The plumbing industry may have been around for centuries, but there’s still plenty of innovation and advancement today. One area that’s getting attention is pipe relining, a one-hole alternative to the traditional two-hole pipe bursting sewer line replacement method. While very few plumbers offer pipe relining, my business has evolved to almost exclusively offer it. Here are the reasons why pipe relining is a smart and cost-effective alternative you may want to consider.
Improved results with trenchless pipe repair
I launched Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Kansas City in March 2018, and then Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Overland Park later that same year. Starting my own businesses was a breath of fresh air after working and traveling as a commercial plumber. In the beginning, our business was largely focused on bursting pipes, but it became clear very quickly that the two-hole method required to complete the job was flawed.
PQ: After spending decades in this industry, I knew there had to be a better way. In 2019, I purchased a lining machine, and today, 95% of my business specializes in trenchless pipe repair.
First, there’s the cost. The expense to excavate and remove concrete in driveways, basement floors and sidewalks is sky high. And, for customers in municipalities where it’s their responsibility to address issues happening under the adjacent street if their main sewer line goes out that far, the cost can be even more depending on the homeowner’s insurance coverage.
Second, with pipe bursting, there are many times when the entire sewer line can’t be reached, which leaves the untouched areas to chance. This delivery of an incomplete product bothered me.
After spending decades in this industry, I knew there had to be a better way. In 2019, I purchased a lining machine, and today, 95% of my business specializes in trenchless pipe repair.
Understanding pipe relining
Pipe relining is the process of shooting a liner filled with epoxy resin into the host pipe. The liner then hardens and essentially becomes the new interior of the pipe. The process works like this:
- Insert a camera into the host pipe to measure the space;
- Cut a custom liner;
- Impregnate the resin into the liner (I use Hammerhead, which has a 50-year warranty);
- Load the liner into a drum, which then inverts the liner into the pipe;
- Use a calibration tube (a tool that expands like a balloon inside the pipe) to push the liner into place so that it’s flush with the host pipe. The force of the calibration tube pushes out excess resin; and
- Allow the liner to cure ambiently, a process that takes about four hours.
While pipe relining has been around for decades in Europe, it really only picked up momentum the United States in the mid-1990s. As such, pipe relining is still in its infancy, and only a relatively small number of plumbing companies offer it. My business is only one of four in the Kansas City area offering this service.
Barriers to entry
Cost is one of the main reasons pipe relining has been slow to catch on. The method requires a hefty investment of about $80,000, which is twice the cost of a bursting head and pulling machine. While pipe relining is a longer-term business play, it’s well worth it for three reasons:
- The method is less intrusive than pipe bursting;
- The end product is more comprehensive and superior; and
- You save the customer money in both the short- and long-term.
The technology around pipe relining is evolving. While my businesses relies on ambient curing, which takes about four hours, steam curing and blue light curing are also available — but at a cost. For example, with blue light, curing is reduced to just five minutes, but the cost for the technology is about $150,000. You have to decide what expenses make sense for your business and go from there.
The future involves pipe relining
Sooner or later, the entire United States infrastructure will be lined from the inside. This is because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has spearheaded a nationwide initiative to separate storm water from sanitary sewage water. This is significant because we have to find ways to prevent storm water from infiltrating water treatment plants, and that means addressing the cause of pipe breakdown, which is either wear and tear, or tree root intrusion.
When the storm water enters the pipes, the water is affected and it costs the water treatment plant a lot more money to treat the water so that it’s acceptable for drinking. In some places, the cost can be very high, so some plants have been known to take shortcuts, which then leads to fines imposed by the EPA. The solution to both mitigating cost and preserving the quality of the drinking water is to line the entire infrastructure — seal it up — to avoid root intrusion and storm water infiltration. Pipe relining is becoming key to preserving the integrity of the pipes, and keeping the water flowing properly.
Pipe relining is today’s answer to the age-old problem of fixing sewer lines economically and comprehensively. I offer it because I know it works, and if I can save customers money and give them a better product, then that’s the solution I want. With pipe relining, I can shoot liner down all the way to the street — sometimes saving my customers tens of thousands of dollars over the long term.
As more people understand why pipe relining is a smart option for addressing sewer line issues, they’ll be able to make better decisions for their homes and businesses.