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Point Repairs in Plumbing

Updated on February 1, 2018

Subterranean pipe repairs can become a massive undertaking and a challenge for any type of homeowner. For a parent or a pet owner, it can be extremely daunting. For an invested home designer, it can be devastating. And regardless of where the problem is located - front yard, back or, perhaps, even inside the home - it can be a costly experience in time and money and a terrible inconvenience.

However, there is another option, although it is still generally unknown. Of those surveyed by Angie's List, less than a quarter were familiar with "no dig" plumbing solutions. Also referred to as trenchless solutions or point repairs, it is a groundbreaking process that minimizes the amount of broken ground required to fix piping below the surface. If there is still life in the pipes, this can be an extremely beneficial option for mostly inaccessible damage.

When Point Repair Works Best

Point repair is, like the name suggests, simply a repair. If a pipe is beyond its useful life expectancy, a full pipe replacement would be required. Pipes that are severely corroded or damaged or made of galvanized steel would also be better served with a replacement. It is also necessary to know where damage is located for a patch, so point repair is not a viable solution when the origin of the problem cannot be found.

If the damage to the pipe is contained within a small area and the pipes still have some life in them, a focused point repair is the best solution to address the problem. Some examples of situations where point repair is best applied are:

  • Root intrusion
  • Leaking
  • Offset joints
  • Holes & cracks
  • Structural integrity concerns

Benefits of Point Repair

If the option to use point repair is available, there are virtually no downsides to the process. The biggest overall benefit is saving money and time. From the very beginning, there are cost savings on materials and equipment. With the excavation often cut at least in half, it shortens the entire process significantly and reduces the required budget.

Standard methods may also require hiring survey and design teams, which could add to the cost. When using traditional methods, trees, shrubs and other plants along with any yard fixtures in the area may have to be removed, either temporarily or permanently. Removal is often a loss of investment while moving or holding can tack on more cost to the project.

Since there is less digging, the chances of encountering obstacles or disturbing existing utilities drops, which avoids drawing out the process further with unexpected delays. Neighbors will also appreciate the reduced risk to any shared utilities, along with less noise and traffic from a shortened work time.

The Tools & Process

Though some methods may vary slightly, most will start with an inspection. A special camera is fed down the pipe to inspect the damage and determine length. From there, one of two popular methods are employed: pipe lining and pipe bursting.

Both are fairly straightforward in their naming. For pipe lining, which is also referred to as "cured in place pipe", a flexible tube coated with resin is either blown or pulled into the damaged portion of the pipe. This is usually done with a type of hydraulic device. Once in place, it is inflated and the resin is given time to harden. This results in a pipe within a pipe. When this method is available, it is often the optimal choice since it often only requires one access point. And though the lateral's diameter is reduced by about a quarter inch with this method, but most experts agree that this does not significantly impact the ability of the pipe.

However, pipe lining may not be possible when there are joints or it has collapsed, but pipe bursting may still be an option if there's room for a cable to move through it. Pipe bursting fractures the damaged pipe outward with a piece called a bursting head while moving through it. It is pulled from an entry point to an exit point using a hydraulic pump and pull device.

Regardless of the method used, both are considered equally durable and many come with warranties ranging between 10 and 50 years. While it is always good to explore all options available, it is also best to follow the recommendations of a regular professional. There are some circumstances where point repair or trenchless solutions are not a viable option, but when they are, it can save time, money and - of course - the yard.

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