HammerHead Trenchless Small Diameter Project

Small Diameter Trenchless Manufacturer Roundtable

Big Growth Forecasted for Small Diameter Trenchless Market

Let’s talk about the small diameter trenchless market. We tapped into the knowledge of a few industry experts, inviting them to share their perspective on this critical trenchless market segment.

We wanted to hear from them how the small diameter trenchless sector has grown and why. What is the outlook for small diameter trenchless work going forward?

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For this panel, we invited the following industry voices to share their insights on these questions and others:

  • Jeff Gabrielse, general manager at HammerHead Trenchless
  • Alex Meyer, product manager at RIDGID
  • James Kicklighter, technical services manager at MaxLiner
  • Larry Kiest Jr., owner, LMK Pipe Renewal

Describe exactly what the small diameter trenchless market encompasses. How is it different vs. general trenchless work?

Larry Kiest Jr: The small diameter market covers a broad spectrum of piping. Most people would think of service lateral pipes that run from the main pipe and connect to the building drain. The lateral pipes range from 4 to 6 in. in diameter, and most often, the lateral is lined, and the main/lateral connection is also reconstructed with CIPP. The service pipes are constructed of cast iron, vitrified clay, concrete, Orangeburg, PVC, and ABS plastic. The building drain collects flow from drain, waste and vent (DWV) piping. Rehabbing small diameter pipes can be tedious work as compared to mainline CIPP. The closer your work gets to the building, the more challenges you’ll encounter. Once you walk into a building to perform CIPP, you must now comply with local and state plumbing codes. The smaller the pipe, the more interaction with residents, and a host of other challenges, including vertical stacks.

A typical small diameter system

Jeff Gabrielese: At HammerHead, we consider the small diameter market to be lateral pipes 6 in. diameter and smaller and mainline pipes 6 to 12 in. in diameter. The type of work varies but it’s work done on lateral lines running from homes to the main sewer lines. It’s also pipes that aren’t underground in between the first and second floor or skyscrapers. The unique differentiator with this type of work is that our customers who are contractors work closely with homeowners, often accessing the pipes from their basements and bringing this trenchless equipment into the home. The reality is that the work usually starts with the contractor taking a call for a lateral line that needs cleaning followed by the discovery of damage. It requires contractors to be well-versed in all trenchless solutions and the best way to serve and accommodate the needs of their customers.

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Alex Meyer: Small diameter pipe rehab encompasses trenchless repairs in 6 in. and under pipes. These pipes can be everything inside the home all the way to the sewer lateral connecting to the city main. Common repair methods include cured-in-place pipe (CIPP), such as pipe patching or pipe relining, and spray-in-place pipe (SIPP). The process is similar whether in small diameter, or larger diameter pipes. In smaller diameter pipes, it is great having options for trenchless solutions that range from full length relining to spot repairs. This gives contractors multiple options and price points to offer solutions to their customers.

James Kicklighter: The small diameter trenchless market is by and large on the property of the customer, whether that be a private residence or commercial property. This work is generally done from the building to the street, or under the building and in the walls. The biggest difference between small diameter lining and mainline work is that a large number of the installations are done without access on the “B side.” When you see the big boys lining city mains in the street, they are shooting pit to pit. Small diameter installations are often done without access to the end of their liner, making landing the liner in the correct spot much more critical.

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RIDGID Pipe Patch Demo

Feels like we are hearing more and more about this market segment. How has the small diameter trenchless segment grown and evolved over the years?

JG: This market segment is a significant portion of our business portfolio. With 500,000 miles of private sewer laterals in the United States, the need for equipment to rehabilitate and replace small diameter pipes is crucial. The biggest evolution we’ve seen is the incorporation of technology. As technology improves across all areas of our personal lives, so does the need for these advancements to impact and benefit areas like pipe rehab. The HammerHead R&D team works diligently to advance our products, using voice of customer to ensure there’s a jobsite and crew need that also improves quality of the actual completed work. Regarding the in-building type of work, it’s important to make sure our equipment is both portable and durable so that it can be easily transported in and out of tight jobsites but powerful enough to get the job done.

