Interested in seeing how commercial and residential plumbers compare? In this article, find out which is right for you.
Have you ever looked at a skyscraper and wondered how their plumbing works, in comparison to your own home? There are vast differences that require a special set of skills to understand. It’s the distinction between a residential plumber and a commercial plumber.
You may think, “what’s the difference between the plumbing in a small-town store and in someone’s home?” While they may seem similar in scope, each business is different, and a residential plumbing system has its own set of unique problems.
We’ll describe the differences between these two types to better understand why a commercial plumber is ideal for business. This starts with learning the basics.
Where Do Commercial and Residential Plumbers Do Their Business?
Residential plumbers spend most of their time inside a house. Whether its one-bedroom or four-bedroom, you’ll still use a standard plumber. This is also true for small apartment building plumbing and duplexes.
Home plumbing systems tend to be smaller and less complex than what a commercial plumber deals with. Commercial plumbers work with businesses and large housing units, such as apartment buildings, hotels, etc.
Unlike the homes visited by a residential plumber, systems for businesses can be vastly different. For example, a grocery store may have an intricate watering system for their vegetables, which includes sprayers and/or drains.
A restaurant has several toilets in each bathroom, as well as urinals. A skyscraper can have hundreds of toilets and an incredibly complex water heating system. Some commercial plumbers specialize in certain commercial properties and systems, but many can work on most systems.
Communication is Different for a Commercial Plumber
When it comes to communication, residential plumbers have it easy. They’re dealing directly with the owner(s) of a property or the primary person that uses the plumbing system (in the case of rental homes).
When dealing with commercial properties such as a hospital or large apartment building, they’re not communicating with an owner, but rather a mediator such as a maintenance manager or tenant. If the work requires a significant budget, though, they may have to contact the owner or a higher-ranking member to approve the expense.
If it’s a public building, such as a school or a municipal building, the plumber likely has to wait for the project to be approved by a board. Otherwise, they can go through a formal bidding process to be chosen for the project.
In addition to communication issues, commercial plumbers must also deal with higher insurance coverage, in-depth licensing, and special considerations for hospitals and other health-related businesses.
Clearing a Drain Isn’t Always Easy
When a residential plumber deals with a pesky drain in a home, they can snake the drain to clear it out, send in a camera, or end up digging out the yard to fix a pipe outside. They typically only deal with singular systems.
When a commercial plumber clears a drain, in contrast, they must consider how it impacts the entire plumbing system. For example, if there is a clog on the 20th floor of a commercial building or large apartment complex, it’s not as simple as clearing a singular drain.
There’s miles of pipe throughout a building and most are interconnected. By clearing the drain on the 20th floor, plumbers could accidentally clog on a toilet on the 12th floor. If they can’t confirm the clog is out of the main sewer line, then it leads to flooding and other complications down the line.
Finding a Leak Can Be Complicated
Plumbers have tried to find an easy way to discover leaks for thousands of years now.
It can be difficult to find a leak in a home, but many times a residential plumber can quickly rule out certain areas. It’s a small connected system, so there are only so many places the leak can originate.
Imagine a building with 30 stories and miles of piping, with a leak on the 25th floor. Just because water is leaking through the ceiling on the 25th floor, doesn’t mean that’s where the water originated. It could have started on the 27th or 28th floor and made its way down.
If this is an apartment building or skyscraper, each floor can potentially be owned by a different company. So you’re not only dealing with a problematic leak, but you must also seek approval from each business to find the leak’s source.
A commercial plumber must be a part-time negotiator as well. Some businesses are happy to give you permission to check their pipes for a leak, but others might not be so willing. Businesses with high security or that deal with high-profile clients may not want someone rooting around their pipes.
If one business discovers the leak, but it’s located at another business, who’s responsible for paying?
Different Sets of Building Codes
Every home, whether it’s small or large, must conform to roughly the same building codes. Homes tend to have a simple plumbing layout, but that’s not the case for commercial properties.
A hospital plumbing system has its own unique set of building codes to satisfy. An industrial factory that uses thousands of gallons of water each day has a completely different set of building codes that it must satisfy.
Commercial plumbers need to know the ins-and-outs of multiple building codes for each business. A restaurant has different needs than a clothing store. The commercial plumber must be a jack-of-all-trades.
Commercial projects are also on a much larger-scale than residential. While a single plumber can take care of multiple home plumbing problems, it can take several plumbers to deal with a commercial project. If it’s new construction, then there could be an entire fleet of plumbers working on different aspects of the plumbing system.
Choose the Right Plumber for Your Needs
With so many differences between a commercial plumber and a residential plumber, its important to choose the right one for your needs. Don’t try and use a residential plumber for your business, even though it may save you money. They’re not trained in the procedures for more complex plumbing issues.