When things go wrong with the essential services in your home, such as electricity or water supply, you need solutions fast. Issues with residential sewer pipes, including seepage, overflows, blockages and toilet functionality are of particular concern and need to be addressed urgently.
However, it is this sense of urgency which often leads to mistakes being made. When emergency plumbing is required consumers often have very little time to do the research needed to make the right decisions on which alternative will work best for them. Unless they have relevant skills themselves or know someone they can trust homeowners usually have to rely on the advice of the first one or two tradespeople willing to turn up, investigate and offer a fast solution. And all too often further down the track they realise that the sewer pipe repair solution they went with was far from the right one for them.
This article looks at signs and causes of residential sewer leaks and takes an honest look at the important issues to consider when comparing sewer pipe relining vs replacement options. Understanding these issues before major problems occur will empower homeowners and businesses to develop the right solutions for their unique circumstances.
Residential sewer pipe problems
Causes and signs of a sewer problem
Most sewer issues occur when inappropriate items are placed in toilets and/or when no regular pipe maintenance regime has been undertaken (see our article about maintaining healthy pipes here). But they can also result from:
- Earth movement
- Temperature extremes
- Tree root invasion
- Natural deterioration of the pipe.
Homeowners need to be aware of the signs indicating a blockage or breakdown has occurred. Some of the most common signs are:
- Slow, incomplete or cessation of flushing and gurgling sounds
- Patches or areas of lush, green grass when the rest of the yard is struggling
- Damp soil, ponding or wet paths, brickwork or concrete
- Foul odours in unusual areas of the house or yard
- Mould or mildew on non-shower walls.
For more information about these indicators, see our article ‘Five signs of a blocked sewer’.
Sewer Pipe Repair Options
Approaching sewer pipe problems often begin with DIY strategies such as plungers, sticks, buckets of warm water or commercial drain cleaning products. You can read more about keeping sewers flowing and how to try to remove minor blockages yourself in our related article here. But if these don’t work and further investigation using a CCTV camera inspection reveals pipe damage, there are two main repair pathways from which to choose.
- Relining the pipe
- Replacing the pipe (or part of it) with a new one.
As is the case with many household projects, some initially consider whether a complete DIY fix can be achieved, however when it comes to sewer pipes this is strongly discouraged given the significant health implications which can result. It may also contravene local authority regulations. Professionals who are well trained, highly experienced and have the latest equipment are best placed to advise on repair strategies and to carry out the works.
Before organising quotes, however, it’s important for homeowners to be informed and well prepared with relevant questions for repairers. With this in mind, the following section provides useful information to help consumers decide which option might be best for them.
Residential sewer pipe relining vs replacement
What’s pipe relining?
With a residential sewer pipe lining repair, a brand new pipe is either created within or inserted into the old, damaged pipe where it sits in the ground. There is usually no need to excavate or dig at all. This means lower overall cost, faster repairs and no destruction or reinstatement costs for floors, walls, driveways, gardens or other assets or services located above or near the damaged pipe.
Types of pipe relining
Various relining strategies are available however there is some confusion (even within the industry) about names and categorisation of each method (see the Australian Government’s ASEA report here).
The four most common methods of pipe relining are:
- CURED IN PLACE PIPE (CIPP) LINING
- FOLD AND FORM LINING
- SLIP LINING
- SPRAY LINING
CIPP is the most common method of residential pipe rehabilitation in Australia and New Zealand and there are three installation methods:
- The Pull in Place method
- The Inversion method
- The spray lining method
Replacement of sewer pipes in need of repair is a much simpler concept to grasp. These traditional methods of digging up damaged pipes and replacing them with new ones did the job in the past, but when sprawling urban communities began having issues with pipes nearing end of life in the late 20th century, researchers recognised alternatives that did not require excavation needed to be developed.
The main sewer pipe replacement strategies available are:
- PIPE BURSTING
- PIPE RAMMING
Both pipe bursting and pipe ramming require significant heavy machinery and are usually quite cost-prohibitive for residential sewer repairs. Excavation and reinstatement often works out very expensive, is highly disruptive and takes a lot of time, but if there is open ground above the pipe, soft soil and no other essential service lines nearby it may be the most cost-effective option.
For more detail about the information above, see our article ‘When to consider Pipe Relining‘.
It’s also important to note that even though there is no digging required in most methods of relining, local regulations may still apply so it’s useful to check (for example the WA Water Corporation guide, Section 8.11).
Advantages and disadvantages of residential sewer pipe relining
Extensive research of commercial sites, government publications and reports from statutory authorities failed to provide a comparative tool homeowners could use to simply understand what the various options for pipe repair were, where they sat within the industry framework and the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy.
As a result, Nuflow created an easy reference table which can be downloaded to explain how each of the different relining and replacement strategies work and the advantages and disadvantages of each one. Click the image below to download the table.
Comparative table: pipe relining vs replacement
EXCERPT ONLY: Table 1 – Pipe Relining vs Replacement Strategies
(2) United States Department of Agriculture, (2005), Summary of Trenchless Technology for Use With USDA Forest Service Culverts, Forest Service Technology & Development Program 7700â€“Transportation Management, 0577 1201â€”SDTDC
(3) Australian Government, (2018) Case studies of Asbestos Water pipe Management Practices, ASEA, Canberra.
Why Nuflow gives consumers peace of mind
Nuflow is the only Australian-owned company offering pipe relining products and services which have been developed and manufactured locally. They are committed to education, research, quality-control improvements and reliable after sales service and warranties. Nuflow uses the CIPP relining system and the Pull in place method of installation which allows them to be very precise in their repairs. It also enables them to cater to residential sewer repairs which may have multiple junctions entering a line from multiple bathrooms and toilets in a home. Their reputation is excellent and they strongly believe they offer the best residential sewer pipe relining alternative available in the Australian market.
Nuflow’s head office is in Queensland, as are their research and development laboratories where new product innovations in response to market demand, are being tested every day. Field technicians, fully trained in what Nuflow’s products are capable of achieving, will be very honest.