Piping Vs Plumbing

In the intricate infrastructure web that supports our modern society, two essential systems play distinct yet interconnected roles: piping and plumbing. While often used interchangeably, these terms refer to different processes that serve specific functions within fluid transportation and distribution. From the water that flows through our homes and businesses to the complex networks that facilitate industrial processes, the disparities between piping and plumbing are significant and critical to ensuring the seamless operation of our built environment. This article delves into the nuances of piping and plumbing, shedding light on their process differences and uncovering their pivotal roles in sustaining our daily lives and industrial progress. Whether you’re a professional in the field or simply curious about the infrastructure surrounding you, understanding these differences is essential for comprehending the underpinnings of the modern world.

What is Plumbing?

what is plumbing

Plumbing refers to pipes, fixtures, valves, and other components designed to convey fluids, most commonly water, for various purposes within buildings and structures. The primary goal of plumbing is to provide a controlled and safe distribution of water, as well as the removal of wastewater and sewage. Plumbing systems are integral to residential plumbing, commercial plumbing, and industrial settings, serving functions such as supplying potable water for drinking, cooking, and sanitation and removing wastewater to be treated and disposed of safely.

Key components of plumbing systems include pipes made of various materials (such as copper, PVC, or PEX), faucets, sinks, toilets, showers, bathtubs, drains, sewage lines, water heaters, and pumps. These components work together to ensure water is delivered where needed and that used water and waste are carried away effectively.

Plumbers, who are skilled professionals, are responsible for installing, repairing, and maintaining plumbing systems. They ensure that water pressure is adequate, there are no leaks, and that wastewater is adequately drained to prevent contamination and health hazards. In addition to residential applications, plumbing is essential in industries like construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and more, contributing to our everyday comfort and the functionality of larger-scale processes.

What Is Piping?

What Is Piping

In general, piping refers to a system of pipes and associated components used to transport fluids, gases, or other materials from one location to another within various industrial, commercial, and residential contexts. Piping has a broader scope than plumbing, which deals explicitly with water distribution and wastewater removal in buildings. It is commonly associated with industrial processes, energy production, and transportation of fluids over longer distances.

Piping systems can range in complexity from simple configurations to highly intricate networks, depending on their purpose. They are commonly used in oil and gas, petrochemicals, power generation, chemical manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and more. These systems are designed to handle various substances, including liquids, gases, steam, and various chemicals, often at high pressures and temperatures.

Piping systems comprise pipes made from steel, stainless steel, carbon steel, and various alloys, which are selected based on factors like the substance being transported, the operating conditions, and environmental considerations. The system may also include valves, pumps, fittings, flanges, expansion joints, and other components to regulate, control, and support the flow of materials.

Engineers, designers, and professionals skilled in piping design and installation are responsible for creating effective and efficient piping systems that meet the specific requirements of different industries. These systems play a pivotal role in ensuring the safe and reliable transportation of fluids critical to various industrial processes and energy production methods.

Primary Differences Between Plumbing and Piping

Primary Differences Between Plumbing and Piping

Piping and plumbing are related yet distinct concepts within fluid transportation and distribution. Here are the key differences between piping and plumbing:

Scope and Purpose:

  • Piping: Piping refers to pipes, valves, fittings, and other components used to transport fluids, gases, or materials within industrial processes, energy production, and larger-scale systems. It’s often associated with conveying substances over longer distances at high pressures and temperatures.
  • Plumbing: Plumbing focuses on pipes, fixtures, valves, and components designed to provide potable water distribution and wastewater removal within buildings and structures. It serves residential, commercial, and institutional purposes, such as supplying water for drinking, cooking, and sanitation and removing wastewater.

Fluid Types:

  • Piping: Piping systems transport many fluids, including liquids, gases, steam, chemicals, etc. These systems are commonly used in industries like oil and gas, chemical processing, power generation, and manufacturing.
  • Plumbing: Plumbing systems primarily deal with potable water for domestic and commercial use and remove wastewater and sewage.


  • Piping: Piping systems can be extensive and complex, spanning large industrial facilities and long distances to facilitate processes like oil refining, chemical reactions, and energy generation.
  • Plumbing: Plumbing systems are localized to individual buildings or structures, ensuring water supply and waste removal within those specific spaces.

Components and Materials:

  • Piping: Piping systems utilize materials such as steel, stainless steel, alloys, and specialized plastics to withstand the demands of various fluids and operating conditions. Components include valves, pumps, heat exchangers, and more.
  • Plumbing: Plumbing systems use copper, PVC, PEX, and brass for pipes and fixtures like faucets, sinks, toilets, and showers.


