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What is trenchless sewer replacement / repair / restoration & how does it work?

Rusted cast iron drains before trenchless sewer repair restoration

Rusted cast iron drains before trenchless sewer repair restoration

Ever since humans have figured out how to convey their waste water in drains underground instead of flowing above ground, millions of miles off the deteriorating cast iron, clay, concrete and other types pipes have been installed beneath the surface. All of these pipes degrade at some fast or slow pace, for example cast iron drains only last about 30 years, and will eventually rust along the bottom where the water runs until all the metal is gone where waste escapes and roots grow in causing repeated backups. Clay pipes are more resilient but they tend to crack and then waste will exfiltrate or groundwater will infiltrate and overwhelm the waste processing facilities.

Before & After Trenchless Cured In Place Pipe Lining (Internal diameter only reduced by 6%!)

Before and After Trenchless Cured In Place Pipe Lining (Internal diameter only reduced by 6%!)

Concrete culverts become brittle and collapse, and corrugated rain drains also rust over time and have to be replaced. Fortunately the old dig and replace methods have been themselves replaced by modern technology called trenchless pipe repair.

So what is trenchless pipe repair?

There are 4 methods to restore pipes without excavation:

  1. Cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) lining
  2. Spray-on epoxy lining
  3. Slip lining (outdated method)
  4. Pipe bursting (outdated method)

In essence, the various pipes are cleaned using high pressure water and for very large pipes a vacuum truck sucks out all the old debris. Next a video inspection camera is passed through the pipe to determine how long the pipe is that is going to be restored. Then a new “cured in place pipe lining” is installed and it initially consists of a flexible fabric which has been saturated with an epoxy resin that is typically heated by steam or exothermic chemical reaction that hardens the lining inside the old pipe. There is usually a temporary internal balloon also called a “calibration tube” that is inflated for the duration of the resin curing period. The balloon is removed and the pipe is put back into use immediately unless branch pipes have been covered up by the new inner lining. CIPP lasts 100+ years!

In cases where the pipes have not deteriorated too much and still have structural integrity, a spray on epoxy lining coats the inside of the pipe. This method lasts around 10 years.

How are branch lines reconnected to the restored drains?

All pipe lining companies purchase technology that can travel inside of the rehabilitated pipe to the point where the branch lines have been obstructed by the new inner pipe lining. At this point a grinding ball or a sharp drill will cut out the circular or oval piece of lining that is covering up the branch connection. Sometimes the reinstatement cutters approach the obstructed branch connection from within the branch line itself, and from there the obstruction is cut out. If you would like a detailed synopsis of the various technologies and the history of trenchless pipe repair then you may wish to visit “trenchless pipe lining-a synopsis of various technologies”.

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