July 2015, Vol. 70, No. 7


Starting Small Proves Big Business For Utah Pipebursting

Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor

Utah Pipebursting LLC has built a solid niche market replacing failing sewer laterals in northern Utah by the trenchless method of pipe bursting.

Based in Ogden, UT, company owner Jay Garrett has completed projects involving more than 600 failing residential and commercial sewer laterals.

Garrett says there still are plenty of failing laterals in Utah Pipebursting’s service area.

“Most residential lateral pipes in this area installed from the 1950s through the 1970s were made of wood pulp and tar and were designed to last 25 years,” said Garrett. “Before that, laterals were clay tile, concrete or asbestos with life expectancies of 50 years. There are a lot of those laterals still in use, and both types of pipe are long past their service life and need to be replaced.”

Garrett’s company is ready when needed, and his message to property owners is simple:

“Rather than digging a large and unsafe trench through your yard and disturbing landscaping to remove and replace the old pipe, Utah Pipebursting digs a small hole next to your home, another at the street and pulls new, longer-lasting flexible pipe through the existing pipe. The old pipe is broken up. The new pipe will not break and won’t be compromised by tree roots.”

Most laterals are replaced with HDPE pipe with a small percentage using restrained-joint PVC, Garrett said. Residential laterals typically are four inches in diameter. However, if larger pipe is needed, one of the benefits of the pipe bursting process is the ability to upsize the pipe being replaced.

“Laterals for multi-family structures and businesses usually are six-inch pipe,” Garrett said, “and some municipalities now require 6-inch laterals for commercial buildings.”


Pipe bursting is widely used for large sizes of pipe, and the introduction of compact pipe bursting equipment has enabled the application to be used for smaller-diameter laterals.

For lateral work, Utah Pipebursting uses one of two compact bursting systems made by Tric Tools: a Model X30 with 29.5 tons of pulling for pipes to diameters to six inches, and a Model M50 with 48 tons pulling force that can burst pipe to eight inches in diameter. Both machines have small footprints – the X30 requires only a 30-by-36 inch pit and the M50 a 30 by 48-inch pit.

Garrett’s crews start with the small excavation at the house or structure, then the small pit at the street. Meanwhile, new pipe is butt fused with a McElroy 14 Pitbull fusing machine and prepared for pull-in. Pipe then is pulled through the old pipe from the street to the house, and connections are made at both ends.

“Often,” Garrett said, “there are other utilities buried near the lateral, and because new pipe is pulled through pipe already in place, the risk of damaging other pipe and cable by excavation is avoided.”

Time to replace a lateral varies with its length, site conditions and municipal requirements, which should be standardized with the release of the International Pipe Bursting Association Guidelines for Lateral Pipebursting which Garrett said he helped develop. Many jobs are completed in one day but some may go into a second day. In the winter months, work proceeds a little slower.

As with most types of utility construction, there are “easy” jobs and others that are challenging.

“We do get a lot of difficult jobs that no one else wants to do,” said Garrett.

Holiday memories

One of the most memorable involving multiple challenges came following a call to
fix a sewer line immediately before the Christmas holidays.

“The customer’s line ran diagonally across the neighbor’s property, apparently on a path to connect with the neighbor’s lateral which then connected to the main. Wanting to get the sewer line in service for the holiday, an inspection showed a break under the neighbor’s porch.

While doing the point repair, Garrett’s crew discovered an asbestos pipe crossing the customer’s lateral that was unmarked. The point repair was completed, and inspection of the customer’s lateral resumed after the holidays. The inspection revealed that the customers lateral simply stopped under the neighbor’s porch.

“The inspection camera suddenly went dark,” said Garrett. “Apparently the line ended, and sewage was draining into the ground.”

Adding even more confusion, the city reported there was a lateral from the main going toward the customer’s home, but it stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and was capped.

Ultimately, Utah Pipebursting installed a new lateral using a pneumatic piercing tool to create a path for the cable, then burst through the existing sewer to the sidewalk, then pierced the hole to the house connection.

Garrett says one reason for his company’s success is the care taken to restore customer’s property when the pipe installation is complete.

“We put turf back over spots where pits were dug, replant flowers, do whatever is necessary to remove all signs of construction,” he said. “That’s something that brings us a lot of referrals from satisfied customers.”

Too good?

Meticulous restoration on one job brought an unexpected response. “The property owner refused to pay, because she didn’t think we had replaced the line,” said Garrett. “She could see no evidence the work had been done. With the new sewer line operational, a city inspector had to assure her that, in fact, she had a new pipe in place.”

It isn’t unusual for customers to tell Garrett that their property looks better after the job is finished.

Garrett has 30 years of experience in construction, first remodeling and building add-on rooms to homes.

“I was a one man operation,” he said. “One day my truck, containing all my tools, was stolen.”

The investment to replace everything was significant, so he switched careers and for a time worked as an operator for a sewer line inspection business. Garrett’s first experience with pipe bursting came when he was employed by a large pipeline contractor.

“The company always was alert to new opportunities,” he explained. “Pipebursting seemed an attractive possibility, so they bought a pipe bursting machine. One day they got a pipe bursting project and assigned it to me. I knew nothing about the technology. They took me to the machine and said, ‘There it is. Do a good job.’ ”

In time, Garrett was doing about 40 bursts a year. To be successful in any business, said Garrett, it is necessary to be a businessman or woman.

“I consider myself a businessman first,” he said. “My business, Utah Pipebursting, is installing sewer laterals.”

To succeed, obviously a business has to do what it does well. “But there’s much more involved,” he said. “It’s necessary to operate with sound business practices, knowing the costs of doing business and establishing rates that enable a profit. Proper financial accountability and effective marketing and promotion are essential to success. I know how to market our service and I believe we do a good job of it.”

Garrett said there are three other companies in his area that specialize in lateral pipe bursting, plus several plumbers that offer the service.

Standing out

Utah Pipebursting sets itself apart in several ways, Garrett explained. “We offer free lateral inspection to any home 50 years and older – we call it a residential colonoscopy.

“We also guarantee all prices. Even if we run into unexpected complications, we stand by our estimate. That example I gave of the difficult job cost us about $2,000 more than the estimate. If I charged for that, I would be selling our reputation.”

Garrett is sharing information about sound business practices with other area business owners. The Ogden Chamber of Commerce has a new business success program and Garrett conducts one-on-one mentoring on organizing operations of a business.

Garrett believes prospects for Utah Pipebursting are bright.

“Pipe bursting is almost always faster and less expensive,” he said. “Having Utah Pipebursting replace a sewer lateral saves between 20 and 80 percent of the cost for trenching, and work generally is completed in a third to half the time of excavation.”

In addition to working directly with customers, Utah Pipebursting is available to subcontract pipe bursting jobs and a sister company, Western States Pipebursting LLC, has a 100-ton Hammerhead bursting system, the largest in the state, Garrett said.

Utah Pipebursting (801) 920-3178, http://utahpipebursting.com
HammerHead, (800) 331-6653, www.hammerheadmole.com
McElroy Manufacturing, (918) 836-8611, www.mcelroy.com
Tric Tools, (510) 865-8742, http://www.trictools.com

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