When things go wrong with your sewer, getting them fixed can seem like a nightmarish process. First, you’re having to deal with the fallout of the malfunctioning sewer, and then a bunch of workmen are going to come dig up your yard and ruin all the hard work you’ve put in landscaping for months.
But what if we told you there was a way you could avoid all that hassle and get the sewer line repaired invisibly?
No, there isn’t a magic sewer repair fairy, but there is pipe rehabilitation.
This approach can allow you to get sewer problems taken care of without ever having to dig up a single blade of grass in your yard. Read on to learn more about pipe rehabilitation and the different techniques available to you.
What is Pipe Rehabilitation?
When sewer lines get stopped up, too often, they require digging up the entire yard. This can leave a scar on lawns for months to come, not to mention being a huge inconvenience while they’re doing the work. And if you’re having to pay to have the work done, covering the cost to rent a backhoe or similar equipment can get expensive in a hurry.
But the fact of the matter is that pipes need maintenance from time to time and replacing after several decades. Many old pipes are made of clay tile or cast iron, and those wear down over the years. Tree roots can grow in through the cracks, and the only permanent solution is to replace the pipe.
Pipe rehabilitation allows you to get those issues resolved without having to dig up your entire yard and ruin the lawn you work so hard to maintain. In essence, repairmen can access your sewer lines through manhole covers and do needed maintenance and repair from underground. They may not have to disturb your yard at all, depending on the project.
Knowing When You Need Pipe Rehabilitation
If you have an older home, you may be getting to the point where your main sewer lines need some work. There are several ways to spot that it’s time to get that maintenance done.
The most obvious sign that your pipes need some rehab is that things start backing up in your system. If you’re lucky, you’ll have an unfinished basement where the problem will start to show up. If you start noticing an unpleasant smell or flooding in your basement, call a pipe rehabilitator.
But there are some less drastic symptoms that you can see before anything starts overflowing. If you notice your toilets not flushing as well or drains taking a longer time to empty, it may be a sign that there’s a blockage further down the line. You may also hear burbling sounds in the pipes as that water drains through the blockage.
Another warning sign to look out for is an unpleasant odour coming from your pipes. It’s normal for pipes to hold some sewer gas, which is why contractors build U traps into the system. But backed-up lines can cause more sewer gas than normal to build up in the lines and make their way into your house.
If you notice any of these signs, call a pipe rehabber immediately, because things are about to get dire if you don’t.
Benefits of Trenchless Technology
Pipe rehabilitation that’s done without digging a hole in your yard uses what’s called trenchless technology. There are a number of approaches to this that we’ll discuss more in a moment. But first, let’s talk about all the benefits this approach to pipe maintenance can offer.
As we mentioned, the biggest benefit of trenchless technology is that it doesn’t destroy your lawn. As anyone who’s ever had to put in a new lawn can attest, sod is expensive, and it can take a while for grass to reestablish itself where a trench has been dug. Healthy grass is hard enough to maintain without having to dig huge holes in your yard, and trenchless technology lets you avoid that.
But trenchless technology is also better for the environment than traditional methods. One of the major gases that builds up in sewer lines is carbon dioxide, the same gas that is such a problem in car and power plant emissions. Trenchless technology keeps all that gas safely underground, where it won’t go towards contributing to greenhouse gases and climate change.
Trenchless technology also allows contractors to get the same work done in much less time, saving you money and hassle. In traditional methods, workers have to spend some time digging down to and around the sewer line, being careful not to hit any other important infrastructure components. Trenchless technology allows them to get straight to the work that needs to be done, making it much more efficient.
If you have small cracks in your sewer lines or tiny tree roots beginning to break through, one great option for pipe rehabilitation is chemical grouting. This is a method of stopping up cracks and preventing tree roots from growing any farther into the line.
Chemical grouting works by injecting a self-setting grout into any cracks or problem spots in the sewer line. Your maintenance crew will run a sewer camera attached to an inflatable packer down the line until they find the spot where the line is cracked. This packer can expand to fill the line and provide localized pressure during the grouting process.
Once the breach has been located and the packer is in place, it will expand to support the line and then inject the self-setting grout into the crack. The packer will place pressure on the grout while it sets. The grout travels outside the crack itself and seals with the soil around the line, forming a protective shell that will be watertight and long-lasting.
