When it comes to commercial renovations or remodeling projects, plumbing will be part of the process. It is helpful to know the types of commercial plumbing to make the most efficient selection for your building.

The Pros and Cons of Commercial Plumbing

PEX (cross-linked polyethylene)

PEX has been around since 1993 and continues to grow in popularity. It is a flexible material that can easily be woven through walls, basements, ceilings, and crawl spaces. It is also rigid enough to support water pressure.

The benefits of PEX include:

  • Lasts longer than copper & CPVC
  • Cheaper than copper and similar in price to CPVC
  • Color-coded for easy identification (red for hot water & blue for cold)
  • Highly flexible and easy to cut
  • Fewer joints and weak spots
  • Easy to attach push-fit plumbing fittings
  • Quick and easy to install
  • Doesn’t corrode
  • Resists burning from freezing pipes
  • Fire resistant

The disadvantages of PEX include:

  • Extended long-term use has not been tested
  • Push-fit fitting are prone to leaks
  • Cannot be recycled

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

PVC has been used since the 1930s and is most commonly used for drainage, vent lines, and water main pipes. PVC typically comes in white but you can get additional color options. While this is relatively easy to install, slightly more work is required and solvents are needed for gluing pipes together.

CPVC (Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride)

CPVC is used for both hot and water pipes but is especially good for hot water, as it can withstand temperatures up to 180 degrees F. CPVC is typically white and uses the same push-git fitting as copper and PEX pipes.

The benefits of both PVC and CPVC include:

  • Long-term use has been tested and few defects detected
  • One of the most inexpensive materials
  • CPVC is a top choice for hot water
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Easy installation with diameters clearly marked on the pipes
  • Great for long pipe runs (irrigation)

Possible disadvantages to these plastics to consider include:

  • Not usable for exterior exposed piping (too much sun exposure makes plastics brittle)
  • Does not react well to bug sprays or chemicals being applied to it
  • Has to be cut as it cannot be unjoined when replaced
  • Glued connections are prone to leaks
  • Can develop stress cracks and can freeze

ABS (Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene)

ABS pipes were developed in the 1950s and look a lot like PVC pipes except these pipes are black instead of white. These are not typically used for drinking water and are better suited for drain and vent piping.

The advantages of ABS pipes include:

  • Easy to install
  • Less expensive than metal pipes
  • Stronger than PVC pipes
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Ideal for exterior use
  • Can withstand cold temperatures

Things to consider before choosing ABS plumbing:

  • Good for exterior use but cannot be exposed
  • May bow or sag if not properly installed
  • Not permitted by most building codes
  • May warp at certain temperatures


Copper became popular after World War II when it was discovered that lead had potential health risks associated with its use. Copper is a formidable alternative and is available in three thicknesses, making it a good fit for multiple commercial projects. Copper can be either rigid or flexible. The flexible type is ideal for short runs and can easily be bent to fit around corners. Copper pipes are connected using compression fitting or solder.

Reasons to consider copper plumbing include:

  • Able to withstand intense pressure
  • Handles heat well
  • Lasts between 80 to100 years
  • Stands up to UV degradation, so can be used for exterior piping
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Easy to recycle
  • Does not expand or contract like plastic piping

You should also consider these disadvantages:

  • Installation and repair work is labor-intensive
  • Expensive installation
  • If carrying drinking water, there may be a slight metallic taste
  • Pinhole leaks can develop in the piping
  • Corrosion can occur inside the pipes

Galvanized Steel Pipe & Cast Iron

Galvanized pipes are made from steel or iron, and are coated with zinc. This piping is safe for use with drinking water and is commonly used in commercial water distribution. Galvanized pipes are strong, and can last up to 50 years with proper care. Corrosion is typically the reason these pipes need to be replaced.

The benefits of galvanized steel or cast iron pipes include:

  • Very strong
  • Less expensive than other piping materials
  • Come with a wider diameter for increased water flow

Galvanized steel and cast iron plumbing also have disadvantages to consider:

  • Heavy and challenging to cut
  • Some galvanized steel may pass lead into the water
  • Corrosion or rust can block water flow
  • Over time a slight metallic taste in water appears and visible impurities

Final thoughts

You have options when it comes to commercial plumbing Proper installation and reliable materials are essential for commercial plumbing, so you don’t have to worry about any issues.


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