What Every Edmontonian Needs to Know About Trenchless Sewer Repair

A close up of a plumber’s hand near a sewer pipe as they perform sewer repairs for a buried pipe.

Searching for trenchless sewer repair? Edmonton property owners typically have a lot of questions about this particular topic, especially if they suspect they may be in need of help from a qualified plumber in the very near future. The team at Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Edmonton has prepared the ultimate guide to trenchless sewer repair for our fellow Edmontonians.

There are a lot of plumbing resources online, but this one was created by local Edmonton plumbers that have years of experience in the area to answer local home and business owners' questions about trenchless sewer repair. Edmonton deserves the best, and that's exactly what we aim to deliver with excellent customer service and workmanship.

So, before you dig up your entire front lawn, make sure you read our trenchless sewer repair guide to learn about your options. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to give us a call at. This is a comprehensive Edmonton trenchless sewer repair guide, so let’s jump right into it.

What is Edmonton Trenchless Sewer Repair?

In past years, homeowners with broken sewer lines had no choice but to dig up their landscaping to repair broken pipes. Repairing or replacing an old or damaged system with conventional methods was, therefore, a significant undertaking, and something that people were reluctant to do. The solution was trenchless sewer repair. Edmonton plumbers began adopting trenchless methods because, unlike traditional techniques, it doesn’t require digging trenches. Instead, it uses the existing cavity as a framework for a new line, minimizing damage to your property.

The first stage of trenchless sewer repair Edmonton professionals need to handle is reconnaissance. Technicians insert special cameras into the sewer line to check for damage and any potential issues that may prevent flow. These cameras are a little bit like the kind of flexible cameras doctors use to inspect your stomach and intestines. Next, a hole needs to be dug down to the sewer at the start and end of the replacement, this is how they get access to the old sewer pipe.

Next, instead of digging a trench and installing solid pipes in place of old ones for trenchless sewer repair, Edmonton plumbers insert a new pipe through the old opening using a variety of techniques (which we will discuss in more depth below).

The final stage is to inspect your line to check that everything is fixed and that there is no further risk that sewage won’t drain as it should. Trenchless pipe repair, therefore, is a lot more “keyhole surgery” and a lot less “open heart transplant” than it ever used to be. It’s quicker, less disruptive and, in many cases, more affordable.

Line Types That Often Require Trenchless Sewer Repair in Edmonton

There are two different types of traditional residential plumbing disposal lines that are prevalent in Edmonton, Alberta.


Type one is often called tar paper, no-corrode or “Orangeburg.” Generally, this will be what your lines are made of if your home was built in the 1950s. It is made of bits of pulped wood and bitumen pressed together under high force into a round, cylindrical shape. Think of a thick cardboard tube dipped in heavy oil.

In the 1950s, Orangeburg was incredibly popular in Edmonton. It didn’t corrode, and it was extremely cheap to manufacture en masse, giving plumbers the impression that they had found the ideal solution for sewage lines.

Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way. Over time, tar paper begins to bubble and delaminate from the inside out. Different layers of material slowly peel away as sewage passes through, leading to a high risk of collapse. Orangeburg is also bad at resisting physical impact. It’s so weak, in fact, that if it were lying there right in front of you, you’d have no problem pushing a shovel straight through it. However, with that being said, let’s not be too hard on it. The 1950s were a long time ago so if you still have Orangeburg lines, they have served your home for longer than expected.

Clay Tile

Type two is clay tile pipe, sometimes called china pipe or vitrified clay pipe. It is a type of plumbing disposal line material made of clay and shale. Clay lines were by far the most popular type before the 1950s and from the 1960s to 1980s after problems with tar paper emerged. It’s made by forming clay into tubes and then heating it to 2000 C before being vitrified and then glazed to make it watertight.

The industry initially used this material because of its hardness and inert properties (meaning that it doesn't react with sewage passing through it), but it was not the ideal material for sewer systems. While it didn’t react with waste products, it was brittle and susceptible to shifting earth and tree roots. Cracking was a common problem, necessitating frequent repair.

Common Symptoms That Trenchless Sewer Repair Can Fix

Trenchless repair and sewer line replacement methods are surprisingly versatile and able to fix a myriad of problems that can damage lines running from residential properties.

