Piping Material for Commercial Buildings: Types and Benefits

When it comes to constructing a commercial building, one of the most critical decisions that a contractor must make is selecting the appropriate piping material for the plumbing infrastructure. The choice of piping material plays a pivotal role in ensuring the seamless operation of the building’s plumbing system. Inadequate selection can lead to a host of problems, including downtime in production, potential injuries, and health hazards for occupants. In this blog post, we will delve into the intricacies of commercial plumbing and explore the different types of piping materials available. Additionally, we will provide insights into the factors that should guide the selection of the best piping material for specific commercial settings.

Differences Between Commercial and Residential Plumbing

First and foremost, it’s essential to understand that commercial plumbing differs significantly from residential plumbing. While a technician experienced in residential plumbing can adapt to commercial projects, the scale and complexity of commercial plumbing require specialized knowledge and skills.

Commercial plumbing systems are typically larger and more intricate than their residential counterparts. Buildings like office complexes, retail spaces, and high-rises accommodate a more extensive population than a typical home, necessitating the installation of larger pipes spanning multiple floors. Contractors might even find themselves responsible for installing branch lines that extend to towering heights of 40 floors or more.

Moreover, familiarity with the differences in plumbing codes between residential and commercial buildings is crucial. For instance, PVC piping, often acceptable for residential use, is frequently prohibited for above-ground drains in commercial settings. Instead, copper or stainless steel pipes are mandated. Contractors should also be prepared to work without the direct presence of property owners and be adept at communicating with various stakeholders while adhering to specific building policies.

Types of Piping Materials Used in Commercial Buildings

In the realm of commercial plumbing, contractors have a variety of piping materials at their disposal, each with its unique characteristics and applications. Here are some of the most common types:


Copper pipes are the go-to choice when a building demands durability, corrosion resistance, and the ability to withstand high pressure. They find utility in both hot and cold-water applications, including underground service conduits and refrigerant lines. However, it’s important to note that copper pipes can be relatively expensive, which may impact budget considerations.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

PVC pipes are lightweight, durable, and cost-effective, making them suitable for indoor projects and drainage applications. However, they are not suitable for extreme heat or UV exposure, limiting their outdoor use.

CPVC (Chlorinated Polyvinyl)

Similar to PVC, CPVC pipes are budget-friendly but have the added advantage of withstanding higher temperatures and pressures. They are suitable for drinking water and water supply applications but are vulnerable to freezing temperatures.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel pipes offer exceptional corrosion resistance and strength. However, their high cost means they are not commonly used in commercial plumbing projects.


Brass pipes are rust and corrosion-resistant, making them ideal for hot and cold water supplies in commercial facilities. They are also easy to thread, providing installation convenience.


Cast-iron pipes are robust and capable of withstanding high pressures, making them suitable for sewer lines and water distribution in commercial buildings. They are also fire-resistant and emit minimal noise, making them a popular choice in apartment buildings and condominiums.

PEX (Cross-Linked Polyethylene)

PEX pipes are flexible and easy to install, making them ideal for water supply lines. Their flexibility allows for bending around corners and other pipes. However, like PVC, they are not suitable for outdoor applications due to UV sensitivity.

Determining the Best Piping Material for Each Commercial Setting

Selecting the right piping material for a commercial building is a crucial decision that can significantly impact the functionality of the plumbing system. Several factors should be considered to make an informed choice:


Contractors should assess the intended use of the pipes. Different applications may require specific piping materials. For instance, irrigation, waste, and freshwater applications often demand different types of pipes.

Temperature Tolerance

In applications where high-temperature fluids are involved, the material’s ability to withstand heat is paramount. Inadequate heat resistance can lead to corrosion and workplace hazards, making metal pipes a preferred choice in such scenarios.

Pressure Tolerance

High-pressure applications require pipes with thick walls and a high-pressure tolerance. Choosing pipes that can’t handle the stress can lead to leaks, flooding, and potential injuries.

Likelihood of Corrosion

The corrosive nature of the fluids flowing through the system should be a significant consideration. Highly corrosive fluids may necessitate the use of materials like stainless steel or galvanized steel pipes.

UV Exposure

For pipes exposed to direct sunlight, the impact of UV exposure should not be underestimated. Materials that break down under prolonged sunlight exposure should be avoided to prevent frequent plumbing repairs.

Piping Flexibility

In situations where some degree of pipe flexibility is needed to prevent cracks, materials like PVC pipes, known for their flexibility, lightweight nature, and versatility, may be the preferred choice.

Selecting the Right Plumbing Pipe for Commercial Properties

In conclusion, the choice of piping material for commercial plumbing is a decision of paramount importance. Access to safe, running water is just as critical in commercial facilities as in residential homes. Whether constructing a new building or replacing an existing piping system, contractors must carefully evaluate factors such as the intended plumbing application, temperature and pressure requirements, and the corrosive nature of the liquids in the system. While the array of piping materials available may seem daunting, collaborating with a piping professional well-versed in various commercial settings can simplify the selection process. By making the right choice, contractors can ensure the long-term functionality and reliability of the plumbing system in commercial properties.

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