AM: The small diameter trenchless segment has grown as pros began looking for more efficient solutions that let them provide quality repairs in less time, while also enhancing jobsite safety for their crews. As our infrastructure ages, more pipes are going to need to be repaired or replaced and trenchless solutions offer a range of benefits over digging such as time, cost, and limited effects on the environment. Other evolution in the smaller diameter market has been adding new packers and inversion liners that cover these smaller pipes as the market continues to grow in all these spaces.

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LK: From the beginning of CIPP and for many years thereafter, mainline rehabilitation from manhole to manhole was the predominant scope of work. It was many years later that lateral lining began to impact CIPP projects. Today, lateral lining represents a significant portion of the work on many municipal projects. Over time, the small diameter CIPP market has grown, especially in the plumbing industry.

RIDGID Small Diameter Trenchless

Crystal ball time. What is the forecast for this niche of the trenchless technology industry?

JG: Over the next five years, the lateral market is expected to grow 5 percent in North America and multiple factors drive demand. As municipalities make strides in assessing their sewer systems, they’re finding that laterals are a significant contributor to I/I (inflow and infiltration). This means attention is shifting from just the sewer mains to the whole system, which includes laterals. This understanding could also open the door to more funding at both state and federal levels. Additionally, and one that explains opportunity at the private level, a booming housing economy prompted the proactive inspection and remediation of laterals that became commonplace in the home inspection process.

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AM: As our infrastructure ages, more pipes are going to need to be repaired and trenchless solutions offer a range of benefits over digging such as time, cost, and effects on the environment. Rising populations and urbanization will also continue to add stress on our sewer lines. Based on the rapid expansion seen in Europe over the last 20-plus years we expect to see an increasing market growth rate near 10 percent in North America.

LK: History shows initial acceptance for CIPP was in mainline rehabilitation. We started with larger pipes, and our industry advanced as small diameter lateral lining and connection lining gained more and more acceptance. The acceptance of small diameter CIPP for DWV piping in plumbing codes will advance the CIPP industry that much more. It might be surprising, but with approximately 500,000 miles of private lateral pipes in the United States, just think about how many buildings there are and how many feet of piping in a building that could be a candidate for the minimally invasive CIPP.

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How important of a market segment is small diameter trenchless?

JG: It’s an extremely important market segment. Small diameter pipes are the laterals that run from the main sewer system to customers’ homes or businesses. Contractors want to provide home and business owners with a cost-effective way to rehabilitate or replace their damaged pipes, and this need is what drives HammerHead. A trenchless solution also means the work can be done without having to tear up a driveway or backyard saving costly extra work.

AM: Incredibly important. Small diameter pipes are often those that are maintained by a property owner. Digging and replacing a sewer lateral in someone’s front yard can be an enormous expense for the average family. Trenchless solutions can perform high quality repairs at a fraction of the cost and without having to dig up someone’s garden, landscaping, etc.

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LK: Small diameter pipe rehabilitation is important because, in the sewer world, a pipe is a pipe. If a pipe is plugged, it can cause disruption to service one or many and can lead to sanitary health issues. If the pipe leaks, it can cause damage regardless if it is below ground or above ground. Leakage can contaminate the environment, ruin ceilings, walls and floors that can lead to mold.

Are more people talking about this market in recent years? Why do you think this is?

JG: In recent years, we have seen great technological advances in the small diameter market, which has brought it to the forefront of the trenchless industry. With the introduction of light cure technology, small diameter trenchless rehabilitation became more efficient and cost-effective for the contractor. HammerHead launched its Bluelight LED lateral lining system in 2021 with the focus of small drainpipes 3 to 10 in. in diameter and the technology that we were able to include in that unit – automated pullback, integrated camera, and touch screen interface – allow our contractors to ensure quality to their customers.

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AM: Yes. As our infrastructure ages, there is more of a need to repair the existing sewer systems. Many business owners who are in these pipes every day providing drain cleaning and sewer inspection services are catching on that trenchless repairs can be a seamless, incremental addition to their business. As more exposure of these solutions reaches the market, more and more customers are asking contractors for these types of options. Many people love having options off a menu to consider and expanding offerings for smaller diameter pipes to prevent digging is a very attractive option that some people are even willing to pay a premium for to avoid the “hassle” with digging and replacing.

