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Standard or Commercial Grade

Whether selecting the right plumbing products for a retrofit, remodel or new construction, facility owners, architects, engineers and property managers have some important decisions to make. Commercial-grade and residential products each have their own unique features and benefits ... but is there room for crossover between the two? In recent years, homeowners have started to incorporate commercial-grade kitchen appliances, faucets, sinks and even cleaning supplies, as the trend toward restaurant-inspired kitchens grows. But taking the reverse approach in commercial spaces may not always be the best long-term decision.


In order to invest in items that will enhance the overall value of a commercial property, durability, consistency and accessibility should be top-of-mind.

Going the Distance

First and foremost, commercial facilities need plumbing products that are going to last, with minimal upkeep and repair. Consider how much and what type of traffic your property receives each day, and if these individuals are primarily regulars or visitors. If a facility receives more traffic, use and potential abuse in a day than the average home, commercial products are a must.

What if your designer wants to use fixtures that are not created specifically for heavy-duty applications? Take a closer look at who will be using these items and how they will be used. In a residential setting, individuals are more likely to take ownership of their space and treat it with respect. If the building is a revolving door for visitors, like a school, stadium or short-term medical care facility, it’s important to install commercial-grade products that can withstand heavy use, and even occasional misuse from unfamiliar users.

There is one area where the use of heavy-duty plumbing products is often non-negotiable: the toilet. Choosing commercial-grade water closets, urinals and flush valves ensures long-term durability, reliability, and the quick turnaround needed to move individuals in and out of the stalls. Inconsistent water pressure is a common issue in larger buildings. Commercial flush valves provide a powerful flush each time, maintaining proper sanitation. Hardwearing, hands-free flush valves assure fewer repairs and fewer germs in the bathroom. As an added bonus, commercial toilets eliminate wait times for tank refills, reducing lines and keeping users moving.

Shower and locker rooms are another place where commercial-specific plumbing products have a distinct advantage. Look for tub/shower systems that ensure safe and consistent operation, to reduce the risk of radical fluctuations in water temperature or pressure and comply with commercial building codes. If your space includes multiple showers, purchase valves that allow for “back-to-back” installation, saving time and money. Integral stops are also important, especially in places like hotels or apartments, because they permit the maintenance professional to shut the water off at the valve to repair the particular shower in need; rather than having to shut the water off at the supply, leaving all of the showers inoperable.

Gray Areas

Commercial plumbing products may be crucial for high-traffic areas with an increased potential for abuse and vandalism, but there are some products that can easily cross over from residential to institutional settings. So, where is this middle ground?

Designers may choose to incorporate items like high-end countertops, wall coverings or decorative elements as part of a unique feature area such as an executive office or long-term patient care room. The use of these items provides design flexibility, while allowing for the installation of more heavy-duty products in higher-traffic spaces. Creatively using colors, versus the standard stark white, and decorative finishes, like a sleek brushed nickel, ensures that a space looks less institutional and more warm and welcoming.

Equality for All

When building or remodeling any commercial facility, accessibility is key. According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, the number of Americans with physical limitations is larger than that of any U.S. minority group. More than 40 million Americans (about one in seven) face some type of physical challenge; a number that is expected to increase significantly in the next 30 years. Compliance with ADA standards and regulations is required in public facilities; and chances are strong that your building accommodates individuals with disabilities. Using the principles of universal design, property owners and managers can create environments that maximize use for people of all ages and physical abilities with plumbing products that are accessible, flexible and intuitive.

Guaranteed to Please

Products made specifically for commercial use almost always carry shorter warranties than those created for the home. One- to five-year guarantees are standard for commercial faucets, flush valves and sinks. This compares to 10-, 20-year, or even lifetime coverage on products designed for residential applications. It may be tempting to purchase the residential-skewed items for their long-lasting guarantees; however, they often follow a separate contract for commercial installations. Regardless of the product, check the manufacturer’s website or read the fine print to ensure that you are getting the level of coverage that you desire.

By taking the time to consider how your commercial facility is used and who is actually using it, you can select the perfect plumbing products to make your space beautiful, durable and accessible for years to come.