Tim Thompson Plumbing services customers in the southeast area of Michigan, known locally as “Downriver.” The majority of its work is maintaining sanitary sewer laterals, or the pipes that connect from the dwellings to the public main.


Most homes in the Motor City (Detroit) area were part of the rapid growth and expansion during the booming economy dating back to the early 1920s. These “cookie-cutter” neighborhoods add to the complexity of sewer repairs because the residential properties are generally very small lots with lateral sewers running out to the backyards, continuing to the city main.


The average depth of the main is around 14 to 20 ft deep and many times located beneath overhead power lines, making dig and replace very complex. The way these systems were built and plumbed adds to the level of difficulty. Additionally, the stormwater is tied into the lateral and, as a result, if the lateral is blocked, residents cannot use any drains, including their toilets, showers or sinks. If there is a heavy rain event or rapid snowmelt in the winter and spring months, the home may flood if their main drain is not functioning properly.


CIPP in Michigan


Until Tim Thompson Plumbing discovered and began implementing trenchless technologies, excavation typically involved drilling through driveways, taking down fences, garages and, in some instances, other houses, resulting in a lot of collateral damage, safety concerns, unnecessary cost and unsightly restoration.


With the complications of small yards and tight basement access (aka “Michigan Basements”), compact equipment is paramount to Tim Thompson Plumbing. So, when MaxLiner introduced its cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) lining system with the new Max E-Roller option for calibrated wet out, it was the perfect solution to address these unique challenges.


“I am able to mount the E-Roller to my workbench in my trailer for wet outs, which is especially great in the cold winter months in Michigan, or when it’s raining,” says Kyle Thompson, son of Tim Thompson, who founded the business 35 years ago. “If needed, I can quickly detach it from the mounting plate by simply pulling the locking pins, carry it into the yard and quickly set up on some folding tables to support the weight of the liner, or set it on the ground so we don’t have to manipulate a heavy, wetted out liner. Powered by standard 110v, we can easily take it into a basement, garage, or any tight spot as well.”


The contractor recently completed a private sewer lateral project in which every joint was plagued with roots.


“A few weeks prior to the scheduled lining day, we installed the clean out, removed all of the heavy root blockages and restored flow to our customer. The day before lining, we re-cleaned the pipe, removed another small root obstruction that had already grown back, then collected all our measurements,” Thompson says. “In the shop, we built the liner, assembled the lay-flat recirculation hose to the calibration tube and measured out the length to calculate the resin needed. The next day on site, we mixed the resin and were able to wet out the liner using the E-Roller in our compact trailer. The liner chosen for this particular application was Max Stitched LinerTube Reinforced (aka SCRIM Liner), 6-in. by 3 mm.”


“Another great feature to the electric roller is the gap setting gauge. As we open and close the feed rollers, we can easily see what the gap is. In my opinion this is much faster and more convenient than using shims. Normally we would set a 3-mm liner at 7 mm to allow for the 3-mm thickness x 2 + 1mm formula for the coating, but the liner has a felt strip under the stitching, so we added 1 mm to allow for it, setting it at 8mm. After installing the liner and calibration tube, using the Max LinerGun, the liner was cured using the Max HotKick 2.0 Hot Water Curing unit.


“The key to our success on this job was the E-Roller. Being electric versus a hand crank decreased our wet-out time and gave us an extra set of hands in controlling the wet-out process since the feed rollers are controlled with a foot pedal. It also comes equipped with a variable speed control dial and forward/reverse switch, allowing us to run it in both directions if needed – all perfectly placed for ideal operation. And, in addition to an emergency shut-off button located on top, the roller will actually stop if we build up too much pressure in our resin slug.


“In our earlier training, Chad Miller, MaxLiner USA’s technical services manager, thoroughly went through the proper methods to wet out our liners and stressed how imperative it is to ensure our vacuum continually draws out the air. Miller showed us first-hand what it’s like to fight an air pocket in the liner – cementing the importance of keeping a good vacuum. Because MaxLiner taught us the ‘why’ of performing needed steps, we now have total confidence in accepting challenging jobs.


Tim Thompson with his senior airman daughter Carley, and Kyle.

Tim Thompson (left) with his senior airman daughter Carley, and Kyle. Carley was a part of the family business prior to her deployment.


“Productivity without compromising safety is always on our minds. Adding trenchless CIPP technology to our arsenal of services allows us to stay safe in small yards and – equally as important – provide our customers with solutions that are less disruptive and save both time and money. Admittedly, it has been a large learning curve for us; we are only five years into offering trenchless technologies. But, with MaxLiner’s training and support, we were able to ramp up much sooner than expected. And, when a mistake is made on our end, MaxLiner guides us on how to recover materials without spending additional capital.”


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