Once the grout has set, the pipe rehab crew can move the packer down the line and find any other problem spots, sealing them off from within the line itself. This process is limited in the size of the breach it can fix. If you’re looking at lines grown full of tree roots or spots where the line has collapsed entirely, you’re going to need to use a different method.
Sometimes in pipe repair, crews discover that the root of the problem is not, in fact, roots or similar breaches. Rather, the initial line is too small to handle the load that is now required of it. But in cases where the line has enough capacity and simply needs some shoring up, sliplining can be a good option.
Sliplining works by sliding a slightly smaller pipe into the existing line, effectively installing a brand new line without ever removing the old one. Workers will push the new line either in short segments or in one long piece down the old line, sealing it in as they go.
Sliplining can be a great way to avoid digging up an entire sewer line, but it does have some drawbacks. Any protruding tree roots, major collapses, or other serious structural problems will have to be addressed before the new line can be installed. And there is still some trench digging involved with the sliplining technique.
To do sliplining, pipe rehabilitators will first have to dig an initial trench to access the line at one end. From there, they can either push or pull the new lines into place, and chances are they won’t have to dig that trench in your yard. But it does take more time, it’s not as environmentally friendly, and it may require a winch as well as a backhoe and other heavy equipment.
CIPP repairs, or cured-in-place pipe repairs, combine all the best parts of chemical grouting and sliplining. This process uses a flexible polyester sock that molds to the shape of the old pipe and hardens in place. You don’t have to dig an initial trench, and this can be used to deal with all but the biggest line collapses.
CIPP liners are inverted into the pipe using a winch or water or steam force. This process is somewhat similar to the way you might roll a sock onto your foot; the liner is placed inside-out at the beginning of the line and rolled into place on the inside of the line bit by bit. This inversion process allows the liner to fit tightly to the interior of the existing line.
A tight fit is important to CIPP repairs because it means rehab crews don’t have to grout up every crack in the existing line. The liner will mold to small imperfections in the pipe and can handle small changes in direction in the line. It also preserves the majority of the line’s original capacity, ensuring that it won’t get overloaded.
Once the CIPP liner is in place, the resin it has been impregnated with begins to set. This will provide a firm, long-lasting seal that will repair any previous damage to the line. All of this can be done without ever having to dig a hole, and it’s ideal for areas where access may be restricted.
For many of us, the words “pipe bursting” don’t call to mind images of pipes being repaired. And while in this case, one pipe is being destroyed, another one is being pulled into place at the same time. Pipe bursting is a good option for situations where the old line cannot be salvaged or is too small and a new one must be installed.
During pipe bursting, a pneumatic or hydraulic bursting tool travels down the line, crushing the old pipe into dust. This works especially well on clay tile pipes and other such brittle materials. As the tool travels, it pushes the old pipe fragments into the soil around them, packing them in to serve as a bedding for the new line.
As the tool moves down the line, it pulls with it a sleeve pipe that slots into the space where the old line used to be. When the sleeve pipe has been fully inserted into the old line, a new permanent pipe is inserted inside the sleeve line.
This method of pipe rehabilitation does require digging an initial hole, but it’s usually at a manhole cover. For pipes that are too small and need to be expanded, this is an excellent option that avoids digging up the entire old line.
If you’ve been reading this and wondering why we can’t just run a tool down the pipe and spray on a new lining, don’t worry – we can. Spray on lining is an option in some scenarios where the pipe is in relatively good shape.
The trouble with most spray liners for sewer pipes is finding a material that will fit the requirements for the job. Epoxy can be sprayed on and is quite strong, but in thin coats, it tends to be brittle. Over time, it may crack and flake off.
But new resin advancements have allowed pipe rehabbers to begin using spray liners with the strength of resin and the flexibility of polymers. These are a great option for lines with small cracks and pipes that are too small to reasonably handle a structural liner.
Fix Your Plumbing Problems
Having pipe repairs done can be an expensive and disruptive process. But with pipe rehabilitation options, you no longer have to worry about having a giant trench dug across your entire yard. Unless your line has collapsed entirely, one of these trenchless technology methods should work to get your sewer back in business with minimal hassle.
If you’d like to get your sewer lines looked at by the best in the business, get in touch with us at Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Edmonton. We’re a neighborly company dedicated to helping you keep your lines running smoothly. Request a job estimate from us today and start the process of rehabilitating your sewer lines.