Sewer problems can mean back-ups into your home from multiple fixtures. Stinky, smelly back-ups that are unhealthy for everyone. And the fix can be just as bad: digging up your backyard in all directions looking for the source of the blockage.
If this were a movie, the hero or heroine would be in desperate straits. They are out of options. Survival odds are grim. But wait, they are about to be delivered from a wholly unexpected source.
In the sewer world, those rescues are being accomplished through a technique called trenchless sewer repair coupled with epoxy to create new pipes.
Although trenchless sewer repair does not work in every instance, it is often a godsend. While it rescues the backyard for homeowners, the savings for businesses is often much more substantial. This method of sewer repair can mean that the business owner does not have to tear up an asphalt parking lot, concrete flooring in his warehouse, or relocate expensive equipment while the work is being done. For schools or recreational facilities, this method can save the cost of ripping up expensive athletic fields and the added headache of rescheduling or postponing athletic events.
Plumbing technician needed
How does this magic happen? The equipment required for this task means that it is without question a job for a professional. The plumbing technician will begin the process by digging a hole to clear some space for the initial insert of the liner. This is often close to the spot where the wastewater pipe comes out of the house. He will also dig a second hole in the general area where the pipe will connect to the city water line. This point will be after the break or fracture in the sewer line that is the cause of the problem.
He will have determined where that is by using the flexible video camera that is standard equipment for a professional plumber. After viewing the video, the plumber will determine where the break or fracture has occurred. He will then flush the pipe with high-pressure water to make sure the line is clear of debris and is ready for the liner.
Often roots have penetrated the pipe causing it to leak and giving access to additional plant growth encroaching into the pipe. Cracks or leaks often appear in cast iron pipes as well. This allows sewage to leak out and eventually cause an unsafe mass to grow. This mass might increase in size for weeks or even months before the homeowner discovers it when cutting the lawn in the summer. Not a pleasant find. Worse yet, the mass forms underneath a sidewalk or other unnoticed area and is allowed to grow for months undetected.
If the home is older, the pipes are of a similar age and might have begun to crack or rust out.
Inserting the liner
The next step in trenchless sewer repair is to begin inserting through the pipe a liner (often flannel) that has the special epoxy resin. The objective is ingenious. Once the epoxy has set up and hardens, it will conform to the original pipe, forming a “pipe within a pipe,” yet still leaving plenty of room for the sewage to travel through. The epoxy liner is durable assuming the consistency of hardened rubber. When tested the epoxy easily withstands repeated blows from a hammer. It has also effectively covered the leaky spots in the pipe.
“So how do you get the epoxy into the pipe,” you might ask. That’s the million-dollar question. Just flushing a pipe that may be 100 yards long with epoxy will not work. The epoxy would simply harden and leave no room for the sewage to move through the pipe.
First things first. The plumber will fill up the liner with epoxy, then use a roller to squeeze out any air bubbles. The liner is then fed through an inverter mechanism. The inverter turns the liner inside out and squirts the resin into the pipe. Once the liner is in position it is heated using an inflatable bladder. Once the liner has cured the bladder is pulled from the line, leaving the epoxy “pipe within a pipe” in place.
The results of this trenchless sewer repair is a seamless pipe (fewer places to leak) that is stronger than the old pipe and guaranteed to last for 50 years. Normal life and businesses return to full activity and only minimal disruption has occurred.