Pipe Bursting Myths and Misconceptions

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

Myth #6: If pipe bursting involves excavation why is it called trenchless? -- Unlike some technologies that can rehabilitate a pipe by the use of "no-dig" technology, pipe bursting can be defined as “less trench.” Dependent on the method employed and the size of the product pipe being installed pipe bursting can reduce the total excavation by as much as 95 percent and most commonly be 85 percent or more when compared to open-cut excavation.

Myth #7: You cannot pipe burst potable water mains. -- Pipe bursting of potable water mains is wildly popular in Europe and beginning to gain significant acceptance in North America. Typical water mains constructed of cast iron, asbestos cement or plastics can be burst with relative ease utilizing pipe splitting techniques which allows a new pipe with increased capacity to be installed.

Myth #8: You can only install HDPE pipe with pipe bursting. -- Although HDPE is the most commonly used material installed by pipe bursting for water, sewer and gas applications, advancements in materials like thermally fused PVC, restrained joint PVC, restrained joint ductile iron and others now allows a variety of pipes to be installed by pipe bursting. Although HDPE pipe is the only pipe material that can be installed utilizing pneumatic pipe bursting methods, others can be installed utilizing static pipe bursting.

Myth #9: Pipe bursting will heave the ground above it. -- Pipe bursting displaces soil as an expander head is pulled through the ground which opens up the diameter of the existing pipe ID to allow insertion of the new pipe. The expansion will vary by the geotechnical conditions around the existing pipe, but in most cases the soil will expand upwards and outwards from the invert of the existing pipe. If the soils are either uncompressible or the volumetric displacement upwards is more than the minimum depth of cover calculation, then the potential for heave exists. However, the potential for ground heave can be calculated prior to performing a burst and is rare in most installations where class A-B conditions occur.

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