What Are The Options For Repairing Sewer Lines?

Many sewer lines to older homes are several decades old and either have deteriorated over time, were invaded by tree roots, have broken apart, have become disjointed because of soil erosion, or are a result of just plain poor installation practices.

Up until the recent past, your only option for major sewer repairs or replacement was having a large trench dug across your property to access the sewer line. This meant saying goodbye to driveways, patios, and, unfortunately, gardens that may have taken years to cultivate.

Luckily, there are now options that require no trenching, only one or two small holes dug at the beginning and end points of the sewer line. The two main options are pipe relining and pipe bursting.

What is sewer pipe relining and how is it done?

If the sewer line is still in reasonably good shape, with only some deterioration or cracks in the pipe. a liner can be formed inside the pipe to make it free of leaks and entry points for tree roots to grow and block the sewer line.

An epoxy soaked liner is inserted into the interior of the sewer line. This liner is wrapped around a bladder that is then inflated to press the liner against the inner surface of the old sewer pipe. The epoxy cures within a matter of hours to form an inner liner that can last for decades, even if the outer surface of the pipe deteriorates further over time.

This inner liner can be as long as the entire sewer line or simply long enough to form a seal in a small section of pipe, depending on need.

What is pipe bursting?

If a sewer line is in terrible shape, it can still be replaced without trenching by simply breaking it apart, knocking the pieces out of the way, and dragging a new pipe into its place. This is all done in one action.

A conical shaped head is pulled through the old sewer pipe, breaking apart the pipe and pushing the pieces outward. A new sewer pipe is tethered to the back end of the head and is pulled into place as the head forms its path. Both head and pipe are attached to a steel cable that is pulled either manually or by hydraulic power. 

Can a trenchless repair or replacement be performed if your sewer line has a "belly"?

A "belly" is formed when a portion of the sewer line sinks at a connection point because of soil erosion or other issues. This creates a low point at which debris and other clogging agents can accumulate. It also makes it difficult for either pipe lining or bursting to be performed, because both methods rely on the sewer line maintaining their original, moderately straight line at a downward slope.

However, if the "belly" isn't too severe, the ground can be thoroughly soaked prior to pipe bursting, then a larger head is used to burst the original pipe, creating a larger space for the new pipe to enter in a straight line as needed. It may also be necessary to switch to a larger size pipe to fill in the additional space, depending on the degree of dislocation caused by the "belly."

Fortunately, actual "bellies" are rare and are often just misdiagnosed blockages caused by tree roots and other debris. 

While there are cases when trenching is the only option, many sewer line repairs can be done in one day, without any visible signs of disruption, using trenchless technology. Click here for more info.