What is Trenchless Water Line Replacement?

Last Updated On May 26, 2022
What is Trenchless Water Line Replacement

Do you need to replace an underground water supply pipe or sewer line? Traditional water line replacement used to involve digging up the ground to access hard-to-reach pipes. It was expensive and caused significant damage to your lawn, landscaping, or driveway. Now, there’s a better way…

Today, the most commonly used method is known as trenchless water line replacement. Before you hire trenchless water line replacement services, you should learn more about the process. This will allow you to ask the right questions and choose the right plumbing company.

In this PlumbingNav guide, we will cover:

  • What is trenchless water line replacement?
  • How does trenchless water line replacement work?
  • How much does trenchless water line replacement cost?

What's In This Guide?

      What is Trenchless Water Line Replacement?

      Trenchless pipe replacement and repair refers to the process of fixing any underground water lines without digging up the entire length of the yard to access your supply pipe. Plumbing companies achieve this with special equipment aided by one or two small access points as opposed to digging a trench.

      Trenchless pipe replacement works for water line replacement, sewer line repair, and emergency plumbing if you experience a water leak or a burst pipe. In this article, we will focus mostly on water line replacement as it relates to the water coming into your home.

      We have written extensively on related services on our blog. Head here to read about trenchless sewer line repair.

      did you know What is Trenchless Water Line Replacement

      What are the Signs You Need Trenchless Repair?

      Two of the main signs of a plumbing problem with your main water line include low water pressure and increased water bills. If you can’t find a logical reason behind these issues, consider calling a plumber to take a closer look.

      Alternatively, you can attempt a hydrostatic plumbing test if the issue is low pressure coming into your house. The sustained and unexplained low water pressure might be a sign of slab leak under your floor. The problem could also be located outside in the water supply lines in your yard.

      If on the receiving end, you will need a line inspection to assess if trenchless sewer repair is needed due to a deteriorating or broken pipe, or possible tree root intrusion.

      Is this a DIY repair? In most cases, no way. However, here is a rare breed and brave soul who was able to  fix his water line problem. See how he was able to isolate his exact problem area. (Usually, problems are not acute like this and extend for distances beyond a small area.)

      What Are the Benefits to Trenchless Pipe Repair?

      Some of the benefits of the trenchless method compared to old techniques include:

      • Convenient
      • Much Faster 
      • Less Expensive
      • Durable & Longlasting Solution
      • Eco-friendly

      How Does Trenchless Water Line Replacement Work?

      Pipe Bursting

      The most common method of trenchless water line replacement is known as pipe bursting. 

      With pipe bursting, a plumber feeds a new pipe through an access point into the same place as the old pipe. As the new pipe makes its way into place, it causes the existing pipe to burst. The remnants of the burst pipe will go into the soil and the new pipe will take its place. This method is used in both residential and commercial plumbing applications.

      There are two methods of pipe bursting:

      • Pipe jacking – hydraulic pushing method
      • Directional drilling – mechanical pulling method

      Almost all metal and plastic pipes under 750 ft. can be burst, including copper pipe and stainless steel pipe. However, HDPE pipe, reinforced concrete pipe, and lead pipe may prove too strong for pipe bursting.

      Pipe bursting also won’t work if you have stubborn 90-degree angles or a short water line. Additionally, it may not work on a sewer pipe that has a stubborn clog that can’t be resolved with regular drain cleaning. In these cases, you may want to consider the alternative method called pipe lining. 

      Watch this video to see trenchless plumbing using the lateral pulling method in action:

      Pipe Lining

      Pipe relining, in particular CIPP pipe lining, fills your old pipe with a fabric liner covered in resin. It’s then inflated with air or water and hardened into place using light or heat through a process called curing. Once finished, a new pipe forms inside the damaged pipe. 

      Pipe lining takes longer and may reduce the interior diameter of your water pipe, but it’s also less expensive and more appropriate for tight spaces and sharp corners. You also can’t use the pipe lining method if the host pipe has significant structural damage.

      One consideration regarding CIPP relining is that it uses epoxy resin, which will come in contact with your drinking water in a water line repair. While considered safe for potable water systems, verify the products being used to confirm this. You may want to install a water filtration system if you use this pipe lining method to replace your water pipe. It’s completely safe for your sewer pipe, as water only leaves through the sewer.

      Watch to see this method used on a water pipe repair:

      How long does an underground water line last?

      The replacement pipe in pipe bursting will consist of HDPE pipe, which can last as long as 50 years without incident.

      The pipe made from CIPP relining will last up to 50 years, too.

      How long does it take to replace waterline?

      Your water line replacement can be done in as little as a day. 

      Keep in mind that you don’t be able to use your water until the process is completed. 

      Pipe bursting is the quicker solution compared to CIPP relining, but both are much faster than traditional water line replacement.

      How Much Does Trenchless Water Line Replacement Cost?

      Pipe bursting costs $40 -$80 per foot. 

      CIPP relining costs $25 – $65 per foot.

      Who is responsible for water line replacement from “street to house?”

      Generally speaking, the homeowner assumes responsibility for the cost of water main repair or replacement from the street to the house. If you don’t get water service from the city and get water from a private well and use a septic tank, you will definitely bear the entire cost. In some cases, your homeowner’s insurance may help cover the cost, so check your policy before scheduling the plumbing service. 

      Who pays for trenchless water line replacement if the problem is in the street or sidewalk?

      Water line replacement that takes place further than the street or sidewalk is the responsibility of the city in most cases. Check with your local municipality for specific guidelines as they may vary slightly from place to place.

      They will enlist their own city plumbing personnel to confirm and repair this issue, but if understaffed, they may allow a licensed plumber to document and make commercial plumbing repairs for timely resolution.

      Final Thoughts on Replacing Water Lines In House Using Trenchless Technology

      When you need water line repair or water line replacement, the trenchless method is now the most commonly used technique around. It’s less expensive and quicker than traditional pipe repair because you can avoid digging up the pipes.

      Trenchless technology can also be used in sewer repair. Since underground pipes require the right equipment and skill, you should use a professional plumbing service that can demonstrate experience and expertise. With trenchless water line replacement becoming more common, get at least 2 quotes before making your decision.

      Trenchless Water Line Replacement FAQs 

      What kind of pipe do you use for buried water lines?

      The best pipe for buried water lines is HDPE pipe thanks to its strength and flexibility.

      How are water lines replaced?

      The most common form of water line replacement is pipe bursting, the original method for trenchless water line replacement. It feeds a new pipe into the place of the old pipe, bursting the old pipe in the process.

      How long does an underground water line last?

      HPE pipe lasts over 50 years when properly maintained, which is as long as most pipes.

      Who is responsible for water line from street to house?

      The homeowner assumes responsibility for the water line from the street to the house, including the cost of trenchless water line repair. 

      How long does it take to replace water line?

      You can replace your waterline in as little as a day, which is much quicker than traditional methods.

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      About Plumbing Navigator

      We write about "all things plumbing," helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.

      About Plumbing Navigator

      We write about “all things plumbing,” helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.

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