Cured-in-place-pipe, also known as CIPP, is a trenchless method used to fix a wide variety of plumbing problems. CIPP works by inserting a resin-impregnated fiberglass cloth and pulling it through a damaged pipe. Once in place, the resin hardens the material, creating a pipe within a pipe. This method of repair allows workers to solve breakage issues without having to dig up the old pipe using conventional trenching. CIPP is faster and more efficient than traditional repair methods.

When to use CIPP is depends on the exact nature of the problem you are experiencing with plumbing. The following are some of the most common reasons for using CIPP to repair plumbing issues.

Lead Pipes

Cities and construction companies first started using lead pipes in 1920. By the 1980s, there was a greater understanding of the unfortunate effects lead poisoning has on the human body. Research shows that water contaminated with lead can cause an increase of lead in the blood of children by 30 percent.

Lead toxicity can occur in a few ways. It can be caused by excessive exposure of food in lead crystal containers, from the ingestion of lead paint chips, but more commonly, it occurs when lead particles leach into the water from old lead pipes. The buildup of lead in the human body leads to behavioral and learning problems and lowered IQ. Additionally, lead toxicity can cause coma and even death.

Asbestos Pipes

As with lead pipes, asbestos infused pipes were put into use before anyone knew how dangerous asbestos could be. While fibers cause the greatest health threat through inhalation, asbestos in the water stream can cause health problems as well. Those who ingest loose fibers through drinking water may develop peritoneal mesothelioma.

As the public learns more about asbestos exposure, the move to replace these pipes brings greater danger. Broken pipes lead to the potential of inhalation during maintenance. Workers must be careful when they remove old plumbing to replace it with new. CIPP reduces the risk of fiber exposure and lines the pipe with a non toxic pipe alternative. (Learn more in "Asbestos Cement Pipe: Why It's a Problem and How Trenchless Can Fix It.")

Tree Infiltration

While lead and asbestos pipes raise health concerns, they are not the only reasons workers use CIPP for line rehabilitation. In fact, one of the more common problems is tree root infiltration.

As with all plants, tree roots seek water sources to grow. Tree roots go deep and can span a wide area in search of a water source. Any crack in water or sewer lines gives these tendrils access. As the root grows, the crack in the pipe expands and can cause a complete break in the line. Additionally, roots can clog the plumbing making it impossible to drain sinks, flush toilets or even get water from the tap. (Also read "Trenchless Sewer Repair and Cleaning 101.")

Aging Water Mains

Water main designs only allow them to last for a set number of years. Lead and asbestos plumbing was initially rated to last 70 years. However, environmental conditions can make the pipes wear out sooner than expected. Since the discovery of how harmful asbestos and lead are, many municipalities have switched to using ductile iron pipes, rated to last 100 years.

As those lines reach the end of their life span, breaks can occur causing a need for rehabilitation or replacement. Circle breaks in the line span the entire circumference of the pipe. Split breaks transverse the length of the line. Either type of crack in the line can allow for soil contamination or root infiltration. (Read on in "A Look at CIPP and Aging Drinking Water Infrastructure.")

Spot Repairs

In some cases, there is damage to the line that is not caused by age or hazardous components. These small problems still cause a considerable amount of frustration and expense for homeowners, especially if the work crew digs up the entire line.

Localized settling is one reason for trouble spots. As the ground around the pipe shifts and compacts, the strain on the line increases. Over time, this pressure can lead to cracks. If the line is underneath a structure, such as a home, the weight of the structure settling also affects the lines underneath. The same happens in excess load conditions in which a pipe runs under a large structure. Excess loading also occurs with lines under roadways in which heavy vehicles frequently travel.

Poor construction of original lines, such as offset joints, cause leaks in the line. Necessary repairs keep the leak from causing foundational issues, excessive utility bills and contaminants from entering the line.

Is CIPP the Best Solution?

In each of these cases, CIPP is an ideal solution to the underlying problem. For lead and asbestos pipes, the CIPP lining protects consumers from harmful contaminants leaking into their drinking water from the pipes themselves.

When dealing with aging water mains and tree infiltration, the CIPP lining creates a new pipe for water to flow through without the struggle of digging up the area to replace the line. Tree roots cannot penetrate the new line, keeping them from causing further line damage and clogging the system.

Settling foundations happen everywhere, and poor construction is more common than you would like to believe. CIPP corrects the leaks and cracks while doing minimal damage to the homeowner’s property.

Cured-in-place-pipe may not be the answer to every plumbing issue. However, for these problems, it is the most efficient method for repair and rehabilitation.