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How Affordable is Trenchless Sewer Replacement and Is the Cost Worth it?

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Whether you need to have an emergency sewer repair or you are comparison shopping on repair methods, one of the considerations to make is whether to pursue a trenched sewer repair or to use trenchless sewer repair. Of course, cost will be one of your deciding factors, but there might be other aspects of the repair that you have yet to consider.

Open Trench (Traditional) Sewer Repair

The traditional method or open trench method usually involves digging up the ground around the damaged section of sewer line. After repairs are made, earth is put back into the trench.

While this may seem to be relatively inexpensive, with costs starting between $7,500-$12,000, there are some other costs associated with a process like this. First, the damage that open trenching does to your landscaping can—in rare, more complex cases—be irreversible. This could lead to major expenses such as reconfiguring or even redesigning entire yards. Trenching can be less efficient in that it can take several days and more manpower; more time and more staffing = higher costs.

Sometimes special equipment has to be brought in for trenching (particularly on larger private or commercial properties) due to city requirements and other safety measures. Special equipment = higher expense and higher costs for the customer. Acquiring additional permits could also add to your repair total. 

Photo of two Pipe Spy professionals digging up a pipe on a street.
Because there is more digging when performing a trenched sewer replacement, there is more chance of damage to other underground utilities and thereby more attention needed in areas of safety and preparation before the project begins; i.e. the accidental rupturing of a gas line could cause serious harm to anyone on site and possible danger to people in other homes or buildings in the area.

The last cost to consider is the limited use of your utilities while work is being done; And while Pipe Spy prides itself on ensuring that customers can use their facilities at the end of each workday, that may not be the case for all projects for all companies. Commercial spaces and restaurants in particular, while having an open trench project going on, may have the experience of bad smells coming through while customers are present. For this reason, businesses may need to shut their doors while this work is happening, leading to a loss of revenue for those days. It can really get expensive.

Photo of commercial plumber working in front of Fox Theater in Oakland, CA

Trenchless Sewer Repair

The trenchless method used at Pipe Spy (pipe bursting) usually involves digging two access pits on either side of the length of a project’s sewer line—one entry pit and one exit pit where the new pipe is pulled through the existing pipe using a bursting head, breaking the old clay or cast iron away and leaving the old pipe in the ground. What is left is the new, longer lasting pipeline.

Trenchless technology was created to be more cost-efficient; these processes take less time and can often (at most single-family private residences) be executed by crews of four or five persons. Because there is less digging on a trenchless worksite on the whole, there is less chance of disruption to property landscapes and other underground utilities, making it a safer option.

Photo of a rusted-through cast iron pipeThe trenchless method we use at Pipe Spy is more eco-friendly and leaves a smaller carbon footprint because in its execution we use less energy, less manpower, and fewer materials; we use HDPE lines that often last 25-50 years longer than the average materials used to replace sewers. These lines are also less susceptible to environmental damage like corrosion and tree roots.

Our trenchless method provides a sewer line that is fused creating a seamless run with joints only at the two connective ends; that makes it less likely to be vulnerable to corrosive agents like chemicals, coffee, and sewer gases.

Trenchless repair costs can be up to 50% less expensive than traditional repairs. After including all of the extra costs associated with open trench projects, a trenchless repair may be your best option.

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