Damage From Tree Roots

Tree roots can be highly destructive to wastewater disposal systems, especially clay. Roots snake down towards buried lines and, over time, place pressure on them. Unlike other materials, clay cannot flex or bend to accommodate roots, leading to cracks. The roots are also experts at working their way into the joints to get access to the water and fertilizer within.

Trenchless repair, however, can fix this damage while providing more robust protection against root damage in the future. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is the most common trenchless pipe material that offers superior protection to old clay technology.

Cracked Line

Of course, clay pipes can crack for a host of reasons, not just because of tree roots. When they do, it’s vital to get repairs. Suppose you want to sell your property, for example. If you do, you’ll need to disclose that cracked pipe situation to any potential buyers. In response, they may ask for money off your asking price.

Trenchless sewer repair fixes cracks by pulling a new line through using a cable, forcing your old pipe out of the way. The cable connects to a bullet-shaped head with your new pipe attached to the back of it. The cable pulls that head and new pipe through your old, failing pipe, breaking it along the way. Once the head reaches the other end of your property, there will be a new continuous pipe behind it.

Shifted Pipes

Clay lines have a habit of shifting over time as the soil around them moves. Because they are brittle, they then crack, leading to unpleasant leaks and infilling. Once they’ve shifted too far, waste will struggle to make it through and clogs become frequent problems. Roots also find it much easier to grow through shifted joints.

Partially Collapsed Lines

A partially collapsed pipe is one that is no longer able to support the weight of the earth above it and caves in, partially blocking the transit of sewage. It can lead to a host of nasty problems, like foul odors, mold issues, and backing up toilets. Partial collapse tends to occur most often as tar paper pipes weaken over time. If the collapse is partial, trenchless sewer repair can fix it by clearing blockages and then pulling a new pipe through to replace your old one. As long as the pulling cable can still get through, your line can usually be replaced using this trenchless method.

Delaminating Pipe

Tar paper pipes are susceptible to a nasty problem: delamination. This failure is where the pipe material fractures into layers and can no longer perform to the original specification. Again, a delaminating pipe is a problem that trenchless repair can fix, helping to shift the old pipe material out of the way and replace it with new.

Benefits of Trenchless Sewer Repair in Edmonton

There are some major advantages of trenchless sewer repair. Edmonton properties and homeowners can benefit in a number of ways, such as:

  • Continuous Line from Basement to Property Line: Having one continuous pipe from the basement to the property line reduces the chance of failure and provides a new smooth path for waste to flow away.
  • More Cost-Effective Than Digging: Digging trenches is expensive. Not only do you have to hire out a lot of equipment, but you also have to go to the expense of repairing your landscaping, too, which could run into thousands of dollars. Trenchless repairs bypass most of these problems. Keep in mind that a small hole is required at your property line and another inside your basement for a pipe to come in.
  • Can Pull a New Water Line at Same Time: With trenchless methods you can kill two birds with one stone, pulling through a new water line while getting your sewage line repaired.
  • New Material is Super Strong and Flexible: Clay and tar paper pipes were the best available technology in past years, but today, we can do a lot better. New pipelines are super strong and flexible and should, all things held equal, last much longer than older varieties.
  • Less Invasive Than Digging a Trench: Fixing pipes the old-fashioned way involved a lot of earth clearing and waste. Homeowners often wound up with mountains of dirt that they needed to manage. Modern trenchless repairs, however, avoid all this pain by using an existing pipe cavity as a tool for your new line, cutting down on material that needed moving under your old system.

There aren't many downsides to trenchless sewer repair. Edmonton homeowners should, however, be aware of these potential issues:

  • May Not Always Be an Option for Your Home: While trenchless sewer repair is extraordinarily versatile, it’s not always possible. Two problems can inhibit repair work. The first is if the line has multiple turns. Bends may make it impossible to pull the new pipe through. Second, if there’s no way to bring a long tube into your property, then that could prevent the installation from taking place.
  • It Can Damage Existing Water Lines: Sewage and water lines often run close to one another in Edmonton. Pulling a new sewage line through your old one can damage your old water line. Experts, therefore, recommend that you always replace your water line at the same time that you have your sewage line pulled.

When a bursting head is pulled through it is larger than an existing pipe, which causes the earth around a sewage line to be compressed. Usually, your water line is right beside it and often either gets broken (to the point of not holding water) or is deformed by force from the head passing by. It's a deformed water line that should scare you—it has been bent and may now have cracks, but they are all buried underground so you won’t know. In this case, your water line could fail, and then you would be looking at doing this all over again. This is why we at Mr. Rooter strongly suggest replacing your water line at the same time.

