Photograph of commercial plumbing HVAC work

Commercial vs. Residential Plumbing; What’s the Difference?

Many people don’t really care about the kind of plumber they hire as long as they can have their plumbing issues fixed quickly and cost-effectively. While it’s reasonable to assume any type of plumber can fix a leaky faucet or clogged drain, it’s always a safer bet to hire a plumber who is specifically trained to work in the type of building you own, which can be commercial or residential. Find out the difference between commercial and residential plumbing so that you can understand the importance of hiring the right plumber.

What Is Commercial Plumbing?

commercial plumber

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Commercial plumbing is the act of performing plumbing tasks in a commercial environment such as a high-rise office building, shopping complex, multi-use building, medical facility, warehouse, restaurant, and any other non-residential building or structure. Even a large apartment or condominium complex may be regarded as commercial.

Unlike residential plumbing, commercial plumbing may involve dealing with larger pipes, more complex plumbing systems, more stringent regulations, and specified work hours in some cases. Some commercial spaces, such as hospitals, may require special immunizations, while others may need plumbers to have adequate insurance coverage.

What Is Residential Plumbing?

Residential plumbing refers to any plumbing work done in residential properties such as houses, apartment units, and condominium units. Sometimes, residential plumbers also take care of plumbing tasks throughout a small apartment or condominium complex.

Typically, residential plumbing isn’t as complex as commercial plumbing, but it can be challenging if a home has a complicated plumbing system or layout. Most homeowners don’t require the plumbers they hire to have special documents in order to work on their properties. Nonetheless, similar to commercial plumbers, residential plumbers must be insured, licensed, and bonded.

What Is the Difference Between Commercial and Residential Plumbing?

Commercial and residential plumbers deal with similar issues such as leaks, damaged pipes, and broken toilets. However, their work environments and specific responsibilities may be different. The following are the main differences between commercial and residential plumbing:

Size of the Building

One of the main reasons why commercial plumbing is often more complicated than residential plumbing is because it’s usually carried out in a larger building. Since they typically have more occupants and visitors, larger buildings need to have more sinks, toilets, outlets, and pipes, resulting in a more complex plumbing system. Additionally, the more extensive use of water in commercial buildings may lead to a higher number of emergencies and more frequent routine maintenance. Such buildings also have larger fixtures and pipes, which may require special tools and techniques to fix.

The larger size of commercial buildings makes it harder for plumbers to identify and fix plumbing issues and perform maintenance tasks. Therefore, commercial plumbing generally requires more knowledge, expertise, and professional equipment than residential plumbing.


Clearing a clogged drain in a residential home is a straightforward process. Plumbers can use a drain snake to break up blockages in sewer lines, toilets, shower drains, and kitchen sinks with little challenge. Even if they encounter bigger problems such as damaged lines or root intrusions, the process is relatively simple.

Snaking drain lines in a large commercial building can be much more challenging, especially in a high-rise building. In some cases, plumbers are required to clear all clogs from the affected drain to the end of the line. This means they have to go to every floor below to check for blockages and unclog the drain line if necessary. If they miss a clog, it can lead to flooding and other problems in the units located below.

Leak Detection

In most homes, detecting leaks isn’t such a daunting task. Plumbers can easily narrow down the search for a leak by ruling out what isn’t leaking. They can also use special equipment to locate a slab leak.

Plumbing leaks in a large commercial building are harder to detect because they can come from anywhere. If the leak originates from a higher floor, the plumbers need to search each floor above until they find the source. In addition, they may have to coordinate with multiple occupants to find the leak, which can create a stressful situation. Sometimes, the process may involve cutting into walls and ceilings.

Water Pressure

residential plumber

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In a residential space, plumbers can easily identify the cause of a water pressure issue by determining whether it occurs at a single fixture or throughout the home. Then, they can solve the problem by repairing the fixture or turning or fixing the water shutoff valve or main water supply valve.

Things are more complicated in a high-rise commercial building. Water pressure must be strong enough to push water up to the highest floor, but too much pressure at the bottom may lead to damage to pipes and fixtures or violation of plumbing codes. Therefore, it’s necessary to maintain the right balance at all times. When a water pressure problem occurs, it can be because of a wide array of reasons, from a clogged faucet to a faulty pressure-reducing valve. It takes a skilled commercial plumber and a substantial amount of time to fix the issue.

How To Choose the Right Plumber

Now that you know the difference between commercial and residential plumbing, you can proceed to find a plumber that suits your specific needs. The following are a few questions you should ask your prospective plumber before hiring:

  • Do you provide commercial/residential plumbing services?: Since there’s a big difference between commercial and residential plumbing, it’s essential to find a plumber that specializes in the type of plumbing you need.
  • Are you up to date with the codes and requirements that apply to commercial/residential plumbing?: It’s especially important to ask this question if you’re looking for commercial plumbing services because this type of plumbing must adhere to significantly more stringent requirements.
  • Are you a full-service provider?: You should hire a plumber who can do more than just fixing leaks or unclog drains. Make sure they also offer services such as inspection, installation, upgrading, and maintenance.

If you’re looking for a reputable plumber in Chicagoland that provides both commercial and residential plumbing services, feel free to schedule an appointment with Dahme Mechanical Industries, Inc.