Sewer lateral repair options

In the last post, we looked at sewer laterals and why they fail. Few home repairs strike fear into the hearts of homeowners like a sewer lateral repair. They’re expensive and they destroy the outward appearance of your property. Except as a way to avoid having sewage in your house, a sewer lateral repair has very little upside!

Broken sewer laterals often go unnoticed because the break may not completely disrupt the flow of wastewater away from the house. Once a sewer lateral is noticeably impaired, the traditional repair option involves digging up the sewer pipe and replacing it. The process is messy and expensive, and isn’t typically covered by homeowner’s insurance. It can also mean extensive restoration to fix landscaping and paved surfaces around the home. It’s no surprise that a sewer lateral repair is the last thing homeowners want to think about!

There is a relatively new option for rehabilitating broken sewer laterals called sewer lining. The process involves minimal to no digging, so it’s often referred to as “trenchless technology” or “trenchless sewer repair.” The sewer lining process uses the existing broken pipe as a form to line the sewer pipe with an epoxy resin that cures in place and seals leaking sewer pipes. The liner is as strong as PVC and has an estimated lifespan of about 50 years. Sewer lining can’t be done when a lateral has completely collapsed, but it can be used to selectively line small sections of lateral pipe that have been compromised. It can also be used to rehabilitate the entire length of pipe, if desired.

The process can take as little as a few hours to complete, and has been shown to be highly effective at reducing common problems like infiltration and exfiltration. The Environmental Protection Agency has approved sewer lining as an accepted method of sewer lateral repair in neighborhoods that have significant groundwater contamination from failing sewer lines.

Another sewer lateral repair option is called lateral bursting or lateral pipe bursting. Lateral bursting doesn’t completely eliminate trenching, but it reduces the amount of excavation needed by about 85%. Lateral bursting can be used in cases where an existing lateral line has completely collapsed, or in laterals that have to bend at an extreme angle to connect to the main sewer line. It is also a good option to consider for sewer lines that are buried close to the surface.

Lateral bursting can also allow the homeowner to increase the size of the connection to the main sewer. Typically lateral lines are about 4″ in diameter, but can range between 2″ and 6″. In cases where “upsizing” a connection is desirable, lateral bursting can lay new, larger-diameter pipe without significant trenching. Lateral bursting is fast – some lateral burst devices can lay pipe at a rate of about 12 feet per minute – and can limit the potential for damage to trees and landscaping around the affected pipe.

Both lateral lining and lateral bursting are less expensive per foot sewer lateral repair options than open trench replacement of failing or failed sewer lines. If you’d like more information about maintenance, repair or replacement of your sewer lateral, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to discuss your options.

Photo Credit: Guido Ric, via FreeImages.com