What is Commercial Plumbing? 6 Key Differences Between Commercial and Residential

What is Commercial Plumbing?

When you are looking to start a plumbing business, specialization matters. This is going to impact the equipment that you purchase, the training and licensing that you seek out, as well as how you tackle your marketing strategy. 

One of the major divides is commercial and residential plumbing. While it’s easy to think the two are the same, the truth is that most plumbing companies rarely specialize in both. So, with that in mind, let’s get into the main differences between plumbing in the residential space and plumbing in the commercial space.

The Fundamental Differences

Let’s first start the conversation by briefly defining the scope of what is commercial plumbing, compared to some of the other options on the table. A commercial plumber is a professional who specializes in servicing plumbing fixtures in a variety of different commercial business settings. This can range from:

  • -Basic office buildings
  • -Large scale commercial buildings/complexes, like malls
  • -Any buildings or structures with industrial-grade pipes and outlets
  • -Massive structures with multiple floors
  • -Recreational areas, like park bathrooms

This is not an exhaustive list, and the truth is, any building that is not a residential property and has people frequently using the premises probably is the domain of a commercial plumber. Regarding the tasks, this isn’t too much different than a residential plumber. Commercial plumbers are still responsible for:

  • -Any plumbing repair that’s needed for piping or fixtures due to damage or general wear and tear
  • -Looking at water heaters, water pressure sensors, and other modules to make sure plumbing is working correctly
  • -Performing preventative maintenance and inspections on a specific schedule
  • -Consulting with property owners to provide guidance and warning on potential issues
  • -Cutting and assembling various plumbing pipes and features
Photo By Andrey_Popov

Different Points of Action For Commercial Plumbing Service

These factors are what separate commercial plumbing issues from residential plumbing:


This is probably the single largest difference between commercial and residential plumbing and is also the main reason why residential plumbers don’t branch into this field. Plumbing systems for even a smaller building are generally far larger and more complex than a basic house. Something else that needs to be mentioned is the amount of usage. In a single commercial space, you can have hundreds of people using the toilets, sinks, drinking fountains, or other plumbing on a daily basis, when residential plumbing only has a single household. This not only means that there is more wear and tear on the plumbing system, but things can get even more catastrophic when things go wrong. Overall, commercial jobs are going to take longer to do, and property owners are more likely to be proactive than reactive to lessen the likelihood of a large plumbing issue.

Multiple stories

This deserves a mention of its own due to the various ways that it impacts a commercial plumbing job. To give you an idea, most residential plumbing jobs have one level, maybe two. If we talk about a sizable office building, though, there could be several floors. Each floor of a commercial building has its own fixtures that need to be taken care of, and plumbers need to have that in mind during routine maintenance and service checks. In addition, the role of gravity also impacts how you do your job. Poor water pressure has a more pronounced effect in multiple-story buildings because it keeps pipes from working as well as they should.

what is commercial plumbing
Photo By Andrey_Popov

Local codes

All plumbers, residential and commercial alike, need to be licensed by the state in order to work on properties. However, the state plumbing codes for residential and commercial properties can be different. As a result, you want to make sure you are following commercial codes for any plumbing service you complete. If anything isn’t done up to code, the property owner not only has to pay for more repairs, they could also be subjected to significant fines.

Inspection frequency

residential, there’s generally a greater need for more frequent and thorough inspections. This means that commercial plumbers need to dedicate larger portions of their budget to things like pipe cameras in order to fulfill these plumbing needs.

Industry knowledge

Because commercial installations sometimes use industrial-grade fixtures and pipes, a licensed plumber well-versed in working with these needs should be used. Along with the size and scale, this is the other major reason that you don’t see residential plumbers branching into smaller commercial jobs to try and get more business. Commercial plumbers may want to specialize in a certain type of commercial structure (office buildings, etc.) so they can familiarize themselves with the types of fixtures that are commonly used for installation, repair, and routine maintenance

Work hours

One last major issue that isn’t talked about as nearly as much as it should be is timing. For residential plumbing, the residents generally make time to allow you to do your work. That’s not as simple for commercial spaces, that may be used by hundreds of people a day. Commercial plumbers generally need to be more flexible, coming on off-hours or weekends to shut off the plumbing system. In addition, if the job is going to require several days to do, commercial plumbers may need to create their own temporary plumbing facilities.

A commercial plumber, in general, is going to work on a larger scale than residential plumbers. Not only are commercial properties larger by nature, but the plumbing fixtures are getting used more often. This means that your clients will need things like their toilets and sinks repaired more often, and will need plumbing maintenance at a more frequent pace. This puts commercial plumbing services in a bind, as they have more to do and more to keep track of to properly service their clients.

As a result, commercial plumbers should really consider investing in project management software like eSUB. By keeping a record of all plumbing jobs and other relevant information in one, accessible source, your teams in the field and in the office can manage a larger scale of work.

How eSUB Can Help

eSUB is a cloud-based project management platform built especially for subcontractors. It seamlessly integrates with leading construction software systems so you can easily switch from your current RFI process to a cloud-based system to upgrade RFI process.

eSUB organizes all of your project information in one place, allows for smooth collaboration, and streamlines communication through its intuitive interface. It also works on your mobile, so you can track projects on the go—no matter where or when—and stay up-to-date.