How Does the Commercial Re-Piping Process Work?

Much like a residential re-pipe, all the hot and cold water lines within your business are removed and replaced with either new copper, PVC, or PEX piping.

To help you better plan and prepare, the team at MaintenX has assembled this handy reference guide to explain the why, where, and how of a typical commercial re-piping project.

Commercial Re-Piping Projects: Understanding the Why

As the water moves through your pipes, dirt, debris, or the minerals in the water will begin to accumulate inside. When left unchecked, the build-up continues until the component is serviced, replaced, or fails.

The most common indicators that it’s time for a commercial re-pipe are:

• Poor-tasting, discolored, or foul-smelling water

• Turning the water on or off causes the pipes to bang or creak

• Visible corrosion or rust on pipes, fittings, and valves

• Visible leaks at connection points

• Low water pressure

If you’re experiencing any of these issues, don’t hesitate to contact the MaintenX Plumbing Division immediately.

All existing water lines, valves, connections, and shutoffs will be replaced during re-piping. As a result, you’ll have a brand-new water supply system throughout your business location, from the water meter to the hose bibs.

Typically, the drain and sewer pipes are not included in a commercial re-pipe, as they are isolated and independent from the water supply system. Also, the existing water heater, sinks, faucets, and toilets typically remain during a commercial re-piping project. However, if you’ve considered upgrading one or all these items, our plumbing experts can help you select the best options tailored to your business needs.

Commercial Re-Piping Projects: Understanding the Where

Many assume that the contractor must remove most or all the existing drywall to allow access to the water supply pipes. But, of course, this immediately conjures up images of you and your team trying to work in an active construction zone.

Luckily, you can put away your hard hats and dust masks since a commercial re-piping project requires removing only a small amount of drywall.

Most commercial walls range from 3½” to 7″ wide. The entire wall cavity (space between the wall studs) is easily accessible for materials, tools, and workers from either side.

Most plumbing standards follow consistent guidelines, reducing the amount of drywall to demolish.

6″ to 8″ above the finish floor (AFF) for toilet shutoffs
16″ to 20″ AFF for sink faucet shutoffs
32″ to 34″ AFF for shower/bath faucet
40″ to 44″ AFF for utility connections

As a result, the drywall is removed in 6″ to 12″ wide sections (horizontal stripes) at the corresponding elevation for the fixture/device.

Commercial Re-Piping Projects: Understanding the How

The process described above is known as “selective demolition.” Removing enough drywall to facilitate the re-pipe process lowers the costs of demolition and replacement of drywall.
The first step of a selective demolition plan is to review any existing construction documents for your building to determine the position of water lines and any connection points.

Next, a small exploratory hole gets cut into the drywall for visual confirmation.

Once all the pipes and connections are verified, we remove the drywall to provide access.

After removing the old pipe or tubing lengths, the new lines (or tubing) are installed and connected.

After pressure and leak testing (and any applicable building department inspections), the drywall is replaced, finished, and painted.

Selective demolition reduces the noise, dirt, and dust to an absolute minimum, which your employees and coworkers will appreciate. But it also lowers the costs and shortens project timelines, a win for business owners and Facility Managers like you.

Once the re-pipe is complete, your commercial plumbing system should be ready for another 20+ years with regular servicing and maintenance.

Commercial Re-Pipe FAQs

1. How long does a typical commercial re-pipe take?

That depends on several factors, such as the building size and your business or industry needs. For example, an office building and a manufacturing or industrial site could be the same size and have very different-sized plumbing systems and fixtures.

2. Which is the smart choice, copper, PVC, or PEX pipes and fittings?

Each option has its pros and cons.

Copper has been used extensively in commercial and residential plumbing applications over the last 80 years. While its strength and durability are legendary, copper is typically the most expensive re-piping option.

PVC has a virtually indefinite lifespan but can only withstand temperatures up to 140°F. As a result, PVC will not rust or corrode and shouldn’t need replacing under everyday use. Unfortunately, these pipes and their required adhesives contain the highest levels of chemicals of the top three re-piping options.

PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) is made from plastic, so it’s affordable, flexible, and easy to work with. However, PEX is unsuitable for applications where it can be directly exposed to UV, which can cause the synthetic material to deteriorate.

The MaintenX Team  can help you make the best choice after considering local building codes, the plumbing system complexity, and your budget and project timeline.

3. I’m concerned about sustainability and building green; which re-piping option is the most eco-friendly?

Manufacturing PVC occurs through a chemical reaction between carbon, chlorine, and ethylene, and the manufacturing process releases other harmful chemicals and compounds. As a result, PVC is not biodegradable.

Because PEX is a cross-linked polyethylene product, recycling it into new PEX products isn’t possible. But it can be re-processed into other products, thanks to its low melting point.

Copper is the hands-down winner for sustainability and green building concerns. This every-day, naturally occurring element requires minimal processing and can be easily recycled hundreds of times.

To learn more about commercial re-piping or to get answers to your other plumbing questions, please get in touch with the MaintenX Plumbing Division experts.

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