Plumber Finds Ways to Both Grow Business and Develop New Talent

APEX CIPP Solutions provides complete lining solutions and expert guidance for every project

Plumber Finds Ways to Both Grow Business and Develop New Talent

 A representative from APEX shows a customer’s team how to line a 16-story vertical stack using continuous inversion. This 186-foot shot was accomplished with an APEX-branded Tubolino inversion drum, a MaxLiner cal tube and Brawoliner liner.

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Craig Underwood and James Kicklighter have had long and diverse careers in the trenchless pipeline rehabilitation industry. After years of managing lining companies, installing CIPP throughout the country, they knew firsthand the greatest challenges CIPP contractors face. So, together with their partners, they opened APEX CIPP Solutions three years ago to fill a need in the trenchless industry.

APEX was created to help contractors find everything they need in one place: reliable, field-tested equipment, and the training and support to solve any pipeline rehab challenges they might face. The duo believes strongly in supporting their customers, talking through a complex lining layout over a video call or bringing a demo unit to a job site to help a customer out of a tough spot.

Cleaner recently spoke with Underwood, APEX general manager, and Kicklighter, technical director, about the company’s goal of providing pipe lining contractors with one place to get all the equipment and guidance they need, how their company is evolving, and what to expect if you partner with APEX CIPP Solutions.

Cleaner: Tell us a little about the history of APEX CIPP Solutions.

Underwood: APEX CIPP Solutions originated out of a genuine need within the trenchless industry. After years of operating thriving small-diameter pipe lining companies, we found we were always searching for the very best equipment, materials and installation methods. Although our quest produced incredible business success, it cost us dearly in time, travel and research and development. We knew that if we could bring everything together in one common place and make it easily accessible, we could help CIPP companies throughout the Americas reach new levels of success. So, that’s exactly what we’ve set out to do.

Cleaner: What differentiates your CIPP solutions from the competition?

Underwood: At APEX, we will only sell what we believe in. About 70% of the products we test don’t make the cut. The items we carry are the same ones we want with us on our job sites, the ones we’ve traveled the world to find. We don’t just sell these products; we actually know how to use them. And we can support you in using them on your projects. Thanks to our field testing, you can go to our website (apexcipp.com) and make a confident purchase at your convenience. We’ve made it simple to supply your company with the best of the best equipment, materials and training.

Some of our most popular items are the Dancutter robotic reinstatement cutters. These flexible Danish machines, with a wide range of sizes, accessories and 360-degree cutting heads, are practically unstoppable. Plus, we include training, which gives us the chance to work on real projects alongside great lining teams from every corner of the country. We’re proud to be the home of Dancutter USA and the United States’ only certified service center.

Of course you need more than a great cutter to install CIPP. So, we’ve pulled together a stellar lineup of equipment and materials designed to help you succeed. Again, these are all products we know and depend on. We call them the overperformers. Whether you’re new to pipe lining or a seasoned pro wanting to take your company to the next level, we can get you up and running fast.

We’re also seeing a huge interest in our UV systems, spray lining systems, premium transitional liners, fitting liners and more. There have been significant advancements in technology, and we have carefully chosen to partner with proven products that we use and trust. It’s an exciting time for our industry.

When you order from APEX CIPP Solutions, we’re joining your team. We’re here to support you every step of the way. In fact, we get calls from teams working on live projects and we’re glad to help talk them through best practices or help them make a decision about a material choice. We’re part of your team; that’s what we do.

Cleaner: What sort of needs do they address? Tell us about your pipe lining products and what applications they best serve. 

Kicklighter: While we concentrate on small-diameter CIPP (2-16 inches), our products address many needs within the specialty plumbing services. We have a fantastic line of drain cleaning equipment, a nontoxic vapor/fogger that is pet-safe and one of the easiest systems you’ll find, and we also carry hard to find add-ons that can help your equipment perform better.

For serious lining teams, fitting liners have been a game changer. Our Repiper wye liners and steam cure products make sectional repairs and 100% sealed system rehabs better than ever. We often perform live demos of these fitting liners at trade shows. It really grabs attention.

One overlooked area of CIPP is vertical stack lining. The market is wide open and in high demand. We’ve developed a streamlined installation process and quick-start training program that will help your company add this lucrative and much needed service.

If you’re currently lining laterals, you probably have most of the equipment you need to add vertical stack lining. With the proper training and support, you can include high-rise condominiums, commercial/retail buildings and more to your list of clients. These jobs can offer a consistent revenue stream and a steady work flow. At APEX, we’re committed to helping our customers reach their business goals; adding vertical stack lining is one way to achieve those goals.

Cleaner: What are some recommendations for customers shopping for lining systems or products?

