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Pros and Cons of Trenchless Sewer Repair

If you are contemplating sewer line repair on your property, you’re probably faced with a lot of overwhelming decisions. Here is an overview of your options, including trenchless sewer repair, so you can decide if it’s the right method for your situation. Also, you can learn about the causes and signs of sewer line damage, if you are still trying to determine whether your sewer pipe may need professional attention.

What Causes Sewer Line Damage?

Your home’s sewer line is the pipe that runs between your house and your municipal sewer pipe under your street, also known as the sewer main. You are responsible for maintaining any pipes on your property that feed into the sewer main. These are sometimes referred to as lateral sewer lines.

Sewer lines can become clogged, or they can crack, sag, or collapse. Damage to your lateral sewer line can come from a number of sources:

  • Aging pipe, often made of inferior materials
  • Shifting and settling soil around the pipe
  • Weather that causes cycles of freezing and thawing ground
  • Infiltration by tree roots or other plantings
  • Corrosion of the pipes
  • Pouring heavy substances, like grease, down the drain
  • Flushing inappropriate items down the toilet
  • Misaligned pipe connection
  • Improper previous plumbing work

What Are Signs You Need a Sewer Line Repair?

You may need to have your sewer line repaired or replaced if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Your yard, your basement, your bathroom, or other areas of your house begin to smell unpleasant, usually like sewage, sewer gas, or rotten eggs.
  • Your yard becomes constantly soggy, even when it hasn’t rained recently. You may even notice ponding in the backyard where water is leaking from a broken sewer pipe.
  • You have new green or extra lush grass growing where it never grew before. This is caused by sewage fertilizing the soil, much like manure would in a garden.
  • There are indentations in your lawn or under your yard’s hardscaping, which may also crack if it shifts too much.
  • Animals you haven’t seen before, especially rodents, are suddenly attracted to your yard. Sewer rats can fit through a crack as small as three-quarters of an inch.
  • You have a new insect infestation, particularly cockroaches.
  • Cracks appear in your foundation or your slab.
  • Drains in your house take a long time to empty. If all your drains are slow, not just one, refrain from using a drain cleaning product, and call a professional plumber.
  • Water or worse, sewage, backs up into your toilet and/or drains.
  • The level of water in your toilet bowl changes all the time. You will notice the bowl is full one day and empty the next.
  • Your pipes make gurgling noises when you flush the toilet or run water from a drain.
  • Your water bill is inexplicably much higher.
  • Mold begins to grow on your walls behind where plumbing is located.

If any of these situations sound familiar, don’t attempt to fix the problem by yourself. This is a job for a plumber, who will come and check the integrity of your pipes, particularly your sewer line.

A plumber experienced in sewer line repair and replacement can use video inspection equipment to check the pipes and see where the problem lies. They may recommend pipe cleaning if your sewer line is clogged by something like tree roots, or they may suggest trenchless sewer repair if your sewer pipe is no longer functional.

trenchless sewer repair

What Is Trenchless Sewer Repair?

Trenchless sewer repair is a technique for repairing old or broken sewer pipes with minimal digging. Instead of digging a trench along the entire line of pipe to be replaced, holes are dug at each end of the pipe. The old sewer pipe is either broken up, as with pipe bursting, or a new liner is inserted inside the old pipe, which is known as pipelining.

With pipe bursting, a cable is run from one end of the old pipe to the other. A cone-shaped bursting head is then pulled along the cable, breaking up the old pipe as it goes through it. The old sewer pipe is left in the surrounding soil. A new pipe is then inserted into the space where the old one was.

Pipelining is another trenchless technique in which the old sewer pipe is left intact. Instead of destroying the old pipe, a lining is inserted inside the old pipe, like putting a tube inside a tube. The lining material is felt saturated with a resinous substance, and once inserted in the old sewer pipe, it adheres with air pressure and is left to cure and harden in place.

What Are the Advantages of Using Trenchless Sewer Repair?

Less Invasive

Trenchless sewer repair has been a welcome innovation for homeowners for several reasons. Most importantly, it means you don’t have to have your yard dug up to repair or replace your lateral sewer line. Instead, you only need to deal with two much smaller holes at either end of the sewer pipe, usually one near the house and one near the street, depending on the location and type of pipe damage.

Keeping your yard intact allows you to maintain your lawn, your landscaping, and your hardscaping, such as patios and pathways. Imagine what a disaster it would be to your property to have a huge trench dug in it. Think about what you have currently planted or paved over your sewer line. How disruptive would it be to have to dig up and then replace all that?

Lower Cost

Of course, replacing landscaping or repaving part of your property is not just an ugly nuisance; it can be very expensive as well. You may have to hire a landscaping team or a cement company to do the work.

Then there’s the cost of the actual pipe repair. Traditional trench-and-replace sewer line repair is nearly always more expensive than trenchless repair. You need to pay for the earth moving expenses, such as a backhoe and its operator (which aren’t environmentally friendly either), as well as for the new pipe, plumbing supplies, and the plumber.

With traditional trenching, you may also need to pay for a permit, and costs can run into the tens of thousands if you need to dig up the sidewalk, street, or other city property. You may also have to shell out for traffic rerouting and other inconveniences caused by your repair. Utilities may also be affected.

Trenchless sewer pipe repair is frequently less expensive. First, you eliminate the cost of the digging, which is significant. You also don’t have to worry about the expense of replacing plants or landscaping materials in your yard. Pipelining is generally cheaper than pipe bursting. The lining material is often less expensive than inserting a brand new pipe in the burst space.

Additionally, pipelining can be used when there is only a small repair or two needed, for example, if your sewer pipe is basically intact with just a few cracks. It’s much less costly to line a sewer pipe in a couple of places than it is to replace the entire pipe.

Quicker Repair Time

Because of the nature of the technique, trenchless sewer pipe repair is much quicker than the traditional dig-and-replace method. Since there’s minimal disturbance to your yard, you don’t have to worry about the time it takes to dig a trench and then replace the landscaping when the plumbing job is complete.

Longer Lasting

Trenchless sewer repair using the pipelining method is generally longer lasting than the old-fashioned way of fixing a sewer line. Pipelining is jointless and corrosion resistant, so it withstands time and many of the issues listed above that cause sewer line damage in the first place.

What Are the Disadvantages of Trenchless Sewer Repair?

There are a few instances where it may be less advantageous to use trenchless sewer repair.

Sewer Pipe Close to the Surface

If your sewer pipe is very shallow, and if there are no obstructions on the property or landscaping to be concerned about, regular dig-and-replace techniques may be the best way to repair your lateral sewer line because it may be less costly.

Severely Damaged Sewer Pipe

Trenchless sewer repair with the pipelining method may also not be possible if the old sewer pipe is seriously damaged or too old. Remember, the old sewer pipe needs to provide some limited support to the lining inserted inside, so there has to be enough integrity remaining in the pipe to provide that.

Lack of Experience in Trenchless Sewer Repair

Finally, trenchless sewer repair requires experts who are experienced in this type of repair. It is a more nuanced job than conventional trenching, so you need to be sure you find a plumber who knows what they’re doing. If you don’t have a plumber near you who can do this kind of pipe repair, you’re better off going with the traditional trenching style of repair.

If you think your lateral sewer line is damaged or if you know you need to repair your sewer pipe, please contact San Diego Pipelining today. We can send one of our experts to your home and answer your questions about trenchless sewer repair, so you can make a decision and get your pipes fixed fast.

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