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What is Trenchless Technology?

Read our article to learn more about trenchless technology, how it’s used, and what methods are used. Contact our team of experts.


What is Trenchless Technology, or No-Dig Technology?

Trenchless technology, also referred to as No-Dig technology, refers to various methods of underground construction that either partially or entirely prevent excavations on the street or surface level for repairs to water and gas mains, sewers, and conduits for electrical cabling. Using innovative, state-of-the-art equipment, and trenchless technology, allows businesses, traffic, and residential activities from being interrupted during construction and repairs.

Projects to rehabilitate or replace subsurface infrastructure that once required extensive surface-level excavations, such as repairing, and upsizing sewer lines, are no longer synonymous with such invasive techniques. Trenchless technology employs methods of horizontal directional drilling, pipe bursting, and cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) allowing for work to be done without roads, nature, and residential areas being disrupted or destroyed.

Why is Trenchless Technology Important?

Trenchless technology can be employed in cases of construction, where a pipe must be installed, or in cases of rehabilitation, where an existing pipe needs repair. The methods and types of technology used vary depending on the site conditions and the intended goals of the finished product.

In addition, trenchless technology is a safer, and more efficient way to trench because it minimizes the disruption to the surrounding area. Additionally, trenchless technology can be used in difficult-to-reach areas and in areas with sensitive environmental conditions.

Trenchless technology is an important tool for maintaining vital infrastructure and has become increasingly important in a variety of industries.

How Does Trenchless Technology Work?

There are several different methods of trenchless technology, but they all share the same goal of minimizing the impact on the surface area while still being able to access and repair the underground pipes.

One of the most common methods is called horizontal directional drilling, which involves drilling a small hole at an angle from the surface in order to reach the underground pipe. Once the hole has been drilled, a new pipe can be installed or the old pipe can be repaired.

Below, you will find multiple methods for trenchless technology and how they work.

Types of Trenchless Technology

Trenchless technology can be employed in cases of construction, where a pipe must be installed, or in cases of rehabilitation, where an existing pipe needs repair. The methods and types of technology used varies depending on the project.

In instances requiring trenchless rehabilitation, repair, renewal, or replacement of existing underground services is performed to reduce excessive inflow and infiltration on aging sewer systems. Inflow and infiltration, or I and I, can lead to backed-up sewers and overflowing sewage into lakes, ponds, rivers, and sometimes even roads. Trenchless repair allows these issues to be addressed with minimally invasive techniques.

Cured-In-Place Pipe Lateral Lining

Rehabilitation can be performed using a method called cured-in-place pipe relining, or CIPP. This method is often one of the most preferred because it is cost-effective, non-invasive, safe, and fast. This process involves soaking “wetting out” a synthetic felt liner in a composite resin formula, then inserting it inside the damaged pipe, expanded, and then allowing it to cure where it sits, covering the damage, and strengthening the existing pipe. Gasket seals are then used in order to secure the repair and protect it against potential leakage.

Pipe Bursting

Another popular trenchless technique is pipe bursting. Pipe bursting is a method of replacing an old pipe by opening it and forcing it out of place with a pipe bursting tool. An expansion head is pulled through the existing pipeline by using a cable and a winch, driving the original pipe out until it breaks. This creates space for the new pipe, which is pulled through by the bursting device. This method of pipe bursting is used to replace old pipe with a new pipe of a similar or larger size.

Large Diameter Pipe Rehabilitation

Repairing large-diameter pipes requires a different method of trenchless technology. Cast-in-place concrete rehabilitation is used to restore severely damaged or deteriorated pipes, not just round in shape, but also elliptical and arched. This method is most effectively used for pipelines ranging from thirty inches to one hundred and twenty inches in diameter. The process entails first diverting the flow of water, then cleaning the interior of the pipe before mortar is pumped and cast into the pipe. This particular technique is effective because it does not require joints or gaps and can be stopped and started as needed.

Manhole Rehabilitation

Manholes are an important yet commonly overlooked aspect of a wastewater collection system. If they are not maintained properly, the result is an excessive contribution of I & I, which causes that same wastewater collection system to deteriorate.

Manholes can be rehabilitated and sealed using three primary methods: cementitious mortar linings, polymer linings, and cured-in-place manholes, or CIPM. Cementitious mortar linings are installed quickly but require first stopping infiltration and cleaning the manhole. Polymer linings can either be sprayed on or applied by hand. These linings include epoxies, polyurethanes, or polyureas. Lastly, CIPM linings are a composite system made up of a felt or fiberglass tube saturated with resin, forming a solid liner. This method is particularly accommodating of manholes of different shapes and sizes.

Advantages of Trenchless Technology

The goal of trenchless technology is to avoid excavating at the surface level in order to facilitate the usual flow of daily life, reduce the cost of rehabilitation projects, maintain a thriving local environment, and create safe conditions for construction workers.

Fewer Disruptions

In the days of open-cut excavation methods that preceded trenchless methods, excavation sites had to be blocked off, leading to detours in traffic patterns and in some cases, entire roads being inaccessible. The day-to-day activity within cities and communities would often be disrupted, creating traffic jams, delayed emergency services, and seemingly endless inconvenience. However, trenchless technology requires little to no excavation, resulting in significantly reduced street closures and therefore reduced disruption.


Traditional methods for executing subsurface projects, such as repairing or upsizing sewer lines, are extremely costly and require a tremendous amount of heavy machinery as well as labor. Trenchless technology, on the other hand, is quite cost-effective, potentially eliminating the need to relocate existing utilities during construction. Conventional excavation methods that are destructive to roads, nature, and surrounding residential areas demand a significant amount of repair and reconstruction to those spaces when subsurface projects are completed, however trenchless technology nearly eradicates this issue completely. Taking all of these factors into consideration, it becomes clear to see how much more cost-effective trenchless technology is when compared to open-cut excavation.


Trenchless technology is not only cheaper but is greatly beneficial to the environment. Open-cut excavation leads to the unavoidable uprooting of trees, bushes, grass, and flowers, taking the rest of the wildlife in those ecosystems with them. The heavy equipment used to dig sewers left an enormous footprint, damaging and degrading the area surrounding the site. Implementing the minimal excavation techniques of trenchless technology dramatically reduces the environmental impact of construction. Nature is protected by using these less invasive but equally effective new methods.


Though construction sites pop up all around us each and every day, it’s easy to forget the dangers construction workers face by spending their days at an active site. Trench cave-ins, mud, water, and overhead hazards are some of the more common issues that construction workers would anticipate during the process of excavation. The introduction of trenchless construction makes sub-surface repairs and replacement much safer endeavors, virtually eliminating the dangers associated with digging trenches.

Trenchless technology has dramatically redefined the way pipes are replaced and rehabilitated. As open-cut excavation begins to become a method of the past, no-dig techniques will continue to reduce cost, leave a smaller environmental footprint, and cause less disruption within the communities where construction is taking place.


As you can see, Trenchless technology has many advantages and is the future of minimally invasive drilling.

At Back Municipal Consulting, we offer specialized NASSCO training in order to get certified to perform and use No Dig technology.

Contact us or check out our NASSCO training to learn more about our approach and training!

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