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Residential versus Commercial Plumbing – What Is the Difference?

You may not realise that there is a vast difference between commercial plumbing services and residential plumbing. Nor might you realise that they both require a different set of skills and expertise. Some plumbing companies offer both, but you need to ensure that you have the correct one before they embark on their work on your premises. So, here’s what you need to know. 


Residential Plumbing

This refers to the requirements of a household. It encompasses the drain, sewerage, water, and gas pipes and related structures like taps or water heaters. It will apply to plumbing necessary for individuals living in one house.

Commercial Plumbing

This refers to the plumbing needs of places such as business premises or housing complexes. It encompasses large-scale water and gas supply, and waste removal.

Differences Between Commercial and Residential Plumbing

1. Size of the Plumbing system

Commercial plumbing is used by far more people. Therefore, larger equipment must be used to accommodate so much usage. The components must have a higher grading and be more enduring in order to withstand higher use. When there is greater pressure or strain on the system, it won’t be as likely to break down.

Households only need a lower grade of fixture, as they have lower usage.

2. The Intricacy of the Plumbing System

Large, multi-storey buildings obviously have very complex, interwoven plumbing systems. A lot more planning and preparation has to go into this. How the pipes, sinks, toilets and other features run together, and where they’re situated need to be meticulously planned and checked.

The plumber would need to know the differing operating needs of the fixtures, but also where obstacles and conflicting requirements occur. This means that commercial plumbers need to understand construction as well as the plumbing tasks they’ll be doing. 

Households have simpler structures and are easier to plan and maintain. 

3. The Degree of Potential Damage

Plumbing in a large building needs to be attended to immediately. It could clog up other systems and affect an entire building. It could lead to quite a large disaster, with bigger systems prone to more extensive damage than what will be the outcome in a standard house. 

4. Health Regulations

Plumbing issues can affect health, and there are very strict regulations relating to these matters. Think, for instance, of the large numbers of people that visit restaurants. Good hygiene is essential in this kind of environment, so the stream of people don’t get in contact with anything that could cause sickness. 

A home, however, while it does require good hygiene, is not as prone to these risks due to the lower numbers of people involved. 

5. The Difference in Boilers

Commercial buildings will have huge electric or gas boilers – over 1000 litres in some cases. This necessarily means that there have to be different pieces of equipment to install them, compared to a home’s hot water system. It also requires alternate settings for amount of flow of gas, electricity or water. 

6. Differences in Work Specifications for Plumbers

The commercial plumber must regularly do a lot of maintenance. They will work with larger-scale, more standardised systems and equipment. This makes it a little more repetitive work on a day-to-day basis. However, when a problem occurs, it requires immediate attention.

The plumber will have to be on duty any time of day or night in case of emergencies. In fact, they often work on weekends or holidays, when there are few or no people around. They would otherwise not be able to get the work done, because certain tasks require them to shut certain systems down completely. 

The residential plumber doesn’t have to worry about this. They can generally work from 9 am to 5 pm, except for emergencies.

7. Problem Issues Are Resolved Differently

Problems such as leaky taps or fixing drain issues are far simpler in a home. Firstly, the homeowner will notice leaks or clogged systems much earlier. It takes a very diligent plumber to find such problems early on in a commercial building. 

What’s more, the investigation of the problem can take far longer in a commercial building, as the plumber has to go further up or down the lines to detect the leak. And on an elaborate system this can take a lot of time. 

There is even different detection equipment required for longer and more complex systems. This means that the plumber needs to have a very good working knowledge of these items. 

Further, they need to have excellent problem-solving skills, due to the complexity of the system. They ought to have a good understanding of the planning of the building, especially the plumbing. 

In a house, such systems are far simpler and easier to see.  You don’t necessarily need to know the plan of the house in order to fix a blocked drain.

8. Predictability of Maintenance and Repair

In commercial properties, the cycles of repair and maintenance are fairly predictable, because they are generally scheduled. This enables a business owner to plan time and costs well in advance.  The poor homeowner has no such forecast, and costs fluctuate far more.


There are vast differences between residential and commercial plumbers. Their knowledge, skills, equipment and operating procedures vary, and it would not be a good idea for you to get a plumber who has the wrong set of skills. 

Of course, there are some companies who have both sets of plumbers, and in this case, you would be referred the correct type of plumber. Make sure you call the right person for the job, so you keep costs and downtime low as possible.