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Underground pipes - Repair or Replace?

Tuesday, 12th October 2010

Plumbing is a major expense when maintaining a property. One of the most common problems would have to be blocked drains.

Steve Ellis from Result Trade Services looks into the scenarios many owners face when blockages regularly occur in the drainage lines.

Plumbing is one of the major expenses that we all have to budget for when maintaining  a property.  One of the most common plumbing problems would have to be blocked drains.  Tree roots, grease, foreign objects, collapsed and broken pipes, poor installation or just old age are common causes of blocked drains.

Like everything, your drainage does have a lifespan, if you live in an older property with Terracotta pipes and are surrounded by advanced trees you're probably familiar with blockages.

Having to call a plumber regularly?  You probably notice that the drains always seem to block up on weekends or after hours.  This can sometimes cost hundreds of dollars, even thousands in the worst cases.  At some stage you probably think to yourself, "We could have replaced the line by now!" Not to mention the unthinkable situation that may arise if the sewer surcharges inside the property, the health concerns, inconvenience, damage to property and fixtures can be a nightmare.

There will be a time when you consider replacing the pipes and you may even need to make allowances in the budget over the next year or two and adjust the levies accordingly.  Here are some points you should consider that can help you decide if it's necessary and can also save you time and money in the long run.

Record the regularity, location and costs each time the costs of the blockage
  • Ask your plumber what caused the blockage
  • Ask your plumber where the lines are located: find out if they are under a concrete driveway, under trees or in difficult to access locations.
  • Get a CCTV inspection - most maintenance plumbers will have a CCTV Camera that can view the inside of the pipe and pinpoint the location of the problems.  The plumber should also be able to provide you with a copy of the inspection on DVD or digital file, and a report based on the findings. That way you can use the report to get other quotes.  You will have to pay for it but it could save you thousands in the long run
  • Get a couple of quotes, be sure you are comparing apples for apples
  • Find out if you need to replace the entire drainage system or can you get away with just replacing a section or relining the section
  • Can the affected sections be done at different times (to help with cash flow)?  Will it cost more to have it done separately?
  • What will be the inconveniences faced by the residents during the work?

If you have satisfactory answers to these points then the decision should be an easy one.  If you do decide to replace the pipes make sure you carefully select the contractor that is right for the job, consider these points:
  • Is the plumber qualified, licensed and experienced at strata work?
  • Will the plumber do the reinstatement work or will you have to organise other trades to fix the concrete and landscaping?
  • Is the plumber fully insured, including workers comp and public liability (min $10m public liability)

Some of the methods or repair available to you are:

Relining: If the pipes are cracked or broken, depending on the location of the problem you may be able to have the section relined.  This method of repair can be much less expensive than replacing the line.  A resin sleeve is inserted into the line and forced against the wall of the pipe with a packer filled with compressed air.  Whilst this type of repair is limited in its uses, it is very effective.  It is also less intrusive and destructive as it can generally be done with minimal excavation.

Replacement:  Obstrusive, destructive and can often cause inconvenience, however, to be sure the problems will not return, sure fix it can sometimes be the only option.

Preventative/Scheduled Maintenance:  Having the drains cleared regularly to ensure the lines are clear can be an effective way of preventing after hours emergencies and surcharges into the building.  Because it's ongoing, it can get expensive and you can't be sure a blockage will occur in the meantime.  Eventually you will more than likely have to repair or reline because the pipe won't fix itself.

Repair:  You may be able to get a small section repaired, it doesn't mean that another problem won't occur adjacent to the repair but it can usually buy some time.  In some cases a repair is all that is required to overcome the problems.

Reactive maintenance:  Probably the most common option taken by those unsure of all the options and can be expensive particularly if the blockages occur after hours or surcharge inside a property.  The pipe will most likely become so damaged that it can no longer be cleared, this could mean that the repair or replacement of the pipe is necessary if you have prepared for it or not.

Each site and section of pipework is different, there is really no right or wrong as long as you have made a decision with all the information at hand.

I hope this helps.

by Steve Ellis

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Comment from aieroel on Friday, 22nd May 2015

"Thanks Market Thailand - Market Indonesia

Comment from aieroel on Thursday, 21st May 2015

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