Why Is Open Trench Excavation Sometimes Necessary for Sewer Line Repair?

open trench sewer repair oakland and east bay

Open trench excavation is the traditional and previously most common method for sewer lateral repair or replacement. Open trench excavation involves  excavating a trench for the manual installation of each piece of pipe. This type of sewer work is applicable to collapsed pipes, severely broken pipes, and heavy root blockages.

The open trench method is, on average, more costly than trenchless sewer repair as it requires more time, excavation, and restoration to complete. In addition, open trench excavation may require the removal of street and sidewalk pavement which also increases the cost of the repair. Despite the expense of open trench excavation, there are instances where it is the only option over trenchless sewer repair. Below, we explain reasons we may have to open trench a particular location.

Why Do We Sometimes Have to Use Open Trench Excavation?

The open trench excavation method is used for one of three main reasons:

1. A New Sewer Pipe Cannot Be Pulled Through – This reason for open trench excavation is more about the mechanics. Sometimes the fastening materials around the joints of an existing sewer line are too thick and strong – or the coupling sleeves won’t break when “pipe pulling.” As the couplings get stuck, the pressure pushes the couplings down the line where they stack up. That increased tension stresses the equipment and the pulling ram begins to stall. In extreme cases, concrete and other fixed surfaces get lifted, broken or even stalled below ground. For this reason, we’re unable to pull a new pipe through and the area around it needs to be dug up manually.

2. To Ensure Safety in Areas Surrounded by Dangerous Utilities – Sometimes, the work is done in areas where there are too many utilities adjacent to the sewer. These utilities include water, electric, gas or fiber lines. Due to the dangerous nature of these areas, open trench excavation is recommended over trenchless sewer repair. To prevent serious accidents from happening underground, we hand dig specific areas to expose the pipes. 

Underground utilities and Sewer-Line

3. Engineering and Design – Lastly, the need for open trench excavation can be related to engineering and design of the sewer line. For example, we may encounter a pipe with a sewer line belly after we break ground to repair a line. Sewer line bellies almost always require open trench excavation to correct. During this process, we remove the existing sewer line, dig a bit deeper, and lay the aggregate base that supports the pipe for the proper slope and line flow.

open trench sewer repair

Do You Need Open Trench Excavation?

A good engineer can determine if open trench repair is the best solution for your property – or if trenchless repair is a better option. The engineer should explain the reasons why open trench excavation is necessary as well as inform you of any changes to your estimate. Pipe Spy is the most trusted sewer contractor in Oakland and the East Bay. Our team of experienced plumbing professionals will help you make difficult decisions with confidence. If you need sewer repair and you’re unsure whom to turn to, contact us for a survey of your project area. With over 40 years of experience in sewer line repair – both traditional open trench and trenchless – you can rest assured your sewer repair job will be done right.

Contact us today.