What is Commercial Plumbing? | Bill Howe

What is Commercial Plumbing?


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When speaking about the plumbing industry, there are two major differences in types of plumbing: new construction and service & repair. Both new construction and service & repair plumbing can be applied to different types of properties, typically commercial or residential.

Commercial plumbing relates to buildings such as hospitals, hotels, small and large businesses, multi-family units, high-rise office, and residential spaces. While plumbing typically functions the same in commercial, business, and residential spaces, there are vast differences in plumbing use, potential problems, as well as the types of plumbing fixtures and piping involved.

Commercial Plumbing Use

Perhaps the biggest difference between residential plumbing and commercial plumbing is the amount of demand for plumbing systems. Commercial spaces such as high-rise office buildings and medical facilities are in constant use. Drains and fresh water plumbing systems are in high use and require much more maintenance and care. Where residential homes should invest in annual maintenance and plumbing check-ups commercial spaces rely on a daily overview of what is happening.


In multi-story buildings and medical facilities, drain use, flushing toilets, and water use see thousands of people each day. While the buildings would be built with more industrial grade and heavy-duty materials, common drain clogs are still an issue, especially when it is more challenging to control what building tenants and visitors may flush. With multiple story building, it is also important to tackle drain repairs with more caution. For example, snaking a lavatory sink on the tenth floor of a building can potentially cause damage down the line or “stack.” Many companies, including Bill Howe, have strict policies on snaking common lines in a multiple story building. The policy requires checking down the line for every snaking. It is important to ensure that the plumber is not pushing a clog down into another line. This could lead to flooding, and if it is not checked could end up in costly damages.

If leaks or overflows happen, it is also more likely they will go unnoticed longer than in-home use. After all, tenants and our customers are not responsible nor looking for possible plumbing problems when using facilities. Most commercial spaces have facilities managers on site to routinely check on possible plumbing problems.

Water Lines

In a home, if a water line is leaking, homeowners will most likely notice signs of change in water pressure or a leak, even if it is a slow one. Hearing water running or seeing signs of moisture are two big signs. In a heavily trafficked commercial space, it is harder to pinpoint possible water leaks inside of the walls. By the time a leak is noticed, it may have caused damage, not only to the area around the leaking pipe but possible to units or spaces below.

Water Heaters

Residential water heating can be achieved with a standard storage tank style heater and tankless or on-demand style water heaters. These can be used in both natural and/propane gas, as well as electrical applications. What differs greatly from commercial building spaces is the size, placement and most often, commercial spaces have many water heaters servicing different applications.

Most office buildings do not require water heating for purposes such as showering, and may not have a traditional water heater. Rather, they use instant-hot water heaters in office kitchens and bathrooms for hot water.

Large condominiums, hotels, and multi-use spaces have large boilers or Ray-Pak systems that require specialized knowledge and experience. And in the hospital and medical facilities, it is especially important to have the right water heating equipment for patient safety and sterilization purposes.

When a water heating problem occurs in a commercial space, it may not be as simple as repairing a water line or replacing a single 40-gallon storage tank heater and requires the commercial plumber to keep services for the occupants of the commercial building while repairing the plumbing problem.

Service & Repair Professionals

It is important when choosing plumbers for commercial space, that facilities managers and owners ensure the commercial plumbing company they choose is experienced in Uniform Plumbing code and the unique needs of all commercial spaces including hospitals and medical facilities, multiple story condominium units, and business use buildings.

Commercial plumbers should be fully licensed and insured and will offer solutions to the many challenges commercial spaces face when dealing with major plumbing.

Building Maintenance

Bill Howe Plumbing recommends to homeowners that an annual maintenance and overall plumbing checkup should be performed by a licensed professional. During residential maintenance, items to check include water pressure, active and past leaks, plumbing fixtures, and testing drain lines.

Commercial spaces should also have routine plumbing maintenance, but depending on the building use, maintenance should occur more frequently. Most commercial facilities managers have in-house maintenance teams to check on daily problems and oversee the general health of the building. In these cases, a professional commercial plumbing maintenance visit twice a year is a good timeline to follow. For buildings that do not have the on-site personnel, owners should consider scheduling a quarterly maintenance visit. Because commercial properties plumbing sees a more excessive use on a regular basis, the potential for plumbing problems increases. Also, commercial spaces may not be 24 hours, and if a plumbing problem, such as a burst shut off valve, or even a slow water leak occurs, it could go unnoticed for days. An unattended leak not only increases the cost and time to make a plumbing repair, but it can also lead to major water damage that will require extensive remediation and incur higher costs than if it were either prevented or caught before the damage becomes major.

Bill Howe has been an expert commercial plumbing repair company since beginning in 1980. Starting as the premier plumbing company for local property management teams, Bill Howe Plumbing has the expertise to handle any commercial plumbing repair and service, no matter how small or how large. Plus, Bill Howe offers expert water damage remediation with Bill Howe Restoration & Flood.

With one phone call to Bill Howe at 1-800-245-5469, commercial owners, facilities managers, and maintenance teams can rely on the highest quality service and repair form a team of certified and trained commercial plumbers.

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