JK: The visibility and knowledge of the small diameter trenchless market has increased tenfold in my time in this industry. Twenty years ago, there were plumbers and drain guys who had never even heard of pipe rehabilitation for lateral and in-building pipes. Today, the general consumer is not only aware of our industry but knows that it is an accepted and approved repair method. Those same plumbers that had never heard of pipelining, patching, or bursting years ago are adding small diameter trenchless to their businesses now.

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LK: The advantage of CIPP was recognized more than 50 years ago. The speed, cost savings and minimal disruption, as compared to open cut dig and replace methods, are huge. The CIPP technology advanced with the inclusion of lateral lining and the benefits of preserving a homeowner’s yard, driveway, and large trees quickly became a priceless value. As CIPP is accepted more and more for use in the plumbing industry, the benefits for preserving ceilings, walls, trim, paint, and avoiding the mess that goes with demolition… I think it’ll be the hottest thing in CIPP.

HammerHead Trenchless Bluelight

What is going on in small diameter trenchless that most folks don’t know about? What is the hidden gem of this market?

JG: The small diameter trenchless industry is constantly evolving. HammerHead Trenchless plans to release two new products at WWETT 2024 in both the rehabilitation and replacement segment of the market. I think it’s also important to talk about the environmental aspect of the small diameter market. As I have mentioned above, we work closely with homeowners, so HammerHead is proud to offer 100 percent styrene-free resin for our lateral rehabilitation.

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AM: Spot or point repairs like Pipe Patching is the easiest way to add a trenchless solution to your business. These work great in smaller diameters and shorter distances and gives contractors another option to offer their customers. Compared to other methods of pipe repair, Pipe Patching is less complex, requires less time, and has lower up-front investment costs. The ROI on Pipe Patching products is huge, and the initial investment can often be repaid in just a couple of jobs.

LK: There is no secret that small diameter water service pipes are under attack for lead poisoning. The challenges are much greater for drinking water certification than it is for sewer rehabilitation, but the need is great. Trenchless methods for inserting a new service pipe inside the old pipe are available. There is also technology for pulling a new pipe in-place of the old pipe, and then of course a new service pipe can also be drilled into place. I believe the water service pipe market with more than 9 million lead pipes currently delivering water into homes and businesses will become a huge addition to the trenchless market.

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Small diameter trenchless repair

Final thoughts about market segment and your company’s role in it.

JG: Trenchless technology and its applications in this space are unique. Jobsites vary, conditions change, and the type of repair isn’t always ‘one size fits all’. The approach of HammerHead has always been to offer contractors multiple options relative to both pipe bursting and cured-in-place-pipe CIPP. When affected pipes are fully deteriorated or need to be upsized, a solution like pipe bursting that fully replaces the pipe is the best choice. In other applications, the pipe may have some damaged sections, so rehabilitation with CIPP is the right choice. We pride ourselves in being a full solution provider to customers in the trenchless space and look forward to continued growth and product advancements.

AM: RIDGID introduced its Pipe Patching System in 2022. It is an all-inclusive, start-to-finish solution for faster and simpler trenchless repairs. The versatile system can perform up to 6-ft fiberglass repairs in 2- to 6-in. pipe in straight sections, bends, transitions, and p-traps. Easy to add on Starter Systems include all basic equipment needed to begin Pipe Patching while Patch Kits include all required consumables for a single patch. The entire process can be completed in two hours or less.

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LK: My contracting business is a licensed installer of small diameter CIPP that complies with Industry standards ASTM F2561 for the reconstruction of a sewer service pipe and the gasket sealed main/lateral connection described in ASTM F3240. With the ever-growing small diameter CIPP market, many new complementary technologies have been developed, such as the ASTM F3097 Minimally Invasive Sewer Service Cleanout with Same Day Restoration. Other new technologies such as an improved order of operations provides plugging all system flows and filtering of CIPP emissions; this is a critical step to protect public health and ensure high-quality CIPP.

Sharon M. Bueno is editor of Small Diameter Trenchless presented by Trenchless Technology.

This article is featured in our first issue of the Small Diameter Trenchless digital magazine. The next issue will be out soon. To subscribe, go to trenchlesstechnology.com/sd/ 

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