For years, pipeline construction has often turned to sandbags to create ditch breakers and efficiently provide pipeline support. These breakers are effectively small dams that are placed at regular intervals along the trench to prevent the trench from collapsing. The function of these sandbags is to prevent erosion of the trench, while also providing a temporary “bed” or “pillow” for the pipeline itself. The issue with them, however, is that they are heavy, challenging to maneuver, and are prone to leaking over time. Additionally, sandbags also tend to scrape and scratch the pipelines, causing abrasions and potentially compromising the structural integrity of the pipeline.

Today, there is new a better solution for trench breakers. More and more pipeline construction contractors are instead turning to spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation. SPF is a material that has many diverse uses in a variety of industries. In this blog, we are going to take a look at SPF trench breakers as well as some of the benefits associated with them.


Spray foam is an incredibly strong and durable material. Although it is mostly known for its R-value and insulation properties which lead to energy efficiency and comfort in buildings, the application of SPF in the pipeline construction is a smart and effective long-term alternative to other materials used as trench breakers.

When mixed together, SPF compounds react with each other, forming a rapidly expanding foam. This foam has incredibly adhesive properties and pushes into loose soil, creating a tight bond to the sides of the trench and providing erosion control. The foam then hardens and cures, resulting in the perfect support for piping and quickly completing the job.


Choosing SPF trench breakers instead of pipelines can be very beneficial in pipeline construction. Let’s take a look at some of the most essential benefits.

  • Easy and Fast Installation. Applying spray foam to install trench breakers is up to 15 times faster than performing the same task with sandbags. Most polyurethane water breaks will have set within 15 minutes of application, saving a vast amount of time.
  • Cost-Effective. After factoring labor and materials, SPF trench breakers are a cost-effective alternative to sandbags. Sandbags not only require filling, but they also need to be transported and installed in the trenches, which can be costly when it comes to labor. Spray foam breakers can be installed by a small team, and the job can be completed very quickly — using spray foam is not only the fastest and smartest way to preserve the integrity of your trenches, but it’s also the cheapest way to do so. In fact, a polyurethane foam breaker can cost up to two-thirds less than a sandbag!
  • Long Lasting. Unlike sandbags, sprayed polyurethane foam forms a tight bun with the trench, creating a durable barrier. What’s more, SPF does not contain abrasive properties, so there is no worrying about scratches, rusting, and deterioration to worry about.
  • Safer Application. Applying sandbags to a trench is strenuous work. In addition to being quicker, installing SPF trench breakers instead of sandbags is much safer. Most applications can be done from ground level, removing the physical need of getting in the trench and laying heavy bags into place.
  • Terrain Flexibility. One of the biggest challenges of using sandbag trench breakers is trying to lay the bags in steep or uneven terrains. SPF is, with no contest, far easier to manage on challenging terrains than truckloads of sandbags.
  • Versatile. Sandbag trench breakers often leave gaps and spaces that can lead to leaks. SPF, however, molds itself to fill every inch of the trench it is being sprayed into. Polyurethane foam conforms to any shape, so you get a truly watertight seal — you won’t have any gaps or leaks to worry about.
  • Durable. Unlike the organic materials used in sandbags, SPF will not degrade. Even with heavy rain, you won’t have to worry about the breakers simply washing away.

By constructing your trench breakers using spray polyurethane foam, you can expect a much longer lifespan on your pipeline. This also means that less work will have to be done maintaining your pipeline in the years to come. If you are looking for SPF ditch breaking solutions, look no further than IXS Coatings! Contact us today to learn more about our industry-leading polyurethane foam system!

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