How Does Trenchless Pipe Repair Work?

Trenchless Sewer Repair

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The sight of water backing up in your sink or the smell of foul odors from your drain can fill your heart with dread. Is it just a clogged drain that you can fix yourself? Or is it something more significant to the sewer line that will take a lot of money, time, and inconvenience to repair?

Repairing a sewer line can be costly and messy. But now there is another option!

Trenchless pipe repair is a more affordable and less invasive way to repair your sewer pipes. There are minimal disruptions to your yard and it takes less time.

Keep reading to learn more about the different types of trenchless technology available today. Learn what the benefits are and why you should consider it if your sewer lines need repairs.

How Did Things Use to Be?

Traditionally, pipes are clay, concrete, or iron. It’s likely your sewer line uses one of these materials. And it’s even more likely that they are already failing.

The conventional method for repairing pipes meant digging a trench from your house to the curb to access the pipes. This destroys anything sitting over the pipeline. Trees need to be cut down, landscaping dug up, sidewalks and driveways razed.

It’s a messy, slow, and expensive process from start to finish. It requires large machinery to dig up your yard and a lot of manhours to accomplish.

You have a long, gaping hole in your yard for days, making it dangerous for kids and pets to be around. Then, after you repair the pipe, you still have to put your yard back together again.

The second half of the 20th century saw an increase of dense urban communities growing up around the world. This meant an extensive sewer system was laid while buildings were being built up above and around them. It soon became obvious that traditional plumbing methods weren’t going to work when those pipes needed repairs.

People started working on new techniques and technologies to repair sewer lines. Many of these developments focus on trenchless underground pipe repair, allowing for pipe repairs without digging them up.

What Is Trenchless Sewer Line Repair?

Trenchless pipe repair is a fast-growing technique to restore pipes with minimal excavation. Thanks to this new trenchless technology, you can now install or repair sewer pipes without digging an open trench.

How Do They Do a Trenchless Repair?

Your plumbing expert uses a special video camera to inspect your pipe. They snake the camera through the sewer to see what damage there is and where it’s located.

They flush the pipe with a high-powered water jet. This eliminates clogs, clears out loose debris, and cleans the sidewalls of the pipe.

Then, they dig an access hole in your yard at each end of the damaged section of the pipe. They cut into the pipe at each end to access the inside of the sewer line. They use a “puller” to feed a special tube into the pipe.

This flexible tube covered in resin goes into the old pipe. This neoprene-like tube is made of three layers: an outer canvas soaked in resin, a rubber membrane inside that can inflate, and a plastic membrane that separates the two.

Compressed air is pumped into the tube so it expands and affixes the resin to the wall of the pipe. After several hours, the resin hardens or “cures” and creates a new lining in the pipe.

The inner membranes of the tube are deflated and pulled out of the pipe, leaving behind a new, resin lining on the old sewer pipe. This new lining is water-tight and impervious to root intrusion. It won’t rust or corrode and requires almost no additional maintenance in the future.

The newly lined pipe resembles a heavy-duty PVC type pipe. It does have a slightly smaller inside diameter.

But the new lining is smoother and roots can no longer penetrate it. So, water flows through easily, despite the smaller internal dimensions.

Another camera inspection happens, to make sure everything is clear and all obstructions removed. The pipe is sealed and buried again.

How Long Does a Trenchless Repair Take? 

This entire process usually only takes one day to complete. Your sewer service is useable immediately once the repair is complete. 

Why Would You Need a Trenchless Pipe Repair?

One of the most common reasons why you have issues with your underground sewer line is because of trees.

Tree roots growing underground constantly seek out moisture. Wastewater pipes are full of water and moisture.

Roots enter sewer pipes through small joints or gaps. They absorb the water inside and then expand. This expansion causes damage to the pipes in your sewer line.

If you’re selling your home or buying a new one, it may be a good idea to have an inspection done on the pipes and sewer line. This may help you avoid an unexpected expensive surprise down the line.

Benefits of Trenchless Sewer Repair

One of the biggest advantages of trenchless sewer repair is that you don’t have to uproot your yard, sidewalks, or driveway to do your repairs. Your lawn stays almost completely intact, so you don’t need to worry about replacing it. It takes less time and costs less money.

Although the materials cost more for the trenchless repair, your labor costs will be significantly lower than with traditional methods. You also don’t have as many unexpected costs beyond the repair.

You won’t have to pay for demolishing concrete sidewalks or driveways, removing the rubble, or repouring them after. You don’t need to worry about cutting down trees or replanting new ones. Your landscaping and gardens aren’t destroyed.

Other advantages include the amount of time involved. Most of these trenchless repairs happen in just one day.

With little downtime, you have minimal disruption to your day-to-day activities. This is definitely an appealing benefit for most busy families!

There is less chance for tree roots to invade again, so repairs will last a very long time. Most companies guarantee their work for 50 years, but many people estimate that the work could last as long as 100 years.

There is less risk of damage to other utility structures nearby. There’s less of a chance that electric lines and telecommunications cables will be damaged in the process. There also won’t be any issues around road closures or traffic management in your neighborhood.

It’s better for the environment as well. There is less noise or air pollution.

The relining materials emit fewer carbon emissions. And there is less of an impact on sensitive flora and fauna in the immediate area of the repair.

Unfortunately, It’s Not for Everyone

There are a few situations when a trenchless repair may not be possible.

If the original pipe has collapsed or sections are offset from each other, this method would likely not work. Also, if there are any low points where water pools, pipe relining may not be the best option as it might not pass inspections.

Different Types of Trenchless Repairs

The most common type of trenchless repair is the relining option described above. There are four different relining strategies. Your plumbing expert will help you decide which one is most appropriate for your situation. 

The cured-in-place (CIPP) method inserts a synthetic liner with composite resin compounds to the damaged pipe. This is the most common method.

It is installed via a “pull-in-place”method using ropes to put it in the right place. An “inversion” method is used on long pipes without any joints, bends, or changes in diameter throughout the length of the pipe.

Another option is slip lining, which slides a smaller new pipe into the damaged original. Or you can use the “fold and form” technique. This inserts a folded liner into the pipe and then reforms it against the interior walls by heating it up.

Finally, there is the spiral-wound lining method. This strategy takes one long length of pipe and mechanically winds it into place. This is most often used for long sections of municipal pipelines.

There are some alternatives to pipelining, including pipe bursting and pipe ramming.

Pipe bursting involves shattering the old pipe and inserting a new pipe into the space left behind. With pipe ramming, the old pipe stays in the ground and a new pipe laid, or rammed, into the earth next to it. The original pipe is disconnected and service is diverted to the new one.

Your Best Option for Sewer Line Repair

Overall, trenchless pipe repair is one of the best options for you to consider if you need to fix your sewer line. It’s less invasive, more cost-effective, and lasts longer than traditional services.

Contact us if you are looking for a residential or commercial plumber. We provide trenchless pipe repair in Santa Cruz, CA, and many other services that may meet your needs.

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Since 2008, Eco-Flow Plumbing has been proud to be a Santa Cruz plumbing company focused on serving customers in the area.