Pros and Cons of Trenchless Sewer Repair

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Repairs to plumbing systems were the most common type of consumer home repairs made in the U.S. in 2019, with just shy of 28% of respondents reporting that they made a plumbing repair that year.

While no plumbing problem is fun for homeowners to have, some issues are worse than others due to the money, time, skill and equipment needed to get your plumbing back up and running smoothly. 

Unfortunately, issues with your main sewer line often fall into this category. Small, localized sewer repairs may cost as low as around $650, but if your main sewer line needs to be replaced all the way from your house to the street, it can cost up to about $20,000.

Luckily, a sewer line repair method known as trenchless sewer repair can help lower costs AND minimize damage to your yard and/or nearby structures. If your sewer line is in need of repair, here are some pros and cons to consider when deciding whether trenchless sewer repair might be right for you.

What Is Trenchless Sewer Repair?

To fully understand the pros and cons of trenchless sewer line repair, you’ll need to know how the trenchless repair process works. Traditionally when making a sewer line repair, a deep trench that extends past the width of your main sewer line needs to be dug for workers to access the section(s) of pipe that need repair. This is done after a sewer scope inspection, which allows experts to correctly locate and diagnose the problem before work begins.

In contrast, trenchless sewer repair methods don’t involve overly invasive digging or excavation. Instead, they use the existing pipe system as a guide to pull new piping through. 

This method, known as pipe bursting, breaks apart the existing pipe while simultaneously replacing it. Better yet, all it requires is two 4’ by 4’ pits at each end of the pipe, typically in the grass, and the rest of your lawn remains untouched.

While trenchless sewer repair has been around since the 1970s, it wasn’t suitable for pipes with small diameters, such as those used in single-family homes. Over the last two decades, however, trenchless sewer line repair and replacement methods have advanced to work for most repair situations.

The Pros of Trenchless Sewer Repair

Trenchless sewer line repair has a lot of benefits over traditional “trench” repair methods, especially related to factors like:

  • Total project cost
  • Land and daily life disruption
  • Sewer line durability and longevity
  • Repair time 

Reduced Property Damage

Because trenchless sewer repairs don’t require extensive digging and excavation, you don’t need to worry about damage to your landscaping or other structures, such as your porch, driveway and sidewalk – all of which can be costly and time-consuming to repair once the plumbing work is complete.

Potentially Lower Costs

Although trenchless sewer repair itself tends to be costlier than traditional trench repair methods, it can easily end up being less expensive by avoiding the need for you to fix the surrounding area after all equipment has left.

In other words, you are only paying for the sewer line repair – not repairs to your yard and any other structures that would’ve sustained damage during excavation.

Trenchless sewer repairs also require less manpower, which can save you money on labor costs.

Faster Job Completion

Digging trenches takes time, even with large mechanical equipment. The trenches needed to make sewer line repairs can be up to 6 ft. deep – or more! 

Because trenchless sewer repairs skip this step, they can be done in as little as a day, as opposed to some traditional trench repairs that can take weeks to complete. 

Less Disruption

Since trenchless sewer repairs can often be done quickly, this means there is less disruption to your daily life. It also avoids potential closures of your driveway and/or street due to large equipment coming in and out – which can also tear up other parts of your lawn. 

Remember that if your sewer line repair project takes a week or more to complete due to excavation, you’ll be without sewage the entire time. This means you won’t be able to:

  • Flush toilets
  • Wash dishes
  • Do laundry
  • Brush your teeth
  • Do anything else that involves wastewater

As you can imagine, this is not ideal, especially in today’s work-from-home era.

Longer-Lasting Results

When installed properly, trenchless sewer line repairs can last 50+ years, making it much less likely that you’ll ever have to go through this again! Today’s replacement pipes are also made of stronger materials than pipes of the past, which means they’ll be more durable.

The Cons of Trenchless Sewer Repair

While trenchless sewer repair is a great option in most cases, there are a couple of downsides to weigh when considering which repair process is best for your home sewer line.

Requires Trained Technicians

Trenchless sewer repairs can’t be done by just any plumber. They require special knowledge, training and equipment to ensure your sewer line repair is done correctly.

When looking for a company to handle your trenchless sewer repair, be sure they:

  • Are certified by reputable manufacturers
  • Have years of experience with trenchless sewer repairs and replacements
  • Own their own equipment (This is a big investment, so companies that have purchased their own equipment are serious!)
  • Have insurance coverage
  • Have a good reputation, reviews and/or trustworthy recommendations

Of course, for homeowners in the greater Portland, OR, area, Alpha Environmental can manage these repairs no problem!

Not Suitable for All Circumstances

Unfortunately, trenchless sewer repairs can’t be used 100% of the time. This repair method is great for problems like cracked, eroded or misaligned pipes. However, especially with older sewer systems, some sewer lines may be damaged beyond saving. 

If your pipes are broken or collapsed beyond repair, or if they’re not correctly installed, the only way to fix the problem may be to dig them up and replace them entirely. This may also be true if the pipes have damaged any other nearby underground utilities. Your sewer scope inspection can provide this information.

More Expensive

On average, trenchless sewer line repairs cost about 30% more than traditional digging methods when it comes to the cost of the repair itself. In Portland, trenchless sewer repair costs typically average between $4,000 to up to $15,000. 

However, it’s important to keep in mind that you won’t be spending thousands of extra dollars on lawn and landscaping repairs caused by conventional digging. This means you’ll likely still save money by choosing a trenchless sewer repair – and you’ll avoid unexpected costs when the project ends.


If you’re experiencing slow drains, water backups in your shower or toilet, standing water in your yard near your sewage drain or sewage inside a floor drain, it’s likely that there’s a problem with your main sewer line. Don’t wait to have your sewer line inspected or repaired until the problem becomes larger.

The experts at Alpha Environmental have the training and tools needed to repair your sewer line using eco-friendly trenchless methods. Contact us today for a sewer scope inspection to determine whether a trenchless sewer repair might be best for you, or call us at 503-292-5346 to schedule a free estimate.

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David D.
Lake Oswego, OR
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My wife and I experienced a hot water pipe busting in the crawlspace. It has been a total nightmare. However, Chris and his team provided expert quality care, with timeliness and the greatest degree of professionalism. I would HIGHLY recommend Alpha Enviornmental!
Zhanna S.
Beaverton, OR
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Can’t say enough about Alpha Environmental! Their costumer service is 10/10, they have really good systems in place, responsive, and professional. The gals in the scheduling department are always so kind! As a real estate agent, I use Alpha’s services numerous times a year. Either it’s for Mold bids, oil tank decommissioning, radon etc. They always do a fantastic job! Thank you for all the work you do!