What is Trenchless Sewer Repair?

a Salt Lake City neighborhood

a Salt Lake City neighborhood

Innovation has paved the way for more efficient and cost-effective solutions in sewer repair. At Salt City Plumbing, Heating, and Air, we are fans of trenchless sewer repair. In this article, I will discuss the advantages, limitations, and emerging trends in trenchless sewer repair, providing you with the knowledge to make informed decisions about your property's needs.

Trenchless Sewer Repair Methods

In the realm of trenchless sewer repair, we offer two distinct methods:

The Cure-in-place Liner

This method is suitable for both exterior and interior sewer lines ranging from three to six inches in diameter, with four inches being the most common. We opt for trenchless solutions to bypass the excavation phase whenever possible, as it significantly reduces labor costs. Traditional sewer repairs, involving excavation and manual replacement of pipes with PVC, can incur substantial expenses due to excavation uncertainties, mainly when dealing with public property responsibilities. Interestingly, property owners are often accountable for sewer lines extending beyond their property boundaries in Salt Lake City and its environs, a practice not widely adopted across the United States.

The cure-in-place liner, a technology dating back three decades, originates from Scandinavian innovation. It entails impregnating a felt-like material with a two-part epoxy solution resembling a fire hose. Subsequently, we deploy either the pull-in-place or inversion method. In the former, a rod system attached to the liner is drawn through the pipe's length, followed by inflation with a calibration tube to assume the desired shape. After approximately two hours, the epoxy sets, yielding a rejuvenated sewer line. Compared to traditional replacements spanning several days, the cure-in-place liner typically concludes within a day, sans excavation, resulting in cost savings ranging from 30% to 50%.

The Pipe Bursting Technique

With this method, we thread a one-inch steel cable through the deteriorating sewer line, securing it to a rod and pulley system. Two excavation points are necessary, typically near the city connection and the property. The steel cable, which is affixed to a conic head and high-density polyethylene pipe, fractures the old pipe as it is pulled through, seamlessly replacing it. Although excavation is required, the pipe bursting approach proves more economical and efficient than conventional methods, often completed within one to two days.

While both trenchless techniques offer viable alternatives to traditional sewer repairs, the choice between them hinges on factors like pipe condition and eligibility for each method. Whether opting for the liner or the burst, our goal remains consistent: to provide efficient, cost-effective solutions while minimizing disruption to property and infrastructure.

Advantages of Trenchless Sewer Repair

Both trenchless sewer repair methods are substantially faster and cheaper than traditional sewer repair. There are instances where trenchless sewer repair is not just about cost-effectiveness; it is a necessity dictated by the surrounding environment. Take, for example, areas with intricate landscaping or majestic trees, such as Rose Park or the Harvard/Yale neighborhood near Westminster College. The sheer magnitude of these landscapes and the presence of large trees render traditional excavation impractical. In such scenarios, trenchless methods become the sole feasible option. When obstacles like these stand in the way, trenchless repair emerges as the clear solution.

We had a customer who had already received bids from five other companies for a liner replacement. Upon reviewing the bids, it became apparent that all the estimates included excavating a section of the road due to damage at the connection to the city sewer. This method significantly inflates costs compared to excavating in the yard.

However, because of our expertise and innovative approach, we were able to offer a more cost-effective solution. By utilizing a specialized cure-in-place liner technique, we avoided the need to excavate the road entirely. Instead, we applied a liner up to the repair site and then installed a shorter 'pipe patch' liner using a rod system. This approach saved the customer between seven and $8,000 compared to the next lowest bid.

Our skilled team completed the job seamlessly in just two days, passing inspection with flying colors. This success story underscores the value of experience and innovation in trenchless sewer repair, demonstrating how we consistently strive to provide the best solutions for our customers while saving them time and money.

Limitations of Trenchless Sewer Repair

When traditional replacement becomes unavoidable, it usually boils down to two primary reasons. Firstly, the pipe may be in such a state of disrepair that neither threading the one-inch steel cable nor maneuvering the liner through is feasible. If there is a significant break or separation in the line, surpassing half an inch in size, excavation becomes necessary at that point. Sometimes, the sheer number of such breaks makes the prospect of multiple excavations for a liner impractical, leading us to opt for a trenchless replacement instead.

