Pipe Bursting Myths and Misconceptions

By Matt Timberlake, President, Ted Berry Trenchless Technologies Team LLC | March 2012, Vol. 67 No. 3

Editor’s Note: The International Pipe Bursting Association (IPBA), a division of NASSCO, is presenting a series of articles in Underground Construction that will provide the reader with a better understanding of the technology. Many myths and misconceptions exist regarding this proven rehabilitation method for replacing existing underground utilities.

Pipe bursting is a technology that has matured in North America since the early 2000s. Although this technology has been proven internationally and more so domestically, there are many common myths and/or misconceptions that exist in regards to the technology and its practical application. In January 2012, the IPBA released a guideline for pipe bursting that provides support and reference to the items discussed in this article.

Myth #1: Pipe bursting is expensive. -- Cost is a relative term and is often used out of context when comparing the use of alternative or trenchless methods like pipe bursting. In the early 2000s, the majority of pipe bursting projects in many regions of the country consisted of small quantities and were driven by a mentality that pipe bursting was only applicable where you could not dig. The result was a period of time where relatively high unit costs existed and were then assumed to be comparable costs to any size project.

With small projects, many contractors did not own equipment and had to rent and ship to the job site which inflated the unit cost on a small quantity job. Since pipe bursting has grown, contractors often now own the equipment required to perform most projects. Municipalities are seeing the benefits of using pipe bursting as an alternative to open cut, cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) or cement mortar lining and by awarding more projects of larger quantities are seeing significant savings by utilizing pipe bursting. A significant benefit to pipe bursting and other trenchless technologies is that when all costs are added including contract, social and environmental values, the true costs of pipe bursting are very competitive with other technologies.

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