Trenchless Sewer Repair and Replacement

Does you sewer line need work?  It’s all but certainly buried underground and many run under walkways and driveways so just getting to it involves a lot of digging and expense.  If you need to replace the full line, trenching and restoration can be a major disruption and economic headache.  Fortunately, trenchless sewer line repair and trenchless sewer replacement technology means the need to dig can be avoided.  Although they’ve been around for over two decades, many homeowners are unaware of time and money saving trenchless repair options such as pipe lining and pipe bursting  now available.

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When is  Sewer Line Repair and Replacement Necessary?

A lot can happen to an unseen underground pipe, especially if it’s an older clay or iron sewer pipe.  Besides earthquakes, settling and shifting soil can cause to offset joints and cracks that lead to leaks.  It can also cause sagging and inadequate slope that lead to frequent blockages. Corrosion and root intrusions can also lead to leaks, and sewer lines can completely collapse from age alone.

Traditional line repair & replacement can become quite complicated when pipes run underneath pavement.  The total cost for digging, repair, and restoration frequently run into the thousands of dollars.  It’s often necessary to schedule a trenching company, wait for plumbing and inspection teams, then schedule fill-in together with landscaping and re-paving.  Homeowners are responsible for everything up to and including the connection to the city sewer main.  That can mean paying for city services to re-route traffic and patch the street.  It’s not all that unusual for sewer replacement costs to mount into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Repair vs Replace:  Which is Best for You?

When significant expenses are involved it’s best to think of the long term.  The decision between a repair or replacement isn’t simply that of the cost.  The main factor to consider should be the overall condition of your sewer line.

Prior to any decision it’s important to have a professional sewer line inspection, including an in-pipe video inspection, to fully understand the situation.

If a relatively short section is having problems and the rest of the line is in good shape then a sewer repair may be your best choice.  But if your sewer lines are old and deteriorating, were built improperly, or are of inferior materials then a replacement is usually your best bet.  Otherwise you’re likely to be facing more repairs in the future.  With line replacement you’ll have today’s longer-lasting materials, and with the right plumbing contractor a near-perfect installation.  Using the latest in materials and technology a new line can be trouble-free for decades.

Is a Trenchless Repair or Replacement Right for You?

Trenchless sewer repairs and trenchless sewer replacements avoid the delays and disruptions of digging.  They can be a big money-saver when the costs of re-paving walkways, sidewalks, and driveways along with restoring landscaping are considered.  Other complications leaning the balance towards trenchless sewer line repair and replacement methods include the location of other underground pipes.  Every situation is different, so you’ll need to get an expert evaluation.

TIP:  Decide what your priorities are (avoiding disruption, immediate costs, long-term costs), then get estimates for both trenching and trenchless repairs from a reputable licensed plumbing contractor.  Ignoring digging, pavement jack hammering and replacement, and restoring landscaping trenchless sewer line repair and replacement are a bit more expensive, so be sure to compare the total time and cost.

Trenchless Technology

Although they may be unfamiliar to you, it’s important to know that today’s plastic piping and resins are not temporary patches.  They have longer expected lifetimes than clay and metal pipes, and premium brands may have warranties as long as 50 years.

The two most widely used trenchless sewer line repair and replacement technologies are pipe bursting and pipe lining.

  • Pipe bursting can cut the overall costs down to as little as half that of open-cut trenching.  A “bursting head” is sent down the existing sewer line, bursting apart the existing pipe and pulling in a new pipe.  The new sewer line is typically HDPE (high-density polyethylene) fused into a single seamless pipe for a minimum of future problems.  Crews will need to dig two access holes, but nothing in between. Pipe bursting can sometimes be used even with a ruptured or highly-damaged existing line, but not if the line runs through concrete (such as through a retaining wall floors or within pavement.
  • Slip lining installs a CIPP (cured in place pipe) as a sort of pipe inside the existing pipe.  The epoxy resin lining also results in a jointless and corrosion-free sewer line. It’s only necessary to dig one access hole, which can be a big plus.  Slip lining reduces the inside diameter about 1/4 inch, but the smooth surfaces may actually result in improved flow rates.  Unfortunately it can’t correct offset joints, breaks, or collapsed sections.

Other trenchless technologies include directional drilling.

TIP:  Installing a clean-out with a pressure-relief port does a lot more than save time when there’s a future problem.  It keeps sewage backups from progressing through toilets and sinks, and into your home.