  • Piping: Piping systems are designed and maintained by mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, and process engineering professionals.
  • Plumbing: Plumbing systems are installed, repaired, and maintained by licensed plumbers who specialize in water supply and drainage systems within buildings.

Piping and Plumbing Have Different Processes 2 - O Plus Plumbing Inc. | Leading Plumbing, Plumber & Drain Company in The Greater Toronto Area - Professional Plumbing & Drain In Toronto and GTA

Do Piping and Plumbing Have Different Processes?

Yes, piping and plumbing have different processes, primarily due to their distinct purposes, applications, and industries. Here’s a breakdown of the process differences between piping and plumbing:

Piping Process:

  1. Design and Engineering: Piping systems are designed by engineers who consider factors such as the type of fluid being transported, flow rates, pressure levels, temperature ranges, and the specific needs of the industrial process. They create detailed schematics, layouts, and specifications for the entire piping network.
  2. Material Selection: Engineers select materials for pipes, fittings, valves, and other components based on chemical compatibility, pressure requirements, corrosion resistance, and temperature tolerance. Various types of metals and alloys are commonly used in piping systems.
  3. Installation: Piping systems involve complex installation procedures requiring specialized welding, threading, or flange connections. Skilled technicians or pipefitters handle the assembly of pipes, valves, pumps, and other components, adhering to strict industry standards.
  4. Testing and Inspection: Rigorous testing and inspection procedures are performed to ensure the integrity and safety of the piping system. This may include pressure tests, leak detection, and quality checks to identify defects or weaknesses.
  5. Maintenance and Monitoring: Piping systems require regular maintenance to prevent leaks, corrosion, and other issues that could disrupt industrial processes. Monitoring and maintenance routines are established to keep the system operating efficiently and safely.

Plumbing Process:

  1. Building Layout and Design: Plumbers work with architects and building designers to create a plumbing plan that includes the placement of fixtures, pipes, and drains within the building. The goal is to ensure efficient water distribution and waste removal.
  2. Fixture Installation: Plumbers install sinks, toilets, showers, and faucets according to the building’s design. They connect these fixtures to the water supply system and establish drainage connections.
  3. Pipe Installation: Plumbing pipes supply clean water and carry away wastewater. Different materials, such as copper, PEX, and PVC, are used based on factors like budget, building codes, and environmental considerations.
  4. Testing and Inspection: Plumbers conduct pressure tests and inspections to confirm that the plumbing system is free of leaks and adheres to local plumbing codes and regulations.
  5. Maintenance and Repair: Plumbers are responsible for maintaining the plumbing system’s functionality over time. They address clogs, leaks, and fixture malfunctions, ensuring that water supply and drainage are consistent and reliable.

In essence, while piping and plumbing transport fluids through pipes, their processes differ significantly due to their unique contexts and requirements. Piping processes are tailored to industrial applications that involve complex networks and specialized materials. In contrast, plumbing processes focus on delivering water and managing waste within buildings for residential, commercial, and institutional purposes.

Are there any Standards for Plumbing and Piping?

Yes, various standards and codes govern the design, installation, maintenance, and safety aspects of plumbing and piping systems. These standards ensure that these systems are built and maintained to specific guidelines to ensure functionality, reliability, and safety. Here are some notable standards for plumbing and piping:

Standards for Plumbing and Piping

Plumbing Standards:

  1. International Plumbing Code (IPC): The IPC is a model code that provides comprehensive requirements for plumbing systems, including water supply, drainage, sanitation, and fixtures. It is widely adopted in the United States and some other countries.
  2. Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC): The UPC is another model plumbing code used in the U.S., particularly in Western states. It covers plumbing systems and their components, addressing water supply, drainage, and more.
  3. National Plumbing Code of Canada: This code provides regulations for the design and installation of plumbing systems in Canada. It addresses water supply, drainage, venting, and related components.

Piping Standards:

American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME):

  • ASME B31.1: Covers power piping systems used in power plants and industrial facilities.
  • ASME B31.3: Addresses process piping for various industries, including chemical, petrochemical, and pharmaceutical.

American Petroleum Institute (API):

  • API 570: Provides inspection and evaluation requirements for piping systems used in the petroleum and chemical industries.
  • API 5L: Encompasses requirements for both seamless and welded steel line pipes utilized in oil and gas transmission.

American Water Works Association (AWWA):

  • AWWA C900: Addresses polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pressure pipe and fittings used for water distribution systems.
  • AWWA C906: Covers high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pressure pipe and fittings for water distribution.

International Organization for Standardization (ISO):

  • Various ISO standards cover materials, design, testing, and pipe dimensions used in specific industries.

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