Pipe Bursting

Mitch Wright Plumbing Tackles Slow Drain

trenchless pipe replacementMitch Wright Plumbing of Southaven, Mississippi, was called by a residential customer who was experiencing slow drains. Upon investigating the situation, the plumbers found extensive root infiltration in the home’s main sewer line. To make matters worse for the homeowner, they also discovered that the old clay pipe was collapsing and needed total replacement.


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Due to the condition of the pipe, relining was not an option. The homeowners expected to have their yard dug up, but were concerned about destroying the landscaping. They had several large, mature trees in the front of the home, as well as a large landscaped berm forming a natural water barrier. Luckily, traditional approaches to trenching and replacing the sewer pipe would not be necessary thanks to Mitch Wright Plumbing’s extensive experience with trenchless pipe replacement.

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Mitch Wright Plumbing has a full trailer dedicated to trenchless operations. Inside the trailer you will find the complete Spartan Undertaker trenchless system and a wide range of safety gear for all the job hazards the Wright crew encounters.

Mitch Wright Plumbing decided to bring in the Spartan Undertaker trenchless pipe replacement system to pull the new pipe through the old clay pipe. Pipe bursting and replacement with the Undertaker is less labor-intensive than pipe relining. A hydraulically powered cylinder pulls a bursting head through the existing pipe while simultaneously replacing it with seamless, high-flow, code-approved high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe.

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A hole was dug at each end of the run where the pipe needed to be replaced. Because the Undertaker has a small footprint of 24-in. x 30-in.; the holes at each end did not have to be very large and excavation was minimal. The puller unit was then braced with a ¾-in. plywood backboard, held in place with two 6-in. x 6-in. posts. No trench shoring was necessary for this job, but do check your local regulations for shoring before doing any trenchless pipe replacement.

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Once the holes were dug and the Undertaker was in place, the new pipe needed to be fused together. The facing tool is used to prepare the pipe end for fusing. The new pipe was laid out across the yard, fused, and then run to the pull site. Because 90 ft of pipe was being replaced and all the pipe needed to be fused together before starting the pulling, the mini-excavator was used to raise the pipe above the street to allow cars to pass underneath.

The fusing process eliminates air gaps and small spaces where the two pipe ends meet; this step is critical to achieving a perfectly sealed pipe. The pipe needs to be properly supported to ensure a well-fused joint. The time to prepare both pipe ends for fusing took about five minutes. The facing tool was then used to shave about ½ in. of pipe material from each end in order to even out the pipe faces. Once the two ends were observed to be a snug match, the iron was inserted in the gap between the ends and the ends were held against the iron using light pressure. Once a uniform 1/8-in. bead had formed on each end, the iron was removed and the pipes were collapsed together. Pressure was kept on the pipes being fused until the bead size was doubled. Once the bead has returned to ambient temperature, the fusing machine was removed and the next section of pipe was fused. The team fused over 90 ft of HDPE pipe before starting the lateral pull.

Once the pipe was fused and the machine was in place, it was time to start the process of pipe bursting and replacement. The brace plate and pulling unit were placed at the end of the run. The bursting head was attached to the new pipe and the pulling rope was fed through the existing line to the Undertaker unit. Once everything was attached and powered up, the pipe bursting and replacement was ready to begin.Pipe Bursting

In less than three hours, more than 90 ft of failing clay sewer main was replaced with a new 4-in. HDPE pipe.

The homeowner avoided thousands of dollars in landscaping repairs, the loss of large mature trees, and the berm that offered water protection to the property. What’s more, the home’s occupants continued to use their sinks, showers, and bathroom even as the plumbing techs performed repairs on the line. The homeowners were quite grateful to Mitch Wright Plumbing for offering an alternative that allowed them to keep their yard mostly intact and preserved the important elements of the yard that they treasured.

The Undertaker can increase the pipe diameter as well as accommodate 45 degree bends in pipe being replaced. The quick grip bursting head is capable of breaking through pipes made from any common material: clay tile, cast iron, Orangeburg, PVC or ABS. Thirty tons of pulling force allows you to lay new line at a rate of up to 5 ft per minute. This allows 2- to 6-in. pipe replacement with up to three 45-degree bends in the pipe, and can even upsize from 4- to 6-in. pipes. Custom length pulling ropes up to 200 ft are available and optional 2- and 3-in. bursting heads give you the ability to tackle a wide range of jobs.

Jennifer Shoemaker is marketing and e-commerce manager at Spartan Tool.