Advantages and Disadvantages of Trenchless Sewer Repair

Considering the advantages and disadvantages of trenchless sewer repair? You’re in the right place for a comprehensive overview. Let’s dive into a quick introduction to trenchless sewer repair, followed by its merits and demerits.

Understanding Trenchless Sewer Repair Emerging in the 1970s in Europe, trenchless sewer repair was initially designed for large-scale municipal and industrial pipe projects. Over the past two decades, technological advancements have enabled its application to smaller-diameter pipes, such as those in residential homes and multi-story buildings.

Unlike traditional methods, trenchless repair doesn’t involve uprooting gardens or tearing down walls. Plus, in most scenarios, residents can remain in their homes during the repair.

Nevertheless, prior to and post-repair, camera inspections are mandated to ensure the quality of the job. Additionally, obtaining a construction permit is necessary. Let’s delve into the four predominant trenchless sewer repair techniques:

  • Structural Pipe Lining or Cured-In-Place-Pipe Lining (CIPP)
  • Spray Lining and Brush Coating
  • Pipe Bursting
  • Slip Lining

Stay tuned for an in-depth analysis of its pros and cons.

Benefits of Cured-In-Place-Pipe Lining (CIPP)

  • Cost Efficiency:

Opting for CIPP can result in a cost reduction of approximately 30-40% in comparison to conventional repair methods. The savings arise due to reduced labor hours and the absence of extensive excavation.

  • Reduced Disruption:

The CIPP technique is minimally invasive, minimizing disruptions to one’s property. Most repairs can be conducted through pre-existing access points like outdoor cleanouts, manholes, or roof vent openings without the need to create new access points.

  • Quick Turnaround:

Speed is a notable advantage. The entire CIPP process, spanning cleaning, lining, and reinstatement, usually wraps up within 2-3 days, while traditional methods might extend over weeks.

  • Durability:

Once rehabilitated using CIPP, the pipes showcase enhanced longevity. They are not only robust but also resistant to corrosion, boasting a life expectancy of around 50 years.

Drawbacks of Cured-In-Place-Pipe Lining (CIPP)

  • Pipe Condition Restrictions:

The liner molds to the shape of the original pipe. Therefore, it’s crucial that the existing pipe isn’t collapsed or incorrectly sloped (backpitched).

  • Curing Downtime:

The epoxy integral to the CIPP method might necessitate up to a day to fully set. Yet, even with this consideration, CIPP remains speedier than traditional techniques.

  • Pipe Suitability:

CIPP isn’t a universal solution. It’s incompatible with Orangeburg (a type of tarpaper) pipes, especially brittle ones. The latter might sustain damage during the hydro-jetting cleaning procedure, which precedes the lining insertion.

Spray Lining and Brush Coating Overview

Though these trenchless sewer repair techniques share some similarities with CIPP, they differ in their non-structural nature. Instead of employing a felt or fiberglass liner like in CIPP, they involve coating the internal structure of the existing pipe with resins like epoxy, flexible polymers, or other suitable materials.

These resins can be sprayed or brushed onto the pipe, achieving the desired outcome either way. (It’s worth noting that various resins cater to different needs. For instance, flexible resins are the go-to for vertical pipes in skyscrapers, as traditional rigid epoxy might fracture due to building movement.)

Opting for spray lining or brush coating can effectively counteract corrosion in cast iron pipes and curb sewer gas emanating from compromised joints. Impressively, these methods can be adapted to pipes with diameters as small as 1.5 inches.

Pipe Bursting

Pipe bursting stands as an alternative trenchless approach to mend compromised sewer pipes.

This technique employs an HDPE (high-density polyethylene) pipe, either of identical size or more significant than the existing one, which is winched into the old pipe. Leading the replacement pipe is a bursting head, which fragments the damaged pipe, making room for the new one to assume its position.

Sewer Pros advocates for this method, especially when replacing sewer lateral lines (those connecting your private sewer system to the public main). This recommendation stems from the fact that pipe bursting is not only cost-effective and rapid but also yields a sturdier final product. Moreover, the expense associated with restoring grass or turf post-repair remains relatively low.

Pipe Bursting Overview

Pipe bursting is a trenchless approach to address damaged sewer pipes. The procedure involves drawing a replacement HDPE (high-density polyethylene) pipe, of the same or larger size, into the old pipe using a winch.

A bursting head shatters the old pipe, allowing the new one to occupy its position.

Sewer Pros vouches for this method, particularly when addressing sewer lateral lines. This preference is due to its affordability, speed, and the superior durability of the resulting product. Plus, the cost of restoring grass or landscapes post-operation is modest.

Advantages of Pipe Bursting:

  • Affordability:

It’s cost-effective compared to other trenchless alternatives, and the reduced need for digging translates to savings on restoration.

  • Minimal Disruption:

Only two small pits, each measuring 4′ x 4′, are required at the pipe’s ends, reducing the need for extensive excavation.

  • Speed:

Less excavation means swifter completion.

  • Durability:

The replacement HDPE pipes are robust, boasting a lifespan ranging from 50 to 100 years, with resistance against rust and erosion.

Additional Benefits:

  • Capability to install a wider sewer line.
  • Proven long-term solution for damaged pipe replacement.

Drawbacks of Pipe Bursting:

  • Pipe Length: Replacement pipes need to be over 15 feet, considering the space needed for two pits.
  • Eligibility: In cases of already collapsed pipes or improperly graded ones, this method isn’t suitable.

Slip Lining Overview

Originating in the 1940s, slip lining targets larger pipes. The method pulls a narrower HDPE pipe into the existing one, sealing the gap with grout. This can diminish the pipe’s flow capacity. Note that Sewer Pros doesn’t engage in slip lining for pipes between 2” and 12”.

Advantages of Slip Lining:

  • Cost-Effective: As a trenchless method, costs related to destruction are minimized.
  • Less Disruption: Compared to traditional methods, less excavation is involved.
  • Speed: Depending on the pipe length, the process is swifter than conventional methods.
  • Durability: The HDPE pipes are resilient, with a life expectancy of 50-100 years.

Drawbacks of Slip Lining:

  • Pipe Size: Suited mainly for larger, non-residential pipes due to diameter constraints.
  • Inflexibility: Not suitable for pipes with bends or those significantly damaged. The replacement pipe’s rigidity can be a hindrance in certain conditions.

Tips on Finding a Trenchless Sewer Repair Contractor:

  • Ensure the contractor is certified by a recognized manufacturer.
  • Confirm they have proper insurance—demand proof.
  • Check their experience and business duration.
  • Look into their Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating.
  • Ensure they own the necessary equipment, reflecting commitment and expertise.
  • Ask about warranties.
  • Request references and scrutinize them.
  • Seek trusted recommendations.
  • Google “trenchless sewer repair” followed by your city for local options.


Trenchless sewer repair stands out as an innovative solution for pipe damage, offering a blend of efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and minimal disruption. While it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, its benefits often outweigh its limitations for many homeowners and businesses.

As technology and techniques continue to evolve, it’s crucial to consult with experienced professionals when considering this method to ensure optimal results. In the ever-evolving world of infrastructure repair, trenchless methods are paving the way for a more sustainable and less intrusive future.

Like it? Share it with your friends!