drain line repairs

Handling Drain Line Repairs: Pipe Bursting vs. Sleeving vs. Tunneling

You’ve got leaking drain lines that need to be repaired. Oy! Are there options for this? What about pipe bursting? Will that work in your case? Maybe sleeving?? What method is appropriate for your drain lines issues and will they work for broken drain lines under your slab too? You’ve got a lot of questions . . . 

Anchor Foundation Repair Bryan College Station

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we offer our 35+ years of expertise through impartial and empowering education. So when you’ve got these kinds of home repair questions, we have the answers you need. Though we are not plumbers, we do *speak plumber* and know a thing or two about how drain lines work in and around (but especially underneath) your home.

This article will explain the drain line repair methods of pipe bursting and sleeving. Then will discuss what those methods work well for compared to under-slab tunneling for handling drain line leaks under your home.

What Ways Can You Repair or Replace Leaking Drain Lines?

The drain line system of your house starts at each plumbing fixture that produces water, then goes under your slab foundation, through your yard, and joins up with your municipal sewer system or a septic system. 

underground lines

Here are the options to repair or replace leaking drain lines under your home:

  1. Replace piecemeal sections by breaking through the slab
  2. Replace piecemeal sections with under-slab tunneling
  3. Replace everything under the home with under-slab tunneling

Here are the options to repair or replace leaking drain lines that run underground through your yard:

  1. Replace piecemeal sections by digging up yard lines
  2. Replace all yard sections with digging
  3. Replace straight runs with pipe-bursting
  4. Replace straight runs with sleeving

Since the main focus of this article is on comparing pipe-bursting and sleeving to under-slab tunneling, let’s *dig a little deeper* into those options next.

What Is Pipe-Bursting and How Does It Work? (Method, Cost)

Pipe-bursting is a “trenchless” sewer line repair method. It’s not that there’s no digging whatsoever, but digging holes and trenches in your yard are kept to a minimum. A specialized machine feeds a new pipe along the same underground path as the old drain line. 

Pipe-bursting is used more often in larger-scale industrial applications, but there could be residential service providers out there somewhere.

As the new pipe is pushed/pulled through the ground, it breaks apart the old pipe. This *breaking apart* of the old drain line is where the “bursting” comes from in the term pipe-bursting. You get the new pipe in place by sliding it into the existing space and getting rid of the old stuff at the same time. 

trench in yard
Avoid digging up your yard

The pipe removal and replacement essentially happen at the same time. Fancy, huh?

Pipe-bursting is best used for collapsed or completely compromised straight drain lines in your yard. Bursting takes place underground and avoids large runs of your lawn having to be dug up, saving laborious digging time. This is especially beneficial if there is a long distance between your home and where the drain lines connect to the sewer or septic system. 

Another benefit is that the newly inserted pipe is the same diameter as what is being replaced. You lose no drainage volume capacity through the lines. 

The cost for pipe-bursting can run between $80 to $250 a foot. Yes, this is a higher cost than other methods, but what is being installed is meant to last. Let’s summarize everything we’ve talked about:

  • Trenchless sewer line repair with minimal digging
  • Great for long, straight runs of underground yard lines with only two connections
  • Maintains the original diameter of the replaced pipe
  • Higher cost compared to other methods with pricing at $80 to $250 per foot
  • Pipe material is intended for longevity and durability
  • Best used for collapsed and fully compromised drain lines in the yard

What Is Pipe Sleeving and How Does It Work? (Method, Cost)

Pipe sleeving could also be referred to as re-sleeving, relining, or plain ol’ sleeving or lining. It all means the same thing even when these other terms are used often interchangeably. Pipe relining is kind of like installing a new pipe inside the old pipe or putting a liner inside the old pipe.

Using resin-soaked fiber sleeves – a flexible but non-porous material – is pulled through the damaged drain lines. The resin sleeve will cure and become solid to stop the drain lines from leaking. Pipe sleeving is also a “trenchless” process and your original drain lines remain intact, they are just sealed up from the inside resulting in a slightly smaller diameter for your pipes.

It’s like pulling an inner tube through your pipes, but it’s not made of rubber.

Like pipe-bursting, sleeving is also good for straight yard runs of drain lines and you avoid the digging and the trenches. Pipe re-sleeving is best used for intact pipes with simple cracks that can be easily sealed.

looking for trenchless drain line repair
Get less of this with sleeving to repair drain lines

The cost for pipe sleeving is less than bursting at around $60 to $200 per foot. While it is a little cheaper, sleeving may only have temporary results since you still have a cracked outer pipe. However, once the resin cures, it’s no longer flexible and could be prone to re-breakage. In summary:

  • Another option of trenchless sewer line repair with minimal digging
  • Great for long straight runs of underground yard lines
  • Results in a smaller pipe diameter
  • Less expensive than bursting with pricing at $60 to $200 per foot
  • Re-sleeving may only have temporary results
  • Best used for intact pipes with cracks that can be sealed

Can I Use Pipe Bursting or Sleeving to Repair Under-Slab Lines?

you can't do pipe bursting or sleeving on this
Pipe bursting or sleeving are not going to work on this . . .

Pipe-bursting and sleeving sound like less intrusive options for replacing underground drain lines, don’t they? Couldn’t they also work under homes? 

You may have already picked up on this, but pipe-bursting and sleeving are better for yard lines and straight runs. When plumbing lines head under a slab there are turns, branch lines, joints, and smaller connections that impede the proper installation of a pipe bursting or sleeving process.

You might be able to do pipe bursting or sleeving under a slab foundation, but you would have to tunnel too! So you might as well just tunnel and skip the other approaches because then a plumber can replace the lines traditionally without bursting or sleeving. Just to repeat, here are the options to repair or replace leaking drain lines under your home:

  1. Replace piecemeal sections by breaking through the slab
  2. Replace piecemeal sections with under-slab tunneling
  3. Replace everything under the home with under-slab tunneling

What’s the Best Approach to Repair Leaking Drain Lines?

Now you know that depending on where the leaks are located in the drain line system, your options are different. The big thing to keep in mind with both pipe-bursting and sleeving is that they may or not be available in your area or through your chosen plumber. These are specialized services that require unique machinery. But here’s our final take on things:

  • Both pipe-bursting and sleeving are decent no-trench options for straight yard repairs,
  • If you’re worried about preserving your lawn, either method will help your situation,
  • Keep in mind that bursting and sleeving may or not be possible options for your issue or area,
  • Compare pricing between what’s available to you vs. the cost of digging a trench,
  • If leaks are under your home, under-slab tunneling is the least intrusive option.
under slab tunneling
You stay in your home and the plumber works underneath your home to fix this with under-slab tunneling.

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we try to help out homeowners even when we don’t offer the services you need. After 35+ years in business in the Brazos Valley, we want what’s best for your home and pledge to guide you through any foundation-related repair decisions when possible with Our Learning Center.

In this case, we can also help by giving your plumber access to leaks under your home with under-slab tunneling. Check out Under-Slab Tunneling vs. Breaking Through Your Slab (Pros and Cons) for more info on how this approach compares to the alternative.