Secondly, a common issue we encounter is what we colloquially term as 'bellies' in the pipe. Picture these as sags in the pipeline. In many homes across Salt Lake City, the sewer lines are either clay or cast iron, featuring joints every three or ten feet, respectively. These joints are vulnerable points where buckling can occur, especially if the ground beneath erodes due to water leakage. As a result, the pipe loses its stable suspension and begins to sag, creating a belly. This sagging disrupts the pipe's downhill flow, causing water to pool inside.

Neither the liner nor the burst method can rectify these buckles; they merely conform to the existing shape of the pipe. Whether we are deploying liners or bursts, they simply follow the contours of the pipe, including any sags present. In such cases, traditional replacement becomes imperative since neither trenchless method can address these structural issues.

But whenever trenchless repair is a viable option, I strongly advocate for it. My foremost goal when working with customers is to deliver the most efficient, cost-effective solution that ensures longevity. The material strengthens over time with the two-part epoxy used in these liners. This presents a compelling argument for its superiority over traditional materials like SDR35 or PVC used in conventional replacements. Despite the advanced materials and quicker process, we offer the same warranty for all three methods.

In my years of experience, I have witnessed the evolution of trenchless technology. Fifteen years ago, it was not as widely available as it is today. Yet, having completed hundreds of trenchless repairs, I have never encountered a need to revisit a job due to its craftsmanship or durability. This track record speaks volumes about the reliability of trenchless repairs.

Trenchless solutions are always the first recommendation when presenting repair options to customers if they are eligible. The savings are significant in terms of cost (30% to 50% less) and time (completed in half the time). Additionally, opting for trenchless repairs means swiftly completing those big plumbing projects, minimizing disruption.

For me, trenchless repair is a no-brainer. It not only matches the longevity and quality of traditional methods but also offers substantial savings and efficiency. That is why we extend trenchless repair as an option for every repair opportunity.

How to Choose a Trenchless Sewer Repair Contractor

When considering trenchless replacements, it is essential to understand the nuances of plumbing licensing. There are two main types of plumbing licenses, with the P200 license being comprehensive, encompassing the ability to perform road excavations. This aspect is crucial because, in the event of a trenchless repair failure, digging into the road for correction. may necessitate

Many companies operate without the P200 license, which limits their capacity to rectify such mistakes if they occur. Consequently, they often resort to subcontracting the repair work to licensed entities. However, our company prioritizes having the necessary licensing, insurance, and bonding to undertake any repairs independently. This ensures that we can address any issues promptly and effectively without relying on subcontractors, providing our customers with peace of mind and comprehensive service.

Emerging Trends and Advancements in Trenchless Sewer Repair Technology

The shift towards trenchless methods has become increasingly prevalent, with nearly 95% of replacements opting for trenchless solutions primarily due to their cost-effectiveness. In recent years, there have been significant advancements in trenchless technology, offering a variety of options for sewer line repairs.

One exciting development is the emergence of UV systems for liners, which significantly reduce cure times. Instead of waiting hours for the epoxy to set, these systems cut the wait time down to about an hour. Additionally, a new spray liner technique is designed for more complex situations, eliminating concerns about liner compatibility with larger separations.

While these innovations are on the horizon, we have recently invested in the COKO system, designed to address the prevalent issue of aging cast iron pipes. Cast iron pipes, commonly found in homes built before 1978, often suffer from reduced diameter over time due to rust and corrosion. Utilizing a PICOT chain cutter, our COKO system effectively restores the pipe's diameter by removing built-up scale and rust. This process revitalizes the pipe, buying homeowners more time before a complete replacement becomes necessary.

For customers still waiting for a complete replacement, the COKO system offers a cost-effective alternative to extending the lifespan of their existing pipes. In just a few hours, we can restore the pipe to a condition similar to its original installation, providing homeowners with peace of mind and delaying the need for significant repairs.


Trenchless sewer repair is a beacon of innovation in the plumbing industry, offering unparalleled efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and minimal disruption. As pioneers in the field, we at Salt City Plumbing, Heating, and Air are committed to providing our customers with the most advanced and reliable solutions available. We ensure that each project is approached with precision and expertise. We invite you to trust us with your sewer repair needs, knowing that your satisfaction and peace of mind are our top priorities.

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