When you say the words “broken sewer line” to many homeowners, you’ll almost immediately cause them to wince or shudder. As far as plumbing problems go, this has long been one of the worst an average homeowner could find themselves dealing with. That’s because for many generations, a damaged sewer line could only be repaired by digging up your property, excavating the clogged-up line, and replacing it with a new one. The entire process took a long time and was extremely expensive. And that’s before considering the sheer amount of damage to your property that you’d have to replace after the initial repair was finished.

However, that doesn’t have to be the case anymore. While excavation isn’t necessarily a thing of the past just yet, there are processes which could repair a damaged sewer line while minimizing the invasive impact to your property, getting the job done faster, more reliably, and for cheaper than you may have thought possible. Let’s take a look at how trenchless sewer line repair works so you can know what to expect and see if it’s right for fixing your problem.

Trenchless Sewer Repair Methods

Trenchless Pipe Lining

There are actually two types of trenchless pipe repair: pipe lining and pipe bursting. First, we’ll discuss pipe lining. This process uses a thin pipe liner to completely fill up and cover the entire inside of an existing sewer line, sealing off any leaks or cracks that might be causing sewage to spill out into your property. A liner is initially soft and flexible, and imbued with a resin that completely hardens into a water-tight seal when dry. This liner is fed through your segment of damaged line by a specialized winch tool, and is then inflated once it is in place. This forces the liner to completely fill the inside of your sewer line, where it dries. Once dry, the liner will provide a water-tight new sewer line using the old line as a support structure.

This method is particularly popular for fixing things like minor leaks, small cracks, and general wear and tear. Because the liner is so thin, it takes up a completely negligible amount of area inside your sewer line, meaning no significant reduction in pipe capacity. Likewise, the liners are anything but flimsy—they’re often rated to last for 50 years or more when properly installed.

However, this method can’t be used in a lot of situations. For example, if a line is structurally deficient, too badly damaged, or has a problem like sagging, bellying, or improper slope, this method won’t actually fix the problem. Therefore, you’ll need to use a different method of sewer repair.

Trenchless Pipe Bursting

Pipe bursting is the second method of trenchless pipe repair, and involves tearing apart the old sewer line while immediately, simultaneously replacing it with a new one. In this process, an extremely hard, metal “bursting” head is fed through your damaged sewer line using an ultra-strong winch. This bursting head tears apart the existing line, leaving a gap in the ground where it once stood. However, attached to this bursting head is a flexible but solid new line that will be laid its place. Once the bursting head is pulled completely through, the new line is attached to both ends and the sewer is good to go once again.

This process is significantly faster than pipe lining, and it is a great way of completely repairing any lines that are damaged beyond repair, including those that pipe lining can’t fix. However, it does leave bits of the old line buried underground. Also, this also doesn’t solve problems like poor structure, poor routing, or sagging. These are issues that can usually only be resolved through a complete excavation and reinstallation of a brand-new sewer line.

The Trenchless Sewer Repair Process

Even a well-built sewer line that is manufactured from high-quality materials will eventually wear out. Sewer lines are exposed to some of the harshest operating conditions of any part of your home on a day to day basis: they have to contain and transport all types of wastewater, waste material, and other debris and refuse out to your sewer system, which means they have to deal with the worst of the worst. Over time, these lines eventually wear out, crack, leak, and spill sewage onto your property. In order to avoid this, you’ll need to replace your sewer line.

While this is more common with older homes where the lines have been in service for 30 to 40 years or more, nearly any sewer line could experience an unexpected issue. It’s not uncommon here in California, particularly as earthquakes and aftershocks cause our land to move, soil to settle, and these lines to suddenly face different forces and pressure. This can result in cracking, total separation, collapsing and more.

Thankfully, the previous sewer replacement methods that involved completely digging up the old line to replace it are almost entirely a thing of the past. Today, we have modern trenchless sewer repair technology that can solve your problem without any major upheaval of land or impact on your property.

Here’s an overview of how it works:

1. Initial Sewer Line Inspection

The first step to trenchless sewer repair is to run a visual inspection of your line through a camera inspection. This means feeding a plumbing camera through your line to spot any signs of damage and figure out if trenchless repair is a viable option. Once this inspection is complete, your plumber will then clean your sewer line to ensure that the walls are smooth and free from debris that could cause the trenchless repair not to work properly.

2. Digging Access Holes

Once that’s complete, your plumbing crew then digs two holes—one on each end of the damaged sewer line that’s being repaired. Through these holes, they cut into the sewer line itself to access the damaged section. Once these holes are cut, they then send a specialized tool that’s connected to a winch through the damaged section of plumbing line.

3. Inserting the Resin-Coated Sewer Liner

Once this tool is in place, your plumber then cuts a section of cloth pipe lining and imbues it with a thick liquid resin. While the resin is still wet and the liner is still flexible, it is attached to the specialized tool and then pulled through the damaged section using the winch. Once the new liner is in place, it’s sealed on one end and the other end is attached to an air compressor. The compressor then inflates it, blowing it up like a balloon and making it fill the entire space inside your damaged pipe. Then, the new pipe liner is left to dry.

4. Final Inspection

When the liner dries, it becomes solid and water-tight, but thin enough to only reduce the diameter of your pipe by just a small amount. After this point, the new liner is checked by camera one more time to ensure it’s properly set up and there are no bumps or wrinkles which may cause future clogs.

If everything checks out, then your new pipe is ready to go. Your plumber seals the holes they cut in your sewer line and then buries them again to restore your property back to normal. The entire process can take as little as two days (depending on weather and a few other factors).

If you have a sewer line problem you need resolved, pick up the phone and contact All Pro Plumbing Heating, Air & Electrical at (909) 500-8193 today. Based in Ontario, we service customers throughout San Bernardino County and the Inland Empire.