How Does Edmonton Trenchless Sewer Repair Work?

Traditionally you had to dig a trench to lift out the old pipe and replace it with the new one if you wanted to repair a sewer system. This process created all kinds of problems. Not only did it destroy landscaping, but it also damaged tree roots, leading to the deaths of trees above ground.

Trenchless sewer repair is an innovation that attempts to get around this pesky problem. There’s very little digging with this method, just a hole at the end and at the start of the drain. We can pull a new continuous pipe between the 2 holes through the old pipe, bursting the old pipe out of the way.

Pipe Bursting

There are several different repair methods that companies have experimented with over time. Pipe bursting is a state-of-the-art method of trenchless sewer repair Edmonton plumbers use in situations where an old line is heavily damaged. How it works is simple. First, plumbers dig through your basement floor to find where your sewage line leaves your home. They then look for the other end of the line on your property—that point where it transitions to a city-owned pipe at your property line.

Once plumbers have access to both ends of your system, they’re able to begin their work. The first step is to figure out whether a trenchless repair is feasible. If there are too many twists and turns or blockage, then a trenchless fix won't work.

The next task is to feed a large cable through existing pipework and out of its other side. The cable has a reinforced head that is attached to the high-quality plastic pipe behind it. A hydraulic machine then pulls on cable from the opposite end with a tremendous amount of force (up to 60,000 pounds of force), dragging the cable, wedge-shaped head, and pipe through with it. The sheer power of that cable clears out your old tube and any tree roots, making the space required for a new one.

With old material pushed away, the wedge appears at the other end of your line with a new pipe in tow. Once your pipe is in place, it’s just a matter of fixing it to your existing sewage system at both ends securely. Many people imagine that their new pipe will be smaller than their existing one, but this is false. The wedge pushes old piping material away in all directions to make room for a new pipe of equal size.

What to Ask Your Edmonton Trenchless Sewer Repair Professional

What is the Chance of Damaging my Water Line?

When you pull the sewer through, there is a high likelihood of causing at least some damage to the water line. If it fails, you’ll know right away. However, pulling a new line can cause stress on the existing water line, leading to weaknesses that cause it to suddenly or gradually fail in the future. Most homeowners, therefore, replace their water lines at the same time as getting trenchless sewer repair.

How Long Will the Job Take?

We usually like to be home in time for dinner! We send out a team of around half a dozen experts to complete the job, typically in a single day.

What Do You Use to Bed a Pipe?

Bedding a pipe is an extremely important part of trenchless sewer repair. Edmonton plumbers on our team use gravel to secure a pipe in place in its excavation at your property line. Gravel works best because it compacts easily and quickly, preventing movement in your pipe afterward.

Any material we use for the bed pipe needs to be thoroughly compacted. Compacting ground following the installation of your new pipe eliminates air pockets and prevents future settling.

Do You Compact the Excavation, or Do I Have to Wait for It to Settle Over Time?

After we use gravel to bed pipes, we will take the necessary steps to tamp the excavation, helping to reduce the chance that a new line won’t settle. Tamping is a simple process that usually involves assistance from a machine, like an excavator or jumping jack. The ground over the pipe will always settle a little over time, so you may have to plan to top it up in the future.

Do I Need Any Special Permits, and Can You Pull Those Permits?

In Edmonton, you only need a plumbing permit when adding a new fixture where there wasn’t one before. If we're adding a backwater valve a permit will be required, but if we're only replacing your sewage line with a new line in the same place, you don’t need to apply for a plumbing permit. Beware of companies that try to steer you in certain directions because they don’t have plumbers on staff who can do permitted work. Avoiding permits or work that requires permits might not be what’s best for you, but more likely what is best for them.

What Type of Warranty Do You Include?

We offer a 20-year warranty on our sewer bursts for the structural integrity of the line and its ability to repel root intrusion.

Are There Any Hidden Fees? Do You Always Stick to Your Quote?

We never charge any hidden fees, and we always stick to our quotes. Just be wary of trenchless repair companies that offer low fees. They will often use lowball estimates to reel you in, jacking up the price later once work is underway.

Is Edmonton Trenchless Sewer Repair Cheaper?

