Water Categories and Water Damage Classifications

Water damage categories

Water damage is not something a homeowner likes to think about. But it’s actually something that occurs pretty frequently and may have already caught you unawares. According to Insurance Industry Research, 14,000 people in the US experience a water damage emergency at home or at work each day. 98% percent of basements in the country will experience some type of water damage during their lifespans. And 10% of homes in the country have leaks that waste at least 90 gallons of water a day. Here are the scary parts. Water damage in carpet and backing usually dry out within 24 to 48 hours so you may not even notice it was there. But mold can also grow within that same time frame. And even if the water damage is classified as clean water (more about that later), it only takes 2 to 3 days before it becomes grossly unsanitary and possibly cause serious illness or even death. Yikes!

If you have any type of water damage (no matter how small), the very best thing you can do for the health and safety of yourself, your family, and your home is to call in water damage restoration professionals. This is because they can accurately assess the water category and the classification of the water damage. Yes, there is such a thing as water categories and water damage classification. The Institute of International Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) created guidelines that classifies the level of contamination of the water and the severity of the damage. By using these guidelines, professionals are able to assess exactly how much damage is done and their plan of action. Knowing the category of water will also inform these professionals on the possible health hazards and the safety precautions that must be taken. Most importantly, it ensures that the space is effectively restored into a safe and healthy place for all of its occupants (that means you).

Water Categories Comparison:

Water is categorized according to how dirty it is and how it can affect humans.

Water Category 1 or Clean Water

This is called “clean water” because the water comes from a clean source; it is not contaminated and does not pose a threat to people if they get exposed to it, whether through the skin, by ingesting it, or inhaling it. Some examples of category 1 water damage is water from a sink or bathtub overflow, broken water supply line, melting ice or snow, falling rain water, and toilet supply tank overflow or leak. While category 1 is deemed safe, it only takes 48 hours for it to become category 2. Flooding with category 1 water damage will typically just require air movers to increase the evaporation rate of water and a dehumidifier to remove the moisture from the air. Any material in category 1 water has a high chance of being salvaged.

Water Category 2 or Grey Water

This is called “grey water” and contains significant contamination (bacteria, mold, and/or chemicals) that can potentially cause discomfort or illness to individuals who come into contact with it or ingest it. Grey water can be dirty water from your dishwasher or washing machine. It could also be leaks from water beds, toilet overflow with just urine, broken aquariums, and seepage due to hydrostatic pressure. You should also note that a Category 2 water can easily become a Category 3 if it doesn’t get treated for two days or more. Remember, there are bacteria and mold growing in that water! A water damage restoration professional will be required to wear some personal protection equipment (PPE). Any carpeting in the area will have to be removed or replaced to prevent continued mold and bacterial growth.

Category 3 or Black Water

This is called “black water” and for good reason. This type of water contains pathogens, toxins, and other harmful agents that can cause serious illness or even death. Obviously, this category of water is grossly unsanitary. Black water occurs from sewage backup, toilet backflows containing feces, sea water, and rising flood water. The last one is considered black water due to the possibility of organisms and chemicals in overfilled septic and sewer systems, decaying ground debris, animal feces, and fertilizers. Serious diseases such as tetanus can also be present in rising flood waters. When dealing with black water, personal protection equipment is a must. Any affected objects such as padding, carpet, and even Sheetrock must be disposed of. An antimicrobial and antifungal chemical spray must be applied on site to kill any microorganisms and prevent further growth.

Water Damage Classification:

There are four classes of water damage. Knowing the severity of the damage will enable them to assess which drying techniques to utilize, the amount of equipment required, and even how long the process will take.

Water Damage Class 1

the least amount of water damage where only a small portion of an area or room has been affected with little or no wet carpet or cushion. This could also be a large area but the affected material have minimal absorbed moisture such as plywood or concrete.

Water Damage Class 2

a large amount of water has spread around the room and wicked up the walls but no more than 24 inches. Any carpet or padding in the room is wet. The construction materials like the sub-floor and framing members as well as substructure soil has moisture.

Water Damage Class 3

The water damage here has the highest evaporation rate of all the classes. The home or location has been severely damaged, often due to to an overhead pipe burst or a damaged fire sprinkler. The ceiling, walls, floor coverings, insulation, cushion, and subfloor in almost the entire room have been saturated with water. Wall wicking has reached above 24 inches.

Water Damage Class 4

This class is for specialty drying situations where low porous materials such as stone, brick, and hardwood have become saturated. Water could also be bound in material that is inaccessible to conventional air movers such as cavities behind and beneath cabinets, inside the walls, or in a crawlspace. This class of water damage will require longer drying times, advanced drying techniques, and specialty equipment.