Commercial Vs. Residential Construction

Commercial Construction Vs. Residential Construction

If you’re looking to hire a contractor, it’s important to know the difference between commercial and residential construction. “Oh, that’s obvious,” you say. “Commercial construction builds commercial buildings and residential construction builds residential buildings.” Well, Mr. Hypothetical Person, you are technically correct, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

The folks at MW Construction have shared their insights on the subject. According to them, the three big differences are materials, costs, and regulations.



residential constructionCommercial and residential buildings are used for very different purposes and therefore have very different design needs.

A residential building is meant to be lived in, usually by one family, or by a small group of families.  The buildings can therefore be smaller and simpler in design. As a result, it’s structurally sufficient more cost effective to use a timber frame.  Commercial buildings on the other hand tend to be much larger. They need more support and therefore require stronger materials.  The building will be made with a steel frame, which can hold more weight and is more durable in the elements.



commercial constructionNaturally, the difference in materials leads to a big difference in cost, even for buildings of similar size.  Steel is much more expensive to build with because of the mining and manufacturing process that goes into creating it. Additionally, commercial construction runs on a much tighter schedule than residential construction.  The tighter schedule means you need more workers of higher skill to meet the deadlines, which is more expensive.  Additional regulations also increase the costs of commercial construction.



Regulations on commercial construction are far more strict than for residential.  Laws tightly regulate everything from the utility setup and materials to the construction and design methods.  These regulations also vary from one location to the next, so a commercial construction expert has to be familiar with many complex rules for many different areas. While residential construction also has building codes to follow, their smaller size and simpler design make it much easier to accommodate those regulations and make planning and building much less complicated.


Know the Difference

There is some skill crossover between the two fields, but the two do require very different specialties.  Before you hire a construction company, be sure to find out what that company’s specialty is.  While a commercial construction company can build residential buildings and vice versa (assuming they acquire the proper permits) the different needs can lead to costly mistakes.  Experts in commercial construction may not be familiar with the most cost effective ways to construct residential homes, while residential experts may not know all the structural and regulatory demands of commercial buildings.  It’s much easier to get it right the first time than to correct it after the fact, so be sure you do your research into what the company you plan to hire is good at.  It will save you money in the long run.