Edmonton trenchless sewer repair is usually the most economical option for both residential and commercial properties. Typically, users can save anywhere from 10 to 50 percent over regular trench-based repair services. A trenchless service has lower labor costs, less need for expensive machinery, and a smaller requirement for clear-up and landscaping afterward.

Does Home Insurance Cover Trenchless Pipe Replacement?

Some insurance companies cover trenchless sewer line repair in their terms and conditions, but you’ll need to check. Often you’ll find that an insurer offers insurance for certain types of sewer line damage, but not others. For instance, they might cover you for any damage caused by a sewer backup (such as wet carpets), but they might not cover you for the clog, or tree root stuck in the line itself. Generally, sewer insurance is something that can be added to most home insurance policies.

Frequently Asked Questions About Trenchless Sewer Repair in Edmonton

At What Point Can You No Longer Do a Trenchless Sewer Repair?

While trenchless repairs are incredibly versatile, there are some situations in which the technique won't work. Trenchless repair systems rely on being able to pull a cable through the cavity in the ground left by the existing pipe (whether clay, tar paper, or plastic). As long as it is possible to pull the cable through, a trenchless repair is feasible.

In some cases, of course, pulling the line through is not possible. One situation is where the pipe is fully collapsed. With a full collapse, there’s no way to pass a cable through and, therefore, no way to drag the new pipe through the existing pipe material. Other situations can create problems too. Where the sewer line runs in a straight line down to the mains, pulling a new section of pipe through is relatively easy. When, however, there are turns in the pipe the cable will end up choosing the shortest route which likely means leaving the pipe and pulling through virgin soil. This isn’t what the equipment is designed for and can cause problems. Ultimately, trenchless repair relies on being able to get a pipe to run from one end of the sewer line to the other. Nine times out of ten, if that happens, we’re good to go.

In some cases, a burst is feasible, but shouldn’t be done. This is when the pipe has a dip or belly (a section of the pipe with an uphill slope) in the drain. In such cases, we can burst the old sewer, but the dip or belly will remain with the new pipe, so the actual problem has not been solved. In such cases digging the sewer up the old-fashioned way is the only real fix.

How Much Does Trenchless Sewer Repair Cost?

Costs for trenchless sewer repair vary from home to home. It depends on several factors. First is the length of your sewer. Most companies charge a fixed price for the deployment of their crew and equipment and then a fee for each foot of sewer being replaced. Typically, prices range from $100 to $250 per foot, although this can vary from location to location and based on the circumstances of the job.

Second is the depth of your line that needs trenchless sewer repair. Edmonton plumbers need to be able to access both ends of your sewer line to carry out a trenchless repair. The deeper your line, the more digging that we must do, which raises the overall cost. The material of your new line and your existing pipe could also have an impact on price. Higher-quality pipes typically cost more than lower-quality counterparts.

Finally, costs can vary depending on whether you’re getting plumbing service for water line replacement or not. Adding a water line to a trenchless sewer repair will increase the price, though not as much as having a water line added after the work is complete. In the Edmonton, area water lines are almost always laid right beside the sewer pipe which makes it susceptible to damage when the new sewer bursts through the old one. We always recommend replacing the water line during a burst, we feel that it is irresponsible of us not to because of the likelihood of the water line sustaining damage from the process.

Every home is unique and different, so it's always best to book a convenient appointment with Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Edmonton.

How Long Does Trenchless Sewer Repair Take?

How long it takes to carry out a trenchless sewer repair depends on several factors. These include pipe size, damage severity, whether a video camera inspection is needed, how long the damaged section of pipe is, pipe age, and what's causing the problem (i.e. tree roots). Traditional sewer repair often takes 3-4 days. Usually, it involves digging up a yard, pulling out old pipes, and then replacing them with new ones, backfilling, and tamping down. Added to that is the work involved in restoring your original landscaping and repairing your lawn.

That's not the case with trenchless sewer repair. Edmonton plumbers who use this method are usually able to complete their work much faster. At Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Edmonton, our crews typically complete a sewer line repair job in one business day. The benefits of this are extraordinary. Not only can you cut down on yard repair costs, but also reduce the hassle and stress typically associated with a sewer repair.

How Long Does Trenchless Sewer Repair Last?

How long trenchless sewer repair lasts depends heavily on the type of sewer repair. Pipe bursting is perhaps the longest-lasting because it completely replaces the original with a high-quality PVC or HDPE pipe designed to resist soil movement or incursion by tree roots. Most manufacturers rate these pipes to last more than fifty years, with many claiming that theirs will survive for one hundred, if not longer.

