The Cost-Saving Benefit of Pipe Lining on Display

Matt Mertz recounts how his company helped a restaurant client avoid a costly and time-intensive open-cut excavation to replace a sewer line

The Cost-Saving Benefit of Pipe Lining on Display

Matt Mertz

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Technicians at Matt Mertz Plumbing had their work cut out for them three years ago when they tackled a badly clogged cast-iron sewer line that ran under the kitchen of a popular steakhouse in Pittsburgh.

The 50-foot-long, 4-inch-diameter pipe was roughly 50% clogged with scale that was causing repeated backups in a kitchen-and-bar area located on a lower level of the restaurant, says Matt Mertz, former owner of the company. (Mertz sold the business to Armstrong Comfort Solutions in 2021 and now is that company’s director of plumbing operations.)

“They had a plumber there almost every week to jet or snake the line,” Mertz recalls. “The owner was getting bids of around $100,000 to manually excavate and replace the line, which would’ve shut down the restaurant for months.”

The fact that the pipe was 10 feet under the kitchen area, which was already 8 to 10 feet lower than the rest of the restaurant, only added to the cost.

But Mertz offered the owner a solution for half that price: line the pipe using a system from Perma-Liner Industries.

The only excavation required was a 5-by-5-foot, 10-foot-deep hole in the kitchen floor that provided access to clean the line and shoot the liner. The job took 2 1/2 days.

On the first day, a Wednesday, a four-man crew spent about 10 hours descaling the line with a Warrior trailer-mounted water jetter (4,000 psi at up to 18 gpm) equipped with a Warthog nozzle from StoneAge. The objective was to restore the pipe as close to its original condition as possible to prepare it for lining.

“The scale buildup was bad — about 2 inches thick in about 45 feet of the pipe,” Mertz says. “We removed about five or six 5-gallon buckets full of scale. We used a jetter instead of a chain-knocker because the pipe was very old and brittle, so we didn’t want to get too rough with it.”

On the second day, the crew lined the pipe with a steam-cured felt liner. About a half dozen 45-degree bends made the job, which took about 14 hours, even more risky and complex.

“All those bends made it harder to install the liner so it was smooth, with no wrinkles,” Mertz says. “But we made it happen. We were there from about 7:30 in the morning to nearly midnight because we didn’t want to disrupt business any more than needed.”

The crew then completed the job by using a MICROpremium robotic cutter from IMS Robotics EN to reinstate six tap connections, then patched the kitchen floor.

“You’d never even know we were there,” Mertz says. “The client was thrilled because the problem was fixed in days instead of months, with minimal disruption to the business. And he never flinched at the price because it was about half as much as the bids for manual excavation to replace the pipe. We basically charged a premium price for taking on the risk. If a job like that goes sideways, it would’ve been a nightmare — very expensive to fix. Failure wasn’t an option. I credit our success on that project to our equipment and our guys. We had the confidence and experience to get the job done. It was the kind of job where you definitely had to know what you were doing.”

Read more about Matt Mertz Plumbing and Armstrong Comfort Solutions in the February 2023 issue of Cleaner magazine.


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