It happens to almost every homeowner at some point. Clogged sewer…full excavation of your front yard…unsightly mounds of dirt, destroyed driveways, and gigantic headaches. Fortunately, new technology is allowing us to skip the major digs and repair clogged or broken sewers WITHOUT destroying yards, porches, or driveways.
Trenchless sewer repair is just what it sounds like. Instead of creating a long trench to access a sewer line, we now have special equipment that can repair or even replace entire lengths of pipe with only one or two small access holes. From high-definition cameras to special pipe burrowing machines to advanced robotics, trenchless sewer repair is becoming a preferred method that can save both time and money.
How does it work?
There are several methods of trenchless sewer repair. Before making any kind of decision on what to do, a plumber should ALWAYS inspect the line first with high-resolution cameras to determine what the problem is. If we are able to, we will clean the line first. Based on the severity, location, depth, and a few other factors, if there is a problem that needs attention, we can then recommend the best way to fix it. The most common (and easiest to understand) is pipe-bursting.
When we need to replace a long section of pipe, we will first create two small access points. One to insert the new pipe, and another to pull it through. Once we have underground access, we insert a high-strength steel cable into the old pipe and run it through the line. The purpose of this cable is so that we can pull what’s called a bursting head and the new pipe through the ground. As the cable pulls the bursting head through the old pipe, it literally breaks it apart, creating a space for a new pipe to be pulled through. Once the new pipe is in place, we simply connect it into the old line and fill in the hole. This procedure can typically be done in just a few hours, but sometimes may take a day or two to complete.
While this method can be more expensive than traditional excavation, it’s often used to save money elsewhere, like driveway repair or sod replacement. It almost always is more cost-efficient to go trenchless when factoring in all of the other costs associated with full excavation.
Pipe Lining (CIPP)
Pipe Lining or Cured In Place Piping (CIPP) is unlike pipe bursting in that we are not replacing the pipe, but rather repairing it from the inside. First, we may need to create an access point. If there is an existing cleanout (which there often is), we may not need to do any digging at all! We will insert a device into the pipe which creates a durable resin liner where the damage is. The resin undergoes a fast curing process and is then ready to resume service. This method is often minimally invasive and can be done fairly quickly, at a reasonable cost. The biggest downside of CIPP is that we cannot replace long lengths of pipe—like an old sewer line that has completely collapsed over time.
The latest in sewer repair technology comes in the form of advanced robotics. Now, we can reach pipes that were once only accessible by full excavation, and pinpoint the exact area a pipe needs to be repaired using highly specialized cameras, drilling equipment, and UV-cured resins. While this technology is mainly used in commercial applications, there are instances where a robot could be used for a residential repair. Check out the video below to see how it works!
Is trenchless repair cheaper?
This is a question we get asked all the time. Unfortunately, it is not a yes or no question. The cost of repair really varies on many factors including damage severity, length of pipe, pipe depth, and location.
Pipe bursting is generally more expensive than excavation. But, it’s used in situations where a homeowner may have to spend additional money on other associated costs like landscape repair or concrete work. So while the plumbing repair is more expensive, the total job cost could be lower.
Pipe Lining varies significantly based on the scope of the job. If we can access the pipe through an existing cleanout, it can be more cost-effective than traditional excavation or pipe bursting. We usually won’t know if pipe lining is a good option until we have had a chance to inspect the pipe.
Already received an estimate to have a sewer line repaired or replaced?
Have you had a plumber already inspect your system and give you a quote for a repair or replacement? This often comes with a bit of sticker shock because the plumber is estimating some sort of excavation. That’s why we offer FREE second opinions. You should always get at least two quotes on any major home project, and sewers are no exception. Our experienced, trained technicians will inspect your system and review your options to make sure you don’t dig up your yard for no reason. Contact us today for a FREE second option!