No job is more apt to turn a customer catatonic than a sewer line repair. Cost typically runs into thousands of dollars, the nasty project stretches for days, and sorry about your posies, ma'am, but we can't help it the line runs right underneath. And don't you just love those jobs where you have to break through a concrete sidewalk!

The end of those days is in sight. Modern pipe lining technology is as welcome an alternative to open cut toil as antibiotics are to amputation. Pipe lining techniques vary but basically involve plastic resin, inserted within a fiberglass laminate bladder, pushed inside the damaged pipe, then expanded and solidified to form a new interior wall.

A company called Insituform Technologies has been lining pipes for U.S. municipal and industrial markets for about 30 years, and the technique has been employed for about the last 10 or 12 years in residential installations in Europe and other parts of the world. Millions of feet have been installed worldwide, but the technique is just now making its way to American shores for residential and light commercial repairs.

At least two companies are looking to market residential pipe lining systems in the United States. One is Epros, a German firm operating internationally out of the United Kingdom. The company has initiated a pilot program to market the technology through Contractors 2000, with non-members also having access. Another is Montreal-based Formadrain Inc.

Although their processes differ, each represents a vastly cheaper and less time-consuming task than open cut repair, and both systems do away with collateral damage.

Eyes Wide!

An Epros demonstration was held for members attending a Contractors 2000 "Super Meeting" in Washington, D.C., last October. A more bug-eyed audience I've not seen since taking in the Siegfried & Roy magic show in Las Vegas years ago.

Conducting the demo was Ian Ramsey, international sales and marketing manager for Epros. According to him, material costs amount to about $8 per foot. He estimates a 50-ft. installation would take three to four hours using a two-man crew.

Crunch those numbers at $25 an hour per man and you're looking at a direct job cost of around $600. Plug in some overhead, even higher labor rates, and you're still at a fraction of where you'd be if you had to dig and cut into the pipeline.

Bid the work at, say, 10 percent under what open cut competitors would charge, all the while explaining to the homeowner that you won't ruffle a petal on her precious flowerbed, then enjoy the windfall.

Equipment and training for the Epros system entail a one-time cost of around $28,000. Also, the system is intended to work in conjunction with a sewer camera to pinpoint the trouble spot in the pipe. Some training and practice are required to operate the equipment, but it seems well within the realm of normal plumber abilities.

Once the problem is located, the machinery can be set up at a single access point to the line. The Epros system can handle pipe diameters up to 12 inches, although most people will use it with 4- to 6-inch pipe. It can handle transitions between 4 and 6 inches, take 90-degree bends and span breaks in the line. Damages can be fixed from corrosion, cracks, root intrusion, debris, exfiltration and infiltration, burst pipes, offset connections, and soil erosion. Different resins are used for winter and summer conditions with an operating range from 20 degrees F to 100 degrees F.

Depending on circumstances, curing time can take anywhere from a couple of hours to eight hours. The lining adds from 3 to 12 millimeters to interior wall thickness.


The Montreal company's system is similar in many ways to that of Epros but with enough differences to make them distinct processes. (Formadrain Inc. is unrelated to Form-A-Drain, a building product made by CertainTeed Corp.)

Both the Epros and Formadrain systems are capable of repairing a wide variety of collapsed, split, cracked or broken pipes. Formadrain uses an epoxy resin, Epros a silicate resin. Both are resistant to chemicals and abrasives, environmentally benign and produce inconsequential reductions of pipe diameter. Both tout their structural strength and can be employed with a wide variety of piping materials.

The Formadrain process, based on a video viewing, seems more labor-intensive than the Epros system. The video I saw showed three men applying the resin by hand to the liner, whereas Epros uses a roller machine and two-man setup. Formadrain also requires two openings in the line against a single one for Epros, and claims a maximum bend angle of 45 degrees versus the 90-degree bends of Epros.

On the other hand, I spoke with a C-2000 member from Canada who has used Formadrain and thinks it a superior system to the Epros technique that he witnessed being demonstrated. An advantage he touted was a shorter curing time of about a half-hour. Anyone interested in pipe lining might be well served looking into both systems before deciding.

Further information about Epros can be obtained from Ian Ramsey at: Telephone: 011-44-191-41-31-855.

For more information about Formadrain contact Stephane Therrien, Formadrain Inc., 7551 Métropolitain E., Anjou, Qc, H1J1J8, Canada. 514/352-6911. Fax: 514/352-0167.