Trenchless sewer/ pipe repair
One of the biggest problems when it comes to sewer problems is the need to excavate your basement, yard, or the street outside your home to find a solution. This creates a great deal of additional work, stress, and cost to what can be a fairly minor issue.
However, with the development of trenchless repair techniques, much of this hassle can be sidestepped. By digging one hole, it’s possible to repair the pipe without the need to dig a trench.
This guide will walk through the fundamentals of trenchless sewer repair, including the pros and cons, so you can determine if it’s the best option for you.
WHAT IS TRENCHLESS SEWER REPAIR
Trenchless sewer repair is a system for lining damaged sewer pipes without the need for excavation.
There are two primary methods of lining a pipe without the need to dig a pipe – using pipe bursting or cured in place pipe lining. Both techniques require drilling at least one hole in the ground to connect to the sewer system, before accessing the damaged section through this hole.
In traditional methods of sewer repair, contractors will excavate a section of the yard, basement, sidewalk, or road, before removing and replacing a section of the sewer pipe.
Pipe bursting – as the dramatic name suggests – involves breaking the pipe using a rotating ‘bursting head’ that is sent down the pipe. As it breaks the old pipe, it pulls behind it a new, flexible pipe.
The new pipe is therefore laid down the same track as the old pipe, although the new pipe is made of more durable material and doesn’t contain any of the damage of the old pipe.
In order for a pipe bursting repair to work, you need to dig an entry and an exit pit, although there is no need for any further excavation.
CURED IN PLACE PIPE LINING
Cured in Place Pipe (CIPP) lining involves placing an epoxy liner down the pipe. This is then cured into place by heating; the heating causes the epoxy liner to expand and then create a watertight seal against the exterior of the pipe.
In some jurisdictions, this is not approved as a sewer repair (notably in the San Francisco Bay Area).
WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS
A no-dig sewer replacement system has totally changed the way that pipe repair takes place.
The technology that has emerged in the last decade has been a major shift for plumbers and homeowners. However, before you decide if trenchless sewer repair is right for you, you need to weigh up the options. Below is a list of the pros and cons to help you make your decision.
A trenchless approach is attractive because of the relative simplicity – at least in terms of not requiring a total excavation of your yard. However, there are additional benefits involved. These include:
QUALITY. Not only will a trenchless repair fix a cracked or corroded pipe, but it will also secure it with a superior lining. Instead of a pipe that is liable to rust, crack, or corrode further, you will effectively be left with a plastic pipe that is able to withstand tree roots, weather, and even minor earthquakes.
SPEED. Because a trenchless repair does not require excavation, it is a far faster process. Generally, it takes less than a day for a full repair. This has major additional benefits when it comes to the hassle of the replacement, particularly when it comes to price.
PRICE. A trenchless repair doesn’t require a brand new pipe, just a new lining; as a result, it can be up to 75% cheaper than a full replacement. Furthermore, because the process is quicker, the cost of labor is reduced as well.
ENVIRONMENT. Because the sewer linings are durable and made of eco-friendly materials, they are better for the environment than other types of sewer systems.
VERSATILITY. One of the best parts about a trenchless sewer repair approach is that it can integrate with almost all types of existing systems. Because you are lining the sewer pipe, not replacing it, you can use a CIPP repair on concrete, iron, clay, or any other type of pipe. Pipe bursting also works in a wide variety of situations.
DURATION. Part of the trenchless repair process is lining a pipe with an epoxy resin. One major strength of this is the length of time it lasts before it needs to be replaced again. In some cases, an epoxy resin-lined pipe can last up to 50 years. This makes it a smart investment for your home.
NON-INVASIVE. The big advantage that a trenchless system has over a traditional repair is that it is non-invasive, meaning there is no need to excavate. This minimizes disruption to your yard and your home and removes the bulk of the stress involved in sewer repair. This is particularly true if the sewer pipe that needs replacing is under your foundation or a driveway and therefore even harder to reach.
While the upsides of a trenchless system seem fairly clear and obvious, there are also some downsides. A trenchless system may work well in some circumstances, although it’s far from being the optimal solution in all cases. Below are some of the potential limitations.
INSURANCE. In some cases, an insurance policy may not cover a trenchless repair system. If the damage is caused by a tree root, it won’t be covered by insurance. A trenchless repair sometimes isn’t covered as part of a typical repair cost, meaning you would be stuck with a traditional type of repair.
EXPERTISE. To successfully conduct a trenchless repair requires significant expertise; you will, therefore, need a professional with experience in this area. Unlike a traditional repair, which in some cases you can do yourself, a trenchless repair requires specialist equipment, training, and expertise.
BUREAUCRACY. In some jurisdictions, a trenchless repair requires special permits and codes. For example, if you intend to complete work that is under the street, you will be required to get a municipal inspection first. While the repairs may be trenchless, they are not bureaucracy-less.
NOT A ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL SOLUTION. Trenchless sewer repair will not solve every problem you may have with your sewers. If your pipes were installed incorrectly then neither CIPP nor a pipe bursting approach will work. Although a trenchless system is an innovative solution, it won’t solve all problems.
BOUNDARIES. When it comes to any type of sewer repair, there is always a potential difficulty relating to boundaries. Because sewers connect a private home to a public utility, there is scope for overlap when it comes to fixing problems. If a blockage or a clog emerges in the lower lateral, near where it connects to the public main, the city may require a particular manner of repair, and this may not include a CIPP or pipe bursting system. Before you undertake any repairs, you’ll need to consult the city codes.
HOW DOES TRENCHLESS REPAIR WORK?
If you do decide that trenchless sewer repair is the best option for you and are interested in gaining a better understanding of the process, here are four main steps involved in the trenchless sewer repair process:
Initial Pipe Inspection
A plumber will come and do an initial pipe inspection. This will usually involve placing a camera down the pipe in order to determine the scope of the damage. The camera is on a long, flexible pole, which will be able to reach down the entirety of your sewer system. The plumber will then be able to make a recommendation as to the next best course of action.
If you are proceeding with a trenchless system, you will need to ensure your pipes are clean – particularly if you are using a CIPP approach. A plumber will, therefore, use high power jets, and potentially chemicals to dissolve tree roots, to make sure the interior of the pipes are as smooth as can be.
Once the pipes are clean, the plumber will use either a pipe bursting or CIPP approach to repair the pipes. In the case of pipe bursting, the plumber will need to dig two pits; for a CIPP, only one is needed.
After the work is complete, the plumber will give it a final inspection and fill in the pits. Once you know everything is functioning well, the job is complete. The entirety of this process will take less than a full day – usually as little as an afternoon.
Trenchless sewer repairs may seem like they solve a host of problems related to fixing damaged pipes. However, they may not work in every single circumstance. What is certain is that a trenchless approach removes many of the secondary issues involved with sewer repair.