Kicklighter: When shopping for lining systems and products, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of industry. The right type of equipment and materials will vary depending on the type/scale of projects you have and even the climate you’re in. Our no-obligation consults assist you in navigating the variables and prevent you from being stuck with useless purchases. We’re going to get you what you need and support your team in onboarding any system you buy from APEX. We empower your team to take you as far as you want to go.

We get to know our customers very well. We want to know what makes the most sense for them, so we ask a lot of questions about what you’re trying to accomplish and what your services are. We’re not going to try to sell you something if we don’t think it’s a good fit. And we’ll be the first to tell you if we think there’s a better option for you, even if we don’t sell it.

When we ran lining companies, we wished we had a company that could provide service on our equipment, help us with training and guide us toward smart equipment and system purchases, but that didn’t exist. That’s why we created APEX CIPP Solutions. We’re the company we always wanted to have working for our pipe lining teams. Now, we work for you.

Cleaner: What is the learning curve like on these systems? What types of training and support do you offer customers?

Kicklighter: We’re real pipe liners and business owners here, so we’re not into overcomplicated things. We know it’s important to get products working for you as soon as possible. Still, some are easier than others. It also depends on the experience of the technician. For instance, if you’ve used another brand of reinstatement cutter, you’ll be shocked at the simplicity and flexibility of the Dancutters. On the other hand, we have a highly sophisticated spray coating system from Repipe that will allow you to spray-coat with near limitless options and precision, but it will take some training and practice to become proficient. No matter what system you purchase through APEX, you can count on our support.

Training is included in most of our equipment purchases. We have facilities in two Florida locations or we are happy to arrange training at your location for a small fee. Our customers enjoy having us work along with them to bring a project to completion. It’s a total win since your team gets comfortable with the equipment while we’re there to ensure your job is completed accurately and on time. 

Cleaner: How do you see the pipe lining industry evolving? 

Underwood: The pipe lining industry is experiencing incredible growth. Increased time spent at home spurred many to invest in property improvements, which likely helped boost the plumbing industry in general. But pipe lining in particular has emerged triumphant throughout an otherwise unfathomable period of difficulty. It offers customers a manageable option to pipe replacement. It’s important to note that the health benefit of lowering hazardous waste exposure is reason enough to believe that this industry will continue to expand and evolve.

I believe as more information about this minimally invasive technology becomes available to property owners, the demand for both vertical and lateral pipe lining will increase. Throughout this time of expansion, it’s critical that we protect the integrity of this industry. As with many trades, there are subpar installers that aren’t following best practices. We’ve all heard the stories or had to go in and remove a bad liner. It’s not fair to the property owners and it’s not fair to our industry. APEX CIPP Solutions is here for those who want to elevate our trade.

As mentioned, vertical stack lining will likely grow as the demand continues to increase. In the near future, we believe UV curing will gain in application. Spray-on, brush-on and spot-fix options will probably become more common, and materials such as liners and resins will continue to advance in composition and range of use. Who knows, we may someday see wireless connectivity and AI integrated so that our drainage lines will actually alert us when there’s buildup forming or a tree root approaching.

Until that happens, we can look for innovative lining companies to play a key role in what is to come. Manufacturers are listening carefully to feedback from users and translating it into product enhancements. We’ve already seen this from some of our amazing manufacturers from around the globe (that’s why we partner with them). Customer- and data-driven improvements are absolutely the way of the future.

Cleaner: What’s new for APEX CIPP in 2021? What can customers expect out of APEX in the future? 

Underwood: We are so honored to be working in CIPP at this time. It’s been a long road getting here. We’ve put nearly two decades of practical research and development behind it. Our team has experts in installation, business management, sales, marketing and operations. We know how tough it can be to run a lining company and we’ve made every effort to take some of that burden off of you.

Whether you’re looking for training in the single-step inversion installation method or wanting to know what type of cutting head works best for concrete, we’re your support system. We can get you bulk epoxy in 500 gallon drums or send you our smallest sample to test with your crew. We’ll even do a complimentary virtual consult and demo if there’s a piece of equipment you’re interested in.

Our goals include continuing our commitment to transparency. We currently have 24/7 ordering and openly list all of our prices, which is rare for a retail distributor, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Cleaner: What do you want your customers to think of when they hear the name APEX CIPP Solutions?

Underwood: We chose the name APEX because it represents the peak or pinnacle, and we truly feel that our products and services offer a way for your lining company to reach the top of the field. The Solutions portion of our name means that as your support team, we’re going to offer solutions that are custom fit for your company and meet your current and future needs. Simply put, we’re going to help you reach your highest potential.

We want you to think of APEX CIPP Solutions as part of your team, here to support you in every area of your business. Your success is our best compliment. 



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