Ask the Right Questions Before Investing in a Lining System

Here are a few items contractors should be leery of as they hunt the market for a lining system

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When someone says “trust me,” my radar goes off. It makes me think they are simply trying to sell me on an idea and don’t completely know what they are talking about. Are you the same way?

I’ve seen this come into play in the pipe lining business as contractors work with vendors to select materials or lining systems. This is how I address the “trust me” responses.

Ask for details. If it’s a process, ask for the recorded limits that have been done. For our industry, it may involve the time to complete a project or the longest length of liner ever completed. Also ask whether the process meets all of the industry standards, and what the final “out the door” costs are.

Many of these questions will help you determine everything you need to know. For example, I was once told a lining system could complete a job in an hour. That sounded pretty fast to me, and in examining the details, I discovered the vendor was talking about an hour with everything on site, line opened and cleaned, and someone to stand by while the liner cured. Educate yourself before listening to the sales pitch.

Another example of “trust me” involved the length of liner that could be completed. The vendor said 400 feet could easily be lined with his system, but after the customer bought the system and it was delivered, they found the 400-foot shot had to be divided up into three individual shots in order to complete the work. In one respect, the vendor was correct. You could line 400 feet of pipe. The customer thought it was all in one shot, but the vendor left out the part that the equipment could only hold 160 feet of material at a time. It was costly for both the vendor and the customer. The customer tied up a crew and equipment and didn’t get any work done. The vendor lost out because the equipment and materials were returned.

Another “trust me” moment came when a vendor was asked if the process met industry standards. He said absolutely it did. But the vendor provided a linoleum roller with no vacuum pump for impregnation. A linoleum roller spreads the resin in a tube, leaving air bubbles in the wetted-out tube and not meeting the specifications the industry has adopted. So why did the vendor offer a linoleum roller? In order to be competitively priced, he couldn’t afford to offer a calibration roller and vacuum pump.

The final example I’ll relate is about the final costs for acquiring a lining process. A customer got a price quote for equipment and materials. When he asked if all the costs were included he was assured with “trust me, you have everything you need included.” The vendor was right that all the equipment and materials were included in the quote, but the quote left off a few things: training, freight, setup, and sales tax. When the customer got his equipment delivered he ended up with extra charges that were over $5,000 from the quote he’d originally received.

When he called the vendor to get clarity, they told him that they had no control over the government tax issue and that no one could expect the freight company to deliver for free. When he asked about training, he was offered several options. The option on his invoice required him to fly across the country to the vendor’s training facility for several days and did not include airfare, hotel, meals or local transportation. If he wanted them to train him at his site, they’d have an upcharge from their “in-house” training price.

The final straw was about the setup fee. The response was, “You’d surely want the equipment assembled by us to ensure that everything works properly. We could send the unassembled equipment, but you’d have to get special tools to put it all together as many pieces are specialty parts that can only be assembled with our specialty tools.”

The lesson is that the “trust me” statement may send a red flag that needs a little more clarification before proceeding.

About the author
John Heisler is the owner of Pipe Lining Supply and Quik-Lining Systems Inc. He has 20 years of experience in the CIPP lining industry and over 40 years in the underground construction industry.


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