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The Difference Between Commercial and Residential Plumbing
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Plumbing 10/3/18

The Difference Between Commercial and Residential Plumbing

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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What Joel C says about us

Very Satisfied. Michael is always on time, Michael has been doing all of the plumbing related to our remodel. He always does exactly what he commits to do within the estimated cost. He keeps me informed if any wrinkles pop up, and his plumbing skills are excellent as we have had no problems or issues arise after he has left. Very professional! Highly recommend.

August 2019


What Rick M says about us

We had other companies come out for estimates on what was considered a major job with jackhammers and replacing cast iron pipes under the house… having been stung before, we wanted another estimate just to make sure we were making an informed decision. The prior estimates went up to $21,000!
Bill Howe sent us an amazing veteran plumber, Dashawn and his co- worker Anthony. Dashawn did a thorough check of the problem, explained what he thought was needed … he did a final check and we were able to see for ourselves what was the problem. He recommended a complete cleaning to de-scale the pipes, and not the major work we dreaded. Thanks to his solid analysis and patience in making sure we saw what he saw, the issue was resolved completely, and saved us thousands of unnecessary work. None of the other estimates included the cleaning; only the major repairs. Thanks to Dashawn’s knowledge, professionalism and honesty, we’re Bill Howe customers.

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What Carolyn Housman says about us

This was our second excellent experience with Bill Howe. We had a blocked kitchen sink drain 8/5. I was able to get a same day appointment which is AMAZING. Person on phone was very courteous and set me up right away. Tony arrived at the house (called me 30 minutes out so I was able to be ready). He diagnosed the issue (blocked drain, not the garbage compactor) and was able to snake it and ran the water for 10 minutes to be sure the drains were clear. He cleaned up everything and you would not have known he was even there. Thank-you Tony and Bill Howe, you always know how.

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What Ed Gohlich says about us

Cory was our technician on this job. We had a time sensitive repair issue and Bill Howe understood and assisted with getting the job done quickly.
Cory was on time to start the job and finished it quickly. Upon his leaving our home he’s was courteous, very knowledgeable, explaining what the problem was and how he fixed it. Very good communication and this is the way it’s has always been when we use Bill Howe plumbing.
Great company to work with.
Thanks Cory.

August 2019

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What Eric says about us

I had a shower that would not drain. The employee arrived on time and fixed the problem quickly and effectively at a very fair price. I was very happy with everything. Thank you and I highly recommend your plumbing service.

January 2019


What Bridgett says about us

I am extremely happy with the service we received from Bill Howe Plumbing. We were given an incorrect diagnosis of our main sewer line from another vendor, but Bill Howe’s servicemen came out for a second opinion, correctly diagnosed our problem and resolved our back up issues. We will continue to use Bill Howe for all our future plumbing needs!

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