The key differences between residential and commercial construction

Residential and commercial construction projects have numerous differences in tools, materials, purpose and functionality. The cost of commercial construction in comparison to residential is usually much higher and more likely to be publicly funded. While residential construction is often privately funded through capital investment and bank loans.

Here are the main differences between residential and commercial construction.


Residential construction is usually for domestic housing and apartment buildings. Projects range from self-builds to housing estates and apartment complexes. On the other hand, commercial construction is used for building offices, industrial facilities and professional establishments. These sites are often controlled by the commissioning business and the hired commercial building company.

Of course, the purpose of a construction site has a big impact on the materials and equipment used as well as the functionality of the space.


Residential projects are likely to rely on more cost-effective materials that can be used on a smaller scale. Timber is a popular choice for residential construction projects because of its affordability. Although with a bigger budget, residential projects may have more choice, creativity and flexibility when selecting their materials.

Residential materials are likely to be more focused on aesthetics, whereas commercial builds look for functionality and cost-effectiveness on a larger scale. For example, commercial buildings are more likely to use roofing sheets as opposed to traditional roofing materials that are more common in residential buildings.

Commercial construction sites operate on a larger scale and can afford more investment in materials, like steel. Commercial companies will usually benefit from economies of scale by ordering large quantities of materials.

Project length

Residential projects are much shorter than commercial builds and less complicated. Commercial projects usually need a large workforce to meet deadlines and maximum efficiency to ensure greater profits. Commercial sites will often have tighter deadlines and a more varied skillset on the site at once.

On the other hand, residential sites operate at a much slower pace and use a smaller workforce with less efficient equipment. Commercial projects are likely to take longer to complete because of their complexity and vast scale.


Commercial projects often need high-powered machinery and specialist equipment to perform complex tasks. Workers will need special training to operate some machines, which comes with an added cost. Commercial construction sites can justify added training costs for a specialist workforce and machinery. Larger construction sites may need cranes and earth-moving equipment, which requires specialist health and safety training and experience to operate.

Residential construction is often on a much smaller scale and does not require such heavy-duty equipment. In the case of self-builds, homeowners often choose to DIY parts of their home to save costs on hiring a workforce and machinery. If these DIY projects go wrong, they can be solved fairly easily because of their smaller scale. It’s also important to note that commercial sites are more liable to huge lawsuits if things go drastically wrong.

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