Line that Pipe
December 2, 2011
New construction may have slowed to a crawl in most sectors, but millions of existing homes and commercial spaces need serious plumbing work. Infrastructure ages and with age comes damage.
While stop-gap repairs to pipes may delay the inevitable, at some point customers need to find a permanent solution. The traditional option is to re-pipe-replacing the old pipe with new pipe and repair damage created by mold or leaks in the pipe. Many companies can do this job without extensive digging and in a timely manner.
Or, customers can choose to line existing pipes.
Residential, commercial and municipal customers increasingly are looking at pipe lining as a less-costly alternative to a total re-pipe.
Lining isn't a new technology-versions have been around for awhile-but pipe lining is being used more in projects that range from single-family residential jobs to massive storm drains. Lining systems are being used in both sewer line and potable water line applications.
Today's lining products can be used for piping servicing potable water, HVAC and fire suppression systems and for all drain/sanitary systems in single-family residential and all sizes of buildings and properties. Teamed with the latest electronic pipe inspection equipment, lining technology can be applied both interior and exterior to structures.
Typically, for pipe lining, epoxy-impregnated material is installed within sanitation pipes via pull-in-place or inversion methods. An epoxy coating also can be injected into potable water piping.
Owners and managers of apartments, condominiums, hotels and resorts and commercial buildings are taking a hard look at the total costs of rehabilitating aging plumbing in the light of the current economic crunch. Along with job costs, companies are looking at potential disruption of business during any construction or reconstruction projects.
Plumbers interested in selling pipe lining will have to work with building and property managers to bid on and build this niche for commercial business. For experienced plumbers and plumbing contractors, pipe lining isn't a difficult add to that list of services, lining manufacturers said.
Lining system producers note that the market for pipe lining is growing rapidly as more potential customers learn the benefits of lining compared to re-piping.
"Lining is faster and more convenient than dig-and-replace applications," said Morgan Trouard, director of marketing for Perma-Liner Inc. in Clearwater, Fla. Pipe lining eliminates root intrusion, stops infiltration and exfiltration, renews pipe to a minimum 50 years per ASTM F1216 third party testing, bridges missing sections of pipe and can line virtually any pipe material, she said.
The convenience factor is important in several market niches, said Chris Luttrell, marketing manager for Nu Flow, based in Toronto. One key benefit of pipe lining compared to pipe replacement is preservation of the property's hardscape, landscape and building. "The property is able to stay open and functioning. Any time you go for a total replacement, there is a serious inconvenience, whether you are ripping out walls or floors, tearing up a driveway or interlocked brick, or even just ripping the lawn to pieces."
Pipe lining is an alternative to conventional re-piping that limits digging, cutting into walls, floors, ceilings and foundations to replace or repair pipes, agreed Larry Gillanders, the CEO of ACE DuraFlo Systems in Santa Ana. "The product is applied in a cost-efficient manner to combat corrosion and other factors that reduce the life of a piping system, as well as reduce the leaching of harmful metals such as lead into the drinking water supply."
Reducing Inconvenience does matter to customers, especially commercial enterprises, Luttrell said. "Re-piping can get really tricky inside commercial buildings. When you have sanitary stacks going down the inside of a huge building, there can be a great deal of occupant displacement. You'll be tearing out walls and have people working in other areas for a long period of time. Lining can be quick and simple; you won't make a mess and won't have to tear anything out."
Pipe lining is less expensive than a re-pipe, lining manufacturers said. "Lining can offer extreme cost savings," Luttrell said. "Savings are frequently 40 to 60 percent compared to a re-pipe. Sometimes, depending on the complexity of the job, the actual lining may costs may not be that much cheaper than a re-pipe, but there is still bottom-line savings in avoiding occupant displacement and reconstruction costs."
Pipe lining also is a good option when access is an issue. "Sometimes the pipe is located 10 feet underground or inside thick concrete, so there is just no other option because you literally cannot access it. Our technology can also be used as a preventative measure; replacing the pipe won't solve the pipe system failure problem because the pipes will be doomed to have the same problem," Luttrell noted.
In the United States over the past two decades, methods have been commercially developed and patented that use epoxy-barrier-coating techniques which allow for the in-place rehabilitation of small-diameter potable piping systems, Gillanders explained. "The result has been the use of in-place rehabilitation of small-diameter piping systems in commercial buildings, schools, hotels, hospitals and single-family homes."
