Plumber’s Underground Service Prospers With Pipe Bursting

Plumber’s Underground Service Prospers With Pipe Bursting
Jet Plumbing drain services technician Larry Stegmaier looks for the source of a problem with a Vivax-Metrotech vCam-5.

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Jet Plumbing, Heating & Drain Services is a family business that was founded in 1969. The company started primarily as a traditional drain cleaning operation, but by 1990, plumbing was on the menu. Today, it accounts for 47 percent of overall revenue. The rest of the business is split between HVAC, drain cleaning and another more recent addition: underground utility work.

Pipe bursting, which the company has offered since 1999, is the driving force behind their underground services.

“Pipe bursting now represents 70 percent of our underground line repair work and does well in almost every system,” says company owner Jim Walker. “Every situation is different, and sometimes we find it makes more sense to just replace a line. It depends on where the utilities are and the depth and length of the line. All those factors come in. If it is a short line and you are digging a big entrance pit and a receiving pit, you might as well just dig a bit more and do a replacement.”

Jet’s underground division typically deals with older systems made of terra cotta, concrete and Orangeburg, with root infestation, cracks and structural failure.

“Terra cotta and concrete pipe are non-elastic. There is no give to them. A lot of them have mechanical joints,” Walker says. “We see tree roots in the joints. Tree roots in older neighborhoods. Most of our systems are not really deep, but we have places where they are 10 to 12 feet underground. Reno is high desert. If you go east out of Reno it’s sage brush. If you go west you go into the high Sierras and forest.”

Determining the best course of action often requires a good look inside the pipe, and for that, the underground division’s two-man inspection crew turns to a pair of Vivax-Metrotech vCam-5 cameras with 100- and 200-foot reels.

When pipe bursting is the solution, they rely on a Porta Burst system from HammerHead. The Porta Burst system requires small pits and operates at low pressure, which allows it to be run by either a dedicated power pack or any other power supply that produces 3,000 psi and 13 gpm.  

And no matter what, Walker emphasizes that technicians are taught to engage in a good dialogue with clients to help them make informed decisions. “We don’t want anyone to feel pushed into anything.”

Read more about Jet Plumbing, Heating & Drain Services in a full profile.


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