Pros and Cons of Sewer Line Repair Methods

As sewer pipes age, they gradually start to deteriorate. Even with regular sewer drain cleaning and maintenance, the sewer lines will eventually wear out. How long sewer lines will last does depend on the age of the home, how long ago the sewer lines were installed, and the types of sewer pipes used. If your sewer pipes are 20 to 25 years old, now is the time to start thinking about different sewer repair options.

Types of Sewer Pipes

There are several different types of sewer pipes which could be used for your sewer main and connect to your septic tank or city’s sewer system, which include:

  • Cast Iron: Older homes could have cast iron sewer pipes. They can remain in the ground as long as they are not damaged and have no leaks since they are very sturdy.
  • Clay: Clay sewer pipes can be found in both older and newer homes. Clay is porous and makes it easier for tree roots to grow through and damage the sewer pipes.
  • Orangeburg: This type of sewer pipe is made from fibrous materials that are wrapped together using a water-resistant adhesive, which is then coated in a layer of tar to provide strength. Orangeburg pipes are typically found on older homes and are no longer used today.
  • Lead: Lead sewer lines were used for interior sewer drain lines in older homes and are no longer used.
  • Plastic: PVC and ABS plastic sewer pipes are more common in newer homes since they are not as prone to damages by tree roots.

How Do I Know What Type and in What Condition My Sewer Pipes Are?Man digging trench for sewerage water with a wide spade

The easiest way to determine which types of sewer drain pipes your home has, and their current condition, is with a sewer camera inspection service from a qualified plumbing company. A small camera is put down the pipes, typically from the overflow valve for exterior pipes. The camera will show any blockages, tree roots, or other damages.

A camera inspection can also be performed on interior sewer pipes if you want to find out what type of pipes were used when your home was built. The inspection also can help find and identify potential problems like leaks and clogs.

Types of Sewer Repair Methods

There are two general types of sewer repair methods that can be used to fix damaged sewer lines:

  1. Traditional Repairs
  2. Pipe Relining/Trenchless Repairs

For traditional repairs, the existing sewer pipe is removed and replaced with a new one. This involves gaining access to the existing sewer lines. Interior repairs mean having to tear out drywall and flooring to reach sewer lines hidden away. Exterior repairs require digging a trench in your yard to access the sewer lines.

With pipe relining and trenchless repairs, all that is required are a few access points. A new pipe is installed either inside the interior of the existing sewer line or by using piper bursting, which breaks up the existing sewer lines as the new pipe is laid in place.

Selecting the Best Sewer Pipe and Repair

In order to select the best sewer pipe and repair for your home, you need to think about the location of the sewer line problem and the extent of any damage. It is also worthwhile to consider what types of sewer lines you currently have in your home and yard.

If you have cast iron, clay, lead, or Orangeburg sewer pipes, you may want to replace the pipes with new ones and opt for traditional sewer line repair. On the other hand, for interior repairs when the pipe is not broken, relining could be a good solution since you do not have to tear out large sections of drywall and flooring.

Trenchless sewer drain repair can also be a good choice for exterior repairs. However, if the sewer pipe is collapsed or has extensive tree roots that cannot be removed, then traditional repairs may be necessary. Additionally, you should weigh the pros and cons of relining/trenchless repairs compared to traditional repairs.

Pros of Relining/Trenchless Sewer Repairs

  • Minimal removal of drywall and flooring.
  • Sewer repair can be completed in a day or two.
  • You can remain in your home while your sewer lines are repaired.
  • Sewer damages may be covered under your homeowner’s
  • Peace of mind for up to 50 years, depending on the type of relining pipe used.
  • Lower overall repair costs.

Cons of Relining/Trenchless Sewer Repairs

  • Relining could reduce the size of the sewer lines.
  • Relining may not be possible, depending on the extent of damages to the sewer line.
  • Sewer pipes could be too old for relining/trenchless repairs.
  • Repairs have to be completed by a professional plumber, as relining/trenchless processes require the right equipment and are a precision job.

Pros of Traditional Sewer RepairsPlumbing standing in doorway

  • Resolves problems where original sewer lines were not installed correctly.
  • Ensures all old sewer lines are replaced with brand new ones.
  • Maintains the same size of sewer lines.
  • Eliminates environmental and health concerns regarding lead pipes.
  • Certain sewer damages may be covered by your insurance.
  • The ideal solution if there is just a small section of the sewer line that needs to be replaced.

Cons of Traditional Sewer Repairs

  • Outdoor repairs are more invasive and require digging up your yard, landscaping, driveway, and other outdoor areas, depending on where the sewer lines run.
  • Indoor repairs can be equally invasive and require tearing out sections of drywall and flooring to access sewer lines.
  • The total sewer repair costs can be significantly more when accounting for the additional repair work like repairing walls and flooring or pouring a new concrete driveway.
  • You may have to move into a hotel while repairs are being made.
  • Depending on the repairs being made, they could take a week to several months to complete.

Which Pipe Relining/Trenchless Sewer Repair Is Better?

There are two general types of pipe relining/trenchless sewer repair options, depending on where you live and what is allowed in your city:

  1. Pipe Bursting
  2. Slip Pipe Relining

Pipe bursting is a method where a special “drill head” is dropped down the sewer line and pulled through it. Attached behind the drill head is the new sewer line. As the drill is pulled through the sewer line, it breaks away the existing pipe as the new sewer line is laid in its place.

Some cities do not allow pipe bursting because of the potential to damage other utilities like electrical lines, gas supply lines, etc. You may need to have an inspection performed prior to being allowed to use pipe bursting, to determine whether there are any other utility lines nearby the sewer line.

Slip pipe relining can be done using two different methods. One method is to apply an epoxy liner onto the interior of the existing sewer lines. As the epoxy dries, it fills in cracks and other interior damages on the existing pipe, while simultaneously hardening into its own “new sewer pipe.”

The other slip pipe relining method is cured-in-place repiping. This is where a new sewer line is passed through the interior of the existing sewer line. The exterior of the new sewer line is coated in a resin which bonds it to the existing sewer line as it dries.

Prior to using slip pipe relining, sewer drain line cleaning is performed, the water in the line is drained, and the pipe is dried. This can add to the amount of time needed to repair the sewer line. With pipe bursting, this is not necessary as the existing line is removed during the process.

Between the two general relining/trenchless repair options, pipe bursting is considered to be a faster repair. However, pipe bursting cannot be used on cast iron sewer lines because they are so strong.

There are advantages and disadvantages to traditional sewer line repairs and relining/trenchless sewer line repairs. The best place to start if you are not sure which one would be right for your home is by scheduling a sewer line camera inspection service and consultation with a qualified plumber in your area.

To schedule a camera inspection and consultation in Katy and the Greater Houston Area, please feel free to contact MET Plumbing & Air Conditioning at 281-603-9949 today! We would be happy to help you determine the most cost-effective and best sewer repair service for your home.

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