ACE DuraFlo produces ePIPE, patented blown-in-place restoration systems for small diameter potable water pipes ranging in size from 1/2- to six inches in diameter for residential and commercial applications, Gillanders said. "Through an international network of company owned and licensed applications, ePIPE is installed in homes, hotels, hospitals, schools, for the Department of Defense and on public water service lines providing the best proactive water leak and contamination protection."
"Potable water pipes throughout the property are restored in-place by applying a protective epoxy barrier coating to the interior walls of the pipes. Unlike a re-pipe, installation is nondestructive to existing walls and ceilings and saves the property owner the expense and hassle of having to patch multiple holes, repainting, etc. The coating completely seals the pipe, joints and fitting surfaces, providing protection from leaks and corrosion."
Perma-Liner has customers ranging from plumbers to municipalities and "everything in between," Trouard said. Perma-Liner products, designed for storm and sewer applications, include Perma-Lateral air inversion, Lateral Pull In Place, Sectional Point Repair, InnerSeal Innerwrap Lateral Connection Seal, Perma-Main, Push In Place Perma-Patch and Heat Assist equipment.
Nu Flow produces in-pipe restoration products including structural and epoxy linings. The structural liners, felt impregnated with epoxy, are either pull-in -place, literally pulled in place with a winch, or fed through a machine that inverts the lining into the pipe. "Pull-in-place can start and stop anywhere within the line can stop and start at the different intersections. That's great for inside-of-the-building rehabilitation," Luttrell said.
The Infinity Inverter continuously feeds lining through a machine which literally inverts the liner into the pipe, a method often used for long, straight runs. Inside the lining is a rubber or vinyl bladder that is inflated to stick the felt to the walls of the pipe, and then the lining cures in place. Lining can be added to pipes from 1.5- to 8 inches, with something between 4- and 6 inches being typical.
"We pioneered what we call inside-infrastructure rehabilitation or in-place pipe restoration. That's where we've brought it inside the building. Traditionally, it's been in the sanitary lines and the sewers," Luttrell said. "One side of inside rehabilitation is potable water restoration."
To deal with pinhole leaks, corrosion or scale build-up restricting water flow in potable water pipes, the company produces an epoxy lining that can be shot into the pipe with compressed air. First the pipe is cleaned with a particulate like sand, then pipe is air dried and then the liner is shot in, Luttrell explained. Epoxy lining has been applied to all U.S. Naval aircraft carriers and many other vessels throughout the years.
How difficult is adding pipe lining to a plumbing contractor's business? "It's very easy, and it's an exceptional addition to their 'tool box'," Trouard said. "Perma-Liner offers three days of on-site training for certification. We also offer 24-hour ongoing technical support."
Nu Flow offers classroom and job site training on its products and offers a basic start-up kit. "You definitely have to have a business model in place to go after the larger jobs," Luttrell said.
ACE DuraFlo's ePIPE program is based on a progressive system of training, equipment and support, allowing an entry candidate to add the system pipe lining to their "toolbox" for a total investment often less than adding a mid-sized jetter, Gillanders explained.
"ePIPE is looking for industry leaders to offer this proven process using specialized equipment as an alternative to re-piping to their customers. Our training program combines hands-on in-house and in-the-field training to ensure proficiency in both local marketing strategy and epoxy lined pipe restoration. A progressive training structure permits single-line restoration skills in less than a week. We insure that you always have access to expertise and consultation with our national support staff," Gillanders said.
"Many of our licensees have actually expanded their lining business during this challenging time. ePIPE is aimed at offering single line and sectional repairs which can be focused depending on the customer's budget. As preventative maintenance or repair, unlimited market potential is realized through both residential and commercial customers."
The obvious question: If a plumbing contractor chooses to offer customers the lining option, could that subtract income from a potential re-piping job in? There's no question that it is always good to be able to offer your customers options, if you are willing to put in the time and money to ensure that your level of service remains high.
A new service can boost business because you can take on some customers whose projects would not be good candidates for re-piping. Other customers might choose to go with lining now, rather than waiting for an upturn in the business climate to invest in a re-pipe.