out without risk of running over the hose, but there's no guarantee that this is what they did. I would want to be Absolutely Sure I knew what it was and had it turned off before opening it up.
    – keshlam
    Aug 28, 2014 at 0:57
  • my house has the same thing, did you every figure out what that pipe was? was it a water pipe? Thanks! Mar 13, 2017 at 22:59

3 Answers 3


Short of opening up the end-cap, there isn't a good way to tell which it is. You could try banging/hitting a pipe elsewhere in the house, to see if you can hear the banging. Also, look at other exposed piping to see what materials were used for the various utilities.

Pipe like that could be water, but it also could be oil or natural gas.

There is a chance that it is a drain, but I find it unlikely.

Before opening the pipe, turn off the utilities for the building. Loosen the cap by using two pipe wrenches, one for the cap, and another for the pipe. As the connection is opened, some water will leak out, or gas (and you'd smell its characteristic odour). Retightening the cap may not completely seal it. It may need to be removed, cleaned, be applied with pipe dope, and reinstalled.

The pipe could be made of any of a few different materials, such as galvanized steel, "black iron", copper, or brass.

Black iron pipe is often used for natural gas while galvanized steel and brass are used for water (though sometimes the wrong type is used, so this is not a reliable way to tell its contents). Copper is used for both water and gas.

  • Opening the end cap is not a good way to tell what type of pipe it is. Doing so will either fill your kitchen with water, or gas.
    – Tester101
    Aug 28, 2014 at 1:45
  • I agree it is somewhat dangerous, but I can't think of any other sure way, short of demolishing the wall.
    – Pigrew
    Aug 28, 2014 at 14:19

Try to scrape/sand away the paint to see what material you find.

As mentioned in @Pigrew's answer it could be black iron steel, galvanized steel, or brass. However, it's hard to tell by the photo if it is a threaded cap or not. If it's not threaded it could be copper, which is used for both water and gas. And for the sake of completeness, it could also be plastic which would suggest water.

To eliminate the biggest guess, check if you house has a gas connection/service. If you have no gas service and this is located in the spot designated for a fridge and the material is brass, plastic, or copper, it's a pretty good chance it's water.


Based on size, location above the baseboard and distance from the wall and the fact that it is a screw-on cap, I'd guess gas.

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