The Difference Between Commercial and Residential Plumbing


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Not all plumbing is created equal. From minor issues such as drain clogs and faucet leaks to major gas line repairs and slab leak detection and repair, plumbing issues span the spectrum from small to large. Plumbing can also differ based on the space or building. Service & repair plumbing in a commercial space versus a residential space will vary greatly and sometimes require a specialty plumber.

What is Commercial Plumbing?

Commercial plumbing refers to plumbing services performed in a commercial space such as a hospital, high-rise office or multi-use building, offices and strip malls, warehouses, and anything that is not a simple residence. Even some larger apartment or condominium complexes might be considered commercial. The nature of commercial plumbing deals with larger pipes, more complex systems, as well as operations within specified open hours in some cases.

Commercial spaces like hospitals or medical facilities also require specialty immunizations, and most often, the owner of the building is not present during repairs meaning plumbers must communicate via other methods or with on-site property managers.

Most commercial spaces also require larger insurance policies to be carried, as well as workers compensation insurance when they have employees.

What is Residential Plumbing?

Where commercial plumbing includes all types of plumbing in a non-residential space, residential plumbing is anything performed for single family homes, semi-detached, and townhouses, as well as smaller apartment and condominium complexes.

Residential plumbing may not be as complex, depending on the home’s systems and layout, and most homeowners do not require specialty documents for plumbers to work on site.

All property owners and managers, residential and commercial, however, should require their plumbers to be licensed, insured, and bonded. This will protect the resident, the property, and the plumbers and/or their employees.

What is the Difference Between Commercial and Residential Plumbing?

The biggest difference in commercial and residential plumbing does come from the spaces being worked on or in, but the subtle differences of the work being performed.

Drain Services

Snaking a drain for a residential home is relatively straightforward. Plumbers will auger a toilet, snake shower/bath drains, lavatory and kitchen sinks, and main sewer lines with little challenge. Plumbers may encounter larger issues, such as broken lines or roots intrusion, but it is a simple process.

Snaking drain lines in large commercial spaces can be different, especially in multiple story buildings. Bill Howe Plumbing has a policy that requires all staked drain line clogs to be snaked from the affected drain all the way down the line. This means plumbers must go to each unit below and either snake form that line or confirm the clog was cleared down to the main sewer line. If its s not checked, it can cause potential problems in downstream units, even flooding.

Water Heaters

Most residential water heaters are of a traditional tank style water heater or tankless style. While different home and family sizes will necessitate different styles and sizes, there is nothing that drastically changes form a smaller to larger gallon size of water heater.

Commercial water heaters are different. Typically, they will be a different style altogether, be much larger, have a recirculation pump installed, and require specialty parts and knowledge on how to provide service and repair.

Leak Detection

Leak detection in a residential home is not easy by any means, but it can be less of a challenge than in a large commercial space. IN most homes, plumbers can quickly rule out what is not leaking or perform leak location when it is a slab leak.

Commercial plumbing leaks can be harder as they can come from just about anywhere. With larger spaces, a leak appearing in the lobby could potentially be form anywhere in the building, so narrowing down the leak can be more time consuming.

Additionally, if it is an upper to lower leak, such as between residential units or office spaces, the plumber has to coordinate with multiple owners and/or tenants to discover. This may require cutting into ceilings or walls where one other party may be responsible. This takes coordination and expertise to keep neighbors happy and eliminate stress, while trying to track down a leak.

Dripping Fixtures and Running Toilets

Determining smaller leaks and/or running toilets that waste water are much easier in a residence than a commercial space. Homeowners typically use the majority of their homes plumbing on a regular basis and can better be vigilant for small leaks that waste water and money. In commercial spaces, it can be harder when there are multiple floors, multiple fixtures, and tenants that may not have a vested interest in getting them fixed, or they simply do not notice as they would in there home.


Both residential and commercial plumbing maintenance should be regular performed. For homeowners, it is about ensuring their home is safe from floods, and that all plumbing is in good working order to save on costly repairs down the line.

Commercial maintenance is much like residential maintenance in keeping the building leak free. However, it differs in that building maintenance is more helpful to discover what building occupants may not. It allows property managers and building owners peace of mind that someone is systematically checking off items in their commercial space.

Not only has Bill Howe Plumbing been servicing residential customers in San Diego since 1980, it is highly trained to perform all service and repair on larger commercial spaces including, hospitals, high-rise multi use space, commercial space, and residential spaces, strip malls, medical facilities, hotels, and more. Bill Howe Plumbing also has special account services for commercial customers that will make the process even easier in the event of an emergency.

Call the commercial and residential plumbing exerts, at 1-800 BILL HOWE (245-5469) today for all of your plumbing needs, large and small!

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