How to Become a Commercial Plumber: The Ultimate Guide

What is Commercial Plumbing?

If residential plumbing is to single-family homes, commercial plumbing is to multi-family buildings.

Breaking that down further, commercial plumbing is the plumbing used in commercial structures. These include high-traffic buildings like multi-family units, condominiums, high-rise offices, and businesses. Commercial establishments like hotels, restaurants, and spas are also part of the group.

What Does a Commercial Plumber Do?

Commercial plumbers, like residential plumbers, install plumbing pipes and fixtures. They study and help to create blueprints and ensure that such plans meet building codes. They also determine which materials to use in a specific section of a building.

Commercial plumbers then inspect and test all the pipe systems they install. They monitor newly-placed supply and drain lines to ensure that each part works. They make certain that there’s no interference with the flow of water and wastewater.

In existing structures, commercial plumbers troubleshoot and fix faulty systems. They use plumbing video technology, like thermal cameras, to find pipe leaks and clogs. They then correct these issues by either repairing or replacing damaged plumbing components.

Commercial plumbers also carry out routine preventative work on commercial plumbing systems. These include full system inspections and drain cleaning services. For the latter, most commercial plumbers use powerful industry-grade hydro jetters.

What Makes Them Different From Residential Plumbers Then?

As you can see, commercial plumbers and residential plumbers share the same responsibilities. The main difference between the two is their scope of work and the number of people they serve.

For instance, residential plumbers work for individuals and the average-sized household. In the US, the average household has about 2.6 to 3.4 people.

Commercial plumbers, on the other hand, work in buildings with an average size of over 15,500 square feet. That’s the average size of the 5.6 million commercial building units back in 2012. These structures covered more than 87 billion square feet of floor space.

From those figures alone, you can already see just how big the jobs of commercial plumbers are. In addition, many commercial structures use industrial-grade plumbing components and fixtures. The architecture itself of commercial plumbing systems is also more complex.

Also, the more people a plumbing system serves, the higher the risk for costly damages. If a typical US home has three people, a commercial building has ten to several hundred times more. With all those users, it’s easy to see why commercial plumbers are always with work.

Make no mistake though: all types of plumbers are valuable and important workers. The Whitehouse itself has recently declared them as “essential critical infrastructure workers“.

The Journey To Become a Commercial Plumber

Almost all states in the US require plumbers to carry a license to do plumbing work. Licensure not only involves an exam but also meeting education and training requirements.

Education

Residential and commercial plumbers follow a similar roadmap to becoming a licensed plumber. It all starts with plumbing education, which you can gain through apprenticeship. You can also undergo commercial plumber training via a state-authorized vocational course.

Supervised Hands-On Training

After you complete a plumbing course, you need to complete an apprenticeship program. Depending on your state, you must have supervised training that amounts to at least 2,000 hours.

The same would apply if you choose an apprenticeship on the get-go. Most states do require at least 246 hours of dedicated technical education though.

Sitting for the Journeyman Licensure Exam

To become a plumber in a state that requires licensure, you need to pass an exam first. Do note that several states have more exam qualification requirements for commercial plumbers.

Mississipi, for example, separates residential and commercial plumbing licensure. You can only qualify for a commercial license if you do commercial work amounting to over $50,000. For residential plumbers, the minimum is $10,001.

Another example is Oregon, which requires both commercial and residential experience. To be eligible to take the journeyman exam, you need proof of 3,850 hours of commercial work experience. On top of that is another 3,850 hours of residential plumbing experience.

Furthering Your Career as a Master Plumber

Many journeyman plumbers choose to further their career by becoming a master plumber. Master plumbers, after all, are, well, the masters in the industry. They have both journeyman plumbers and apprentices working under them.

Also, there’s quite a difference in their average commercial plumber salary. Licensed journeyman plumbers make between $37,000 up to $80,000 every year. Whereas master plumbers make an average of anywhere between $42,900 and $99,805 a year!

Get Your Journey Started Now

There you have it, your ultimate guide on what a commercial plumber is and how to become one. Now that you know, you can decide if it’s the right career option for you.

Just remember that plumbers have and will always be critical workers. This means that there will always be commercial plumber jobs waiting for them.

Ready to kick off your plumbing career? Then feel free to browse our plumbing job listings to find an apprenticeship program!