What Is Trenchless Pipe Repair?

What Is Trenchless Sewer Repair?, Trenchless Pipe Repair 101, Plumbing Blog, J&A South Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

What Is Trenchless Sewer Repair?, Trenchless Pipe Repair 101, Plumbing Blog, J&A South Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

What Is Trenchless Pipe Repair?

Many Pittsburgh homeowners have had to hear the dreadful words “sewer replacement” come from the mouths of their plumber. If you’ve been unlucky enough to experience issues with main sewer lines in the past, you know the tremendous inconvenience and stress that can come with those words.

The truth is, however, even the finest built sewer line that’s constructed of the best materials will start to wear out sooner or later, and this is in part because sewer lines are subjected to incredibly severe operating conditions on a day-to-day basis. Over long periods of time, your sewer lines will eventually crack, wear down, leak, or spill sewage within your property.

The only way to dodge these issues is to invest in a sewer line repair or replacement, and, regrettably, these kinds of plumbing services are a lot more common than most people would imagine.

In the past, when a sewer lateral (the pipe from your house to the main sewer line) had to be repaired or replaced, plumbers were normally expected to dig long trenches along the entire length of the pipe. This meant not only taking out dirt but also plant life, landscaping, driveways, and anything else that might possibly be in the way.

That changed with the spread of trenchless construction technology. This “no-dig” method lessens disruption by employing pipe lining and pipe bursting methods.

Okay, what exactly is a sewer line?

You might be wondering what a sewer line is and precisely why you should know. Frequently called the mainline, this is the pipe responsible for doing away with all the waste from your home’s sinks, toilets, tubs, and other drains. All that waste is delivered along the home’s plumbing lines to one route out of the house and into the city or town’s municipal sewage system.

This essential system is buried and typically can’t be reached short of a good bit of digging. But, unfortunately, the underground location also exposes it to damage from roots, shifting earth, and variations in temperature during winter and spring.

As a prime example, if water freezes in the mainline, the expanding ice can trigger severe damage that isn’t revealed until it melts again in the spring. A damaged line can cause property damage such as flooded basements, not to mention health issues that come from exposure to the bacteria in sewage backup.

Here are several other major causes of sewer line cracks and breaks.


Tuberculation arises in cast iron pipes over time and is the build-up of slime instigated by iron-eating bacteria. The bacteria begin as metabolizing ions from the water in the line and start dissolving the pipe.

As the pipes begin to break up, the pipe’s interior wall becomes jagged, and debris running through the line snags on this wall, producing a clog in the line. The tubercules can swell up, narrowing the pipe’s interior, restricting water and sewage flow, and building up pressure in the line.

Tree root infiltration

Sewer lines produced from a porous material, such as clay are prone to root infiltration. Thus, as trees mature, their roots move deeper and wider in pursuit of water to help grow.

Sometimes, they locate older, porous lines that make it easy for their roots to latch onto and penetrate to get to the water inside. Forcing their way into the pipe triggers cracks and, over the passage of time, will cause the line to break.

Sagging lines

Sagging lines are something that also happens over time. It’s instigated by soil conditions shifting to the point where the line starts to lose its support. When this takes place, a belly develops at the low spot along the line. The belly eventually turns into a collection point for waste to accumulate and clog the line. Not like other blockages and clogs, this problem is something that the homeowner can’t keep in check and almost certainly won’t know has occurred until it’s too late.

Internal corrosion

Corrosion takes place in metal pipes as a result of a reaction between the metal and its environment. This electrochemical reaction that takes place in the ground causes the metal to rust (oxidize). As the pipeline begins to weaken (and it will), it loses integrity. Over time, it will cause the line to crack or break, causing a leak from the pipeline.
While all metal pipelines can eventually succumb to corrosion, lines that transport agents such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and water are more prone to corrosion than other pipelines.

Trenchless Pipe Repair without all the digging. J&A South Park

What are the signs that I need a sewer line repair?

Most damaged sewer lines are more frequent in older homes that might still be made of clay or cast-iron pipe. It’s best to recognize the signs that your sewer pipe may be compromised. Immediate action could keep a line from failing completely. The signs of a failing sewer line include:

  • The smell of sewage gases may well indicate your sewer pipe is fractured or completely broken.
  • Sluggish drains throughout your home are one more symptom that your drains pose a problem. One clogged drain would not usually be a concern, but you can be almost sure that a problem stems from your drainpipe when most of them are moving slowly.
  • As noted, tree roots could be another issue, and even the smallest crack in your pipe could invite tree roots to come in and live off the raw sewage. If a homeowner gets rid of the roots, they will grow back unless the cracks are repaired, or the roots totally removed
  • A clear-cut lush green space on your lawn could suggest you have a cracked sewer line, and the sewage is fertilizing your lawn.

Any of these signs necessitate an inspection of your main sewer pipeline. However, issues that may clog or break a line are not always apparent to the owner.

