Replacing a sewer, water or gas line used to be quite an ordeal. Not only did it often involve the excavation of an entire yard (and sometimes the sidewalk), it was also a time-intensive job that resulted in a costly final bill. Fortunately, thanks to industry innovation, today’s plumbing contractors are able to perform this task in a cleaner, faster and more affordable way. “When I first started, you had to dig a trench every time you replaced a sewer, water or gas line,” says Ray Ramirez, owner of General Drainworks, Inc. in Antioch. “Today, we have the advantage of using trenchless technology, which requires very minimal excavation and has many other benefits.”
Whereas line replacement used to require extensive digging to unearth and remove a pipe, the only excavation required with trenchless technology is digging holes at two access points: where the drain line exits the house and where the sewer lateral connects to the city sewer main (usually at the street). The technician then pulls a new, high-density polyethylene pipe through from point A to point B. Because of its flexible character, the pipe material is able to conform to the shape of the existing pipe, which it uses as a kind of guide or sleeve.
Not only does trenchless technology enable a technician to replace a sewer line without tearing up a homeowner’s yard, driveway or sidewalk, it also reduces the time-intensiveness of the job. It used to take plumbers several days to complete a line replacement, but with the simplicity of the trenchless method, today’s technicians can accomplish the same job in a few hours.
Due to the significant advancements in line replacement technology, Mr. Ramirez says municipal building codes have had to adapt accordingly. “Once line replacement jobs started taking place beneath the ground, inspectors were no longer able to perform physical inspections of the finished job. To accommodate this, they started using in-line cameras to perform their inspections. That’s a great example of how one technology leads to another in this industry.”