There are two main types of trenchless sewer repair, pipe lining and pipe bursting. Pipe lining involves cleaning the existing pipe, then lining it with an epoxy liner that hardens as it cures. Pipe bursting involves breaking the existing pipe outward and installing a new pipe in its place. Both processes require less excavation than traditional replacement methods, making them an attractive alternative for buildings in urban areas or for homes with expensive landscaping.

In many cases, pipe lining and pipe bursting are great alternatives to trenching, but neither are miracle solutions, they require significant expertise and special equipment. A seasoned pro can help avoid most problems, but even the pros don’t always know what is underground until it is exposed, so there can be unexpected costs and the work might take longer than expected.

Unexpected costs

As with any major plumbing project, trenchless sewer repair can result in unexpected costs. Pipe lining and pipe bursting processes are more complicated than digging a trench and a lot can go wrong. A skilled professional can navigate any issues that come up, but major surprises can delay the project or, at worst, trenching may be needed anyway. To reduce risk, be sure the line is thoroughly inspected before work begins.

Requires significant expertise and special equipment

Trenchless sewer repair requires a skilled professional with the proper equipment. It is not a DIY job and inexperienced contractors can cause more harm than good. Branch lines need to be located, exposed, and reconnected. In some cases, lines need to be cut and relocated. Choosing an experienced professional is the best way to reduce risks, since they will know what the best process and materials are for different kinds of pipes and soils.

Not a miracle solution

Trenchless sewer repair can solve a lot of problems, but not all of them. Older sewer pipes may not be installed at the proper pitch and some soils are more forgiving than others. Correcting a line’s pitch will require trenching. Pipe lining cannot fix some problems such as broken lines or offset joints, while obstructions such as concrete will stop the pipe bursting head in its tracks.

Can damage other utilities

Utility lines are often located near sewer and water pipes. If utility lines are too close, pipe bursting can damage them. Bursting or lining also requires some excavation and careless digging can damage buried water, gas, electrical, or cable lines. Most utilities can be located before digging begins, but there is always a risk of hitting something unexpected, especially in dense urban areas or on properties with prior DIY repairs, like renovations and upgrades.

Special codes and permits

Pipe lining and pipe bursting require less excavation, but construction permits and building codes still apply. Most municipalities have specific guidelines for contractors and require permits for any work under streets and sidewalks. Like any sewer project, inspections of the work are required and everything must be up to code. Also, some sanitary district authorities do not approve pipe lining since they cannot fix all problems and generally have a shorter use life than new pipes.

Before beginning any major plumbing project, be sure to do a little homework about the potential risks and research any alternatives. Trenchless sewer replacement is not a DIY project. Look for an experienced contractor in your area who can help navigate issues as they come up and knows how to meet permit requirements and codes so inspections go smoothly. Pipe bursting and pipe lining are good solutions if you are looking to avoid trenching, but they can’t fix everything. A proper inspection can identify any issues before work begins. Remember, even the pros run into surprises and there can be unexpected costs or other utilities that need to be carefully avoided.