Commercial Construction & Contracting Resources

Pipe Replacement or Lining: What’s the Best Option?

Posted by Park Enterprise Construction on January 31, 2018

Park Enterprise Construction water line installation

That’s a great question. Between pipe replacement and lining, the best choice depends on subjective circumstances facing your water and sewer lines.

Full replacement is often best when an aging underground utility infrastructure begins to fail. Pipe lining, however temporary, could be a more economical option or more suitable for places where excavation is impossible.

In either case, an experienced underground utility contractor should advise you honestly and completely about the best solutions for your situation. Keep in mind, waiting until the last minute could have catastrophic results for your commercial property’s infrastructure system and even the surrounding community.

(Related reading: 11 Underground Water Leak Signs You Can’t Ignore)

When to Choose Pipe Replacement

New pipe is always the best choice for longevity. New underground utility pipes today are typically built from galvanized steel, ductile iron, HDPE (high density polyethylene), or PVC (polyvinyl chloride). They’re very durable and will stand the test of time - decades or even over a century. Metal will eventually corrode with long-term exposure to the elements, but PVC is a synthetic plastic polymer that should last indefinitely.

Pipe replacement involves:

  • Shutting off valves leading to the affected pipe
  • Excavating down to pipe level
  • Carefully removing the old pipe
  • Replacing it with new pipe
  • Filling in the trench with a base of construction aggregate and dirt

The process may also require reseeding the affected land or, in some cases, repaving your driving surface.

Pipe replacement can prove somewhat costly (unless it requires only a minimally invasive shallow dig). But this choice brings peace of mind knowing you likely won’t need to address your water and/or sewer system for decades.

Furthermore, pipe replacement best serves municipal projects to update old roads and underground infrastructure. After tearing up a section of roadway, the water and sewer lines can be removed and replaced easily. It’s more sensible to address overall infrastructure upgrades in one project, rather than risk re-excavating new roadway for costly repairs in the near future.

When to Choose Pipe Lining

Perhaps you have an aging underground utility system that’s working fine for now but will begin decaying sooner rather than later. Lining your pipe is an effective (and cost-effective) stop-gap measure capable of adding years to its useful life. It also limits service disruption elsewhere in the water and sewer systems.

Your commercial property’s budget may not permit full replacement right now. The alternative is to install a lining to coat the pipe from the inside. Two different types of liners are epoxy-based and cured-in-place pipe (CIPP), the latter of which is best for large underground lines.

Sometimes lining is the only option when working space is limited, when it’d be too difficult or too dangerous to excavate. For example:

  • Unstable ground
  • Very rocky subsurface
  • Narrow access points
  • Existing structures above the line
  • Risk of a cave-in

Lining stops water inflow and infiltration (I & I), a process by which groundwater seeps into aging lines and overwhelms municipal wastewater treatment and river-outflow systems. Many federal and state environmental authorities have begun mandating fixes to such systems, but pipe lining is typically only a temporary solution.

It also doesn’t address pipe sagging, failures due to natural earth shifting, and instances when the pipe is legitimately too damaged to function. Eventually the time comes when full replacement is inevitable.

Long Live Your Pipes: Choosing Between Pipe Replacement and Lining

You need your underground utilities to hold up for years. Once they’re buried, they perform critical functions and can’t be ignored.

The choice between pipe replacement and lining is often rooted in economics. In most cases, however, an up-front investment in a full pipe replacement today promises minimal, if any, maintenance costs later.

Do you have further questions about your underground infrastructure? Contact Park Enterprise Construction Co., Inc. - a Marion, OH general contractor - at (740) 223-7275.


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Topics: underground utilities