There Can Be Quite a Difference Between Commercial Plumbing Repair and Residential Plumbing Repairs

I see plumbing contractors everywhere advertising commercial plumbing repairs or service. Why do contractors delineate between residential, industrial and commercial plumbing repair services? Isn’t all plumbing the same? This is a valid question to ask regarding plumbing but we’ll liken it to this; even though you have a fine mechanic that works on your car do you think a NASCAR or Indy team would want your mechanic to join their pit crew? A trained mechanic would absolutely know the concepts and principles behind a race car just as a residential plumbing or plumbing service contractor would know the concepts behind commercial and industrial plumbing but there are some pretty big differences as well. Here some of the most important differences between the residential plumbing and commercial industrial plumbing.

Commercial Plumbing Repair

PLUMBING FIXTURES:

  • Yes plumbing fixtures are used in all applications but what kind and how they are installed are the biggest differences. Let’s take the toilet for example. In residential applications especially in homes the toilet is a floor mounted toilet in that it is mounted on the floor and secured to a closet flange. Even though these same toilets can be used in a commercial or industrial application most times when high usage is expected a toilet with a flush valve is the better choice. The flush valve may be manually activated or be automatically flushed using an infrared beam. If the toilet is wall hung toilet it needs to be installed using a closet carrier installed behind the wall. This device is used to support the fixture, person on the fixture and drainage (see picture of closet carrier). A fair percentage of residential plumbers are not familiar with flush valves and fixture carriers. Moving on to the lavatories, in homes lavatories are for the most part either drop-in or pedestals and they use single handle or two handle design faucets. As stated in the above, these two can be used in commercial applications however quite often a wall hung lavatory is specified and if installed correctly that lavatory should be hung on a lavatory chair carrier. Moving back to faucets, quite a few commercial or industrial installations require a plumber to install battery or solar operated automatic faucets to conserve water, be more hygienic and to save on clean up. (When people move their hands from the spout to turn off the water on a manual faucet they deposit water on the counter or lavatory. If an automatic faucet is used the water is turned off when the person takes their hands from under the spout Hence saving for clean up.) People also don’t have to touch anything minimizing the spread of germs. The last example in the fixture category that we’ll speak about is the urinal used to remove liquid waste in a men’s bathroom. Urinals are not normally installed in a residential bathroom although most of us men would love them in our house. The urinal can use a fixture carrier or be installed on backing in the wall. It uses a manually operated flush valve or an automatic flush valve for the same reasons stated above.

Mechanical Equipment:

  • Again some plumbing mechanical equipment is used in residential applications for example water heaters, most residential installations require an electric or gas fired tank type water heater. Do quite a few light commercial use the same type of heater? Yes, but most heavy industry, multi level commercial/office and apartment complexes use a commercial boiler and a storage tank. These installations are very different from the normal tank type water heater installations. (Please see boiler and storage tank installation guide) In most major municipalities water pressure is a very real issue when servicing a multistory building or high rise. In cases where water pressure is not available to service a building a water booster or house pump is installed to boost the pressure of the incoming water so water can be used at acceptable levels. Booster pumps are used in residential applications but are not nearly as complex or large. Here are some other types of mechanical equipment that would rarely be seen in residential applications; roof drains, commercial floor drains, trench drains, thermostatic mixing valves under lavatories, RPZ valves etc.

Size and Type of Materials Used:

  • Most single family homes use anywhere between a ¾” and 11/2” incoming water service. Light commercial may use the same size however in most commercial/industrial and high rise construction the incoming water service starts at 2” and can go up to 12” or larger. At these sizes connections are made with flanged fittings. Without getting into too much detail there are a ton of products used in commercial applications that are just can’t be used practically in a residential home application. One such application is the mechanical joint fitting. The mechanical joint fitting is a broad definition that covers many products but it is essentially this; it is a means of connecting pipe and fittings together by means of a coupling with a gasket. The materials being connected whether it be copper, steel, ductile iron etc, are not using any soldering, brazing or fusion methods. One example of a mechanical joint is the grooved pipe method. It is accomplished by using a tool called a groover to groove a notch at the end of each pipe being joined. Those two ends are joined by a groove coupling. The coupling has a rubber ring inside that fits inside each groove at the pipe ends and is tightened by two bolts on the outside of the coupling compressing the gasket to fill up the groove thereby sealing the joint. (We need to find a diagram of a groove coupling and maybe a cut away ). These different types of joining methods are used because traditional joining methods are not cost effective when dealing with large diameter pipe and fittings.

 

Again there are many different concepts, materials and techniques used in commercial and industrial plumbing that we did not touch on. We hope this gives you a general idea of why plumbing can be so different, why the definition a plumbing technician can be so different when referring to commercial/industrial and residential.

Let us be clear that neither the residential plumbing tech nor the commercial/industrial plumbing tech is better or more skilled than the other but they do have a very different skill set. If you can find one that is proficient in both you’ve found one well rounded plumbing professional.

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