Make sure you know what type of pipe is being used for your trenchless sewer repair. We recommend a heavy wall-fusion welded pipe so that there are no joints in the sewer except for the start and the end of the new sewer. We have recently replaced some sewers in the Edmonton area that had been recently replaced with very subpar materials. While they were plastic pipes, they were very thin-walled and were easily broken when stepped on. Make sure you know what pipe is being used for your sewer!

How long these pipes will actually last is still an open question. We haven’t been using them for long enough to know for sure what their longevity will be. What we do know is that they should easily outlast the materials that you are replacing, as these materials are truly tough!

Other trenchless sewer repairs may last for just as long. Cured-in-place sewer solutions manufacturers, for instance, often claim that repairs using the technology will last for more than fifty years and, in many cases, over one hundred.

How Effective Is Trenchless Sewer Repair?

Trenchless sewer repair is essentially just as effective as regular trench sewer repair but without all of the mess, hassle, and damage. The reason for this is that most methods mostly do precisely what traditional sewer laying would do: replace the damaged pipe with a brand-new one.

Pipe bursting, for instance, uses a hydraulic winch to pull a cable with a wedge-shaped head at the end along through the existing underground pipe cavity, pushing the existing pipe and debris outwards, making room for the new HDPE pipe to come through.

Often, the trenchless repair leads to a stronger, more resistant, and reliable sewer system than the one the owner had before. Instead of relying on brittle clay or tar paper prone to root infiltration and collapse, the owner benefits from stronger, more flexible HDPE pipes that will stand the test of time.

Other forms of trenchless sewer repair are also highly effective, but they aren’t all created equal. Cured-in-place sewer liners are also highly effective but do have restrictions on what applications they can be used for. Unfortunately, there are multiple liner options available, some of which are stronger than others which can make it confusing for consumers. We recommend looking at the warranty offered by the installer, this should speak to the confidence of their product. Also, make sure to choose a company with a longstanding name and reputation because if they aren’t around when you have future warranty issues you don’t have a warranty anymore!

Need Trenchless Sewer Repair, Edmonton? Count On the Pros at Mr. Rooter

Trenchless sewer repair is one of the most fundamental innovations in sewer replacements since people first realized that getting waste away from the areas where people live was a priority. Today, the technique offers homeowners a more cost-effective way to carry out repairs on their sewer systems.

The most significant benefit of Edmonton trenchless sewer repair is that it negates the need to dig up large parts of the yard. Traditional trench operations are expensive, messy, and can do long-lasting damage to trees. Trenchless approaches, by design, rely solely on existing holes in the ground, preventing any damage to property, other than a couple of small inserts through which to feed the cables and new piping.

Trenchless sewer line repair also helps homeowners who want to deal with a problematic sewer line issue before they move out. Many people ask for a sewer inspection before they buy or inherit a home, just to make sure that they don’t have a sewer problem on their hands if and when they move in or come to sell. Sewer repair helps them get more money for their property and avoid costly litigation for undeclared problems in the future.

Thirdly, trenchless sewer repair work saves time. In the past, people had no option but to accept trench-based repair work, which was both expensive and time-consuming. Properties were often dug up for days on end while plumbers installed new pipes and then backfilled the lawn. Trenchless technologies change all that. They get around the issue of removing soil and give property owners a way of repairing their sewer lines without damaging their properties in significant ways.

A fourth benefit is that your replacement line is (or should be) much better quality than the original. In the last 50 years, piping materials have moved on considerably. Today, the preference is for HDPE. HDPE is not only inert - meaning that it does not react with sewage - but it’s also extremely strong and flexible, making it ideal for use underground. The material can bend and weave as the ground moves, remaining intact, even under high pressure. Typically, the HDPE can survive in the ground for more than fifty years, with many experts predicting more than one hundred.

Are you considering trenchless sewer repair? If so, then get in touch with Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Edmonton. We’re experts in all things related to trench repair, and we can help you fix problems with your sewer for less than you might think. Whether you’re in Edmonton or a nearby area like St-Albert or Sherwood Park, we’re here to help. We also offer reliable residential and commercial plumbing services such as clearing clogged drains, routine Edmonton drain cleaningEdmonton water heater repair and replacement, services for sump pumps in Edmonton, and much more. If you've got a plumbing problem, count on us to have the solution.