Your J&A South Park’s expert plumbers will carry out a camera inspection and supply you with all the facts. They’ll be able to tell you if there’s a problem and any solution(s).

The fact is, thorough cleaning of the sewer line rather than a repair or replacement might provide the answer.

Remember, traditional repair or replacement methods for buried pipes and lines include excavating portions of your property to find and replace the broken line. Unfortunately, this procedure can take days, cost plenty and leave your yard looking like a battlefield more than an oasis.

That’s why we’re talking about trenchless pipe repair in today’s blog.

Trenchless Pipe Repair Process

Here, then, are the two major methods of trenchless pipe repair.

Pipe lining…

…is the method that employs a thin liner to totally fill up and cover the complete inside of an existing sewer line, sealing any cracks that might be causing sewage to pour out over your property.

The liner is soft and flexible, to begin with, and then filled with a resin that quickly hardens into a water-tight seal upon drying. This liner is fed through the portion of a damaged line by a state-of-the-art winch tool and inflated once it’s in place. This forces the liner to fill up the entirety of the inside of the sewer line, where it dries. Once dry, the liner will supply a water-tight, new sewer line using the old line as support. No digging, no replacing the old line.

This procedure is particularly common for fixing things such as minor leaks, small cracks, and overall wear and tear. Because the liner is razor-thin, it takes up a negligible amount of area inside your sewer line, meaning there is no major reduction in the pipe’s capacity. Also, the liners are quite sturdy. They’re very durable and rated to last for 50 years or more when correctly installed.

However, this method can’t be employed in a number of situations. For example, this method won’t solve the problem if a line is structurally defective, too severely damaged, or has a problem with sagging, bellying, or improper slope. You’ll probably have to resort to the more traditional method of repair or replacement. i.e., digging and removing the original line.

Pipe bursting…

…sounds much worse than it actually is. This method of pipe repair or replacement involves tearing apart the old sewer line while simultaneously replacing it with a new one.

In this process, two holes are dug at either end of the existing damaged line. A long steel cable is then inserted in one end of the damaged pipe, using a bursting head to guide the way. As the bursting head is pulled through the damaged pipe to the other end, it breaks apart the old, damaged piping while the new polyethylene pipe is pulled along and installed behind as it goes. Again, no digging, no replacing the old line.

This process is quicker than pipe lining and is a great way of completely fixing any lines that are broken beyond repair, including those that the pipe lining method can’t fix. However, it does leave pieces of the old line buried underground. Also, this doesn’t resolve problems like poor structure, poor routing, or sagging. These are concerns that can normally only be undertaken via a complete excavation and reinstallation of a brand-new sewer line.
Trenchless sewer pipe repair can reduce the time, cost, and mess of traditional digging, without compromising the quality. Here are the chief advantages in choosing trenchless repair.

  • Cleaner. Many homes have sewer lines running beneath their attractive and pricey landscaping. Digging up sewer lines can destroy these yards and cost thousands of dollars to repair or replace once the sewer lines are repaired. Trenchless repair involves only one or two small holes to be dug to reach the sewer lines, normally at the entrance and exit of the pipes, vastly cutting the damage to landscaping.
  • Faster. You’ll be able to repair your damaged sewer line without any type of extensive digging which means the entire process is much faster compared to traditional sewer line repairs. Trenchless pipe repairs can frequently be performed in only a few days, even less for smaller repairs.
  • Less mess. The extensive digging in past sewer line repairs would leave massive piles of dirt on your yard. The foremost advantage of trenchless pipe repair or replacement is that it’s less invasive than traditional pipe excavation and results in less mess on the property.
  • Less expensive. Less labor means less money spent. With the reduction in time spent on a trenchless repair, most sewer line repairs cost less than those performed by digging trenches. You get the same repair, just faster and for less money than repairs done by traditional digging.
  • Fewer side effects. Traditional pipe replacement can include a bunch of ghastly side effects on the neighboring environment, often exposing mold, asbestos or other toxic elements in the soil and groundwater. With trenchless piping, nothing is dug up, so no one is subjected to anything potentially harmful.

J&A South Park of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania now offers Trenchless Pipe Repair

Is trenchless pipe repair environmentally friendly?

Trenchless sewer replacement is the most sustainable way to solving plumbing problems. Environmental disturbances, waste and energy use is curtailed through the use of this technology. This is especially true if you work with a plumbing company such as J&A South Park that believes in being eco-friendly and environmentally accountable.

Parting thoughts

Innovative technology and prevailing techniques have transformed the way sewage repair is performed today. Regardless of the method, you opt for; however, it’s best to contact a skilled sewage repair specialist for consultation before making your final decision.

At J &A South Park, we are known across Pittsburgh and surrounding areas for our professionalism, skill, and dedication.

Call today to request a free estimate! Whether it’s trenchless pipe repair or replacement or another service, J&A South Park is the company to contact for the best equipment, the best people, and the greatest commitment to helping customers.

Skip to content