PipePatch Gives Plumber a Competitive Advantage

Trenchless spot repairs appeal to customers who can’t afford expensive opencut pipe replacement methods

PipePatch Gives Plumber a Competitive Advantage

The PipePatch spot-repair lining system from Source One Environmental is a trenchless option that can be installed through a clean-out, making it a great solution when opencut pipe replacement isn’t feasible. 

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Roughly four years ago, plumber and drain cleaner Chris Bontempo wanted to offer his customers a sewer line replacement method that was less expensive and disruptive than traditional excavation. On the other hand, the owner of Bontempo Plumbing in suburban Milwaukee didn’t want to get into full-scale pipe lining systems.

He found a solution in the PipePatch spot repair trenchless lining system from Source One Environmental (S1E).

“It’s nice to be able to offer customers another option because not everyone can afford to dig up their sewer line,” explains Bontempo, who established his company in 2013. “Now I can offer them a solution without digging up their front yards, sidewalks, landscaping or even streets.

“In fact, I often can install a PipePatch through a clean-out without even breaking up a basement floor. Or if a customer’s sewer line dumps right into a nearby mainline, I can work backward through a manhole to their basement clean-out without even disturbing occupants in the house.”

The longest S1E PipePatch is 4 feet. But he can install consecutive patches to cover longer distances. The patches also come in various diameters, from 1 1/2 to 72 inches.

“We just installed three 2-foot-long PipePatches in a row to replace about 5 feet of bad 6-inch-diameter clay pipe under a huge tree,” Bontempo says. “It took us about nine hours, overlapping each patch by about 4 inches. The customer was extremely happy with the results.”

More benefits

The S1E system gives Bontempo a competitive price advantage compared to traditional excavation methods. In the aforementioned job, he charged about $5,800, much less than the $12,000 quoted by other contractors who proposed using opencut methods.

In another case, a customer received several bids for opencut installations, ranging from $8,000 to $10,000 to repair about a 6-foot section of a broken sewer lateral. “I came in at about $3,100,” he says.

Moreover, a patch system fixes only the section of pipe that needs repair, which reduces not only installation times compared to full-length pipe lining, but also the cost of materials, labor and initial equipment investments. It’s also safer and requires no shoring systems like opencut jobs require.

The system uses cured-in-place pipe technology, which essentially is a fiberglass patch that’s impregnated, or wetted-out, with resins that cure at ambient temperatures. When it’s fully cured, the patch — which is comparable to a stent inserted in a clogged artery to restore blood flow — is only about 1/8 inch thick. As such, the host pipe maintains nearly all of its original diameter.

Simple installation

Here’s how the PipePatch system works: After wetting-out a patch with the resins, wrap it around an inflatable device called a packer. Use zip ties to keep it tightly bound. Then attach an air-compressor hose to the packer and push it into the host pipe using 5-foot-long pushrods that snap together to achieve the required length.

Bontempo uses RIDGID SeeSnake inspection cameras to determine the distance to the repair and a PORTER-CABLE pancake air compressor to inflate the packer. For general drain cleaning, he uses RIDGID machines and pipe locators and also owns one drain machine made by Milwaukee Tool.

When the packer is centered over the repair — Bontempo double-checks the position with his camera — inflate the packer. “We listen for the ties to pop open, so we know it’s inflating,” he says.

The patch initially is about 3/4 inch thick, but it compresses significantly when the packer presses it tightly against the host pipe. After about two hours of curing time, deflate the packer and pull it out. “Then we reinspect the patch with a camera,” he says.

It typically takes about five hours to install one patch about 30 to 40 feet into a pipeline. Pipes must be cleaned ahead of time; Bontempo uses a Clog Dog Flex Shaft drain machine (Clog Squad) to prep pipes. One person can install a patch, but two people make it a little easier, he says, given the limited time available before the resins start to cure.

Top-notch training

Bontempo says it took between five and 10 jobs before he felt confident about the installation process. He chose S1E’s system because of the training and customer service. “S1E actually sent someone down to train me and perform test runs in various scenarios, using practice pipes,” he says.

It really is a simple process, but you still need to be vigilant, he adds. “The worst thing that can happen is the patch slides off the rear of the packer. Then you need a retrieval tool; I use my Clog Dog.”

In situations where the patch covers a wye or tee branch connection, the PipePatch system enables contractors to reinstate the branches from behind the connection, perhaps from a toilet or some other fixture, he explains.

The initial PipePatch investment was about $3,000. Prices for the patches vary, starting at around $350 for a 2-footer. All in all, the system has been a very good investment, Bontempo says.

“It basically paid for itself after two jobs. It’s definitely worthwhile when you’re earning pure profit after just two installations. And it’s always good to have as many repair options for customers as possible. Making that leap to trenchless repairs is the way to go.”


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