What Is the Difference Between Plumbing and Piping?

What Is the Difference Between Plumbing and Piping?

Plumbing and process piping systems are both integral parts of any industrial facility, but they’re easy to confuse because of how similar they look. Despite their resemblance, these two systems have several distinctive functions that you should be aware of because they fall under different state and federal regulations depending on your location. Allow us to show you what the difference between plumbing and piping is.

Differing Functions

Despite the surface-level similarities the two systems may have, the primary difference between plumbing and piping is the different functions they serve. Along with these functions, there are various regulations and needs they must follow to function correctly. The best way to tell the two apart is by examining where the pipes connect and what fluids they carry.

The intended purpose of plumbing is to bring water into a facility. It also provides safe drainage as the water and waste exit the building. However, process piping moves gases, chemicals, water, and other fluids from one location to another during the manufacturing process of your facility.


To install and maintain plumbing within your facility, you must acquire the necessary permits, pay fees, and undergo inspections to ensure it meets the regulations of the area and the industry standards. Because of these regulations, copper and plastic are the dominant materials in most plumbing systems. This makeup allows them to handle pressure, corrosion, and other factors that could hinder their functioning.

The roles of plumbing include distributing potable water, removing waste, and heating and cooling a facility.

Process Piping

On the other hand, process piping doesn’t fulfill a purpose or utility for the building. Instead, it makes a particular component of your manufacturing process possible. It can contribute to things like chemical manufacturing or petroleum refinement. While plumbing follows municipal codes, process piping contractors follow engineering standards and regulations, such as ASCME and OSHA standards.

Some process piping functions include:

  • Mixing and separating fluids
  • Stopping and starting fluid flow
  • Carrying out pressurization or depressurization
  • Filtering substances

Because of these different roles, piping systems come in a wider variety of materials.

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