Understand the Categories of Water Damage
Processes For Growing Restoration Companies
Understand the Categories of Water Damage
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Water is categorized based on source, dwelling time, temperature, and pre-existing conditions. The category of the water determines how mitigation and restoration will need to be performed.
Step 1: Thoroughly investigate the damage
The structure needs to be thoroughly investigated before assigning a category, as much depends on the categorization of the water.
Step 2: Category 1 (Clean Water)
This water is:
  • from a clean source
  • not a significant risk to health
  • not present for a long period of time
  • not strong smelling (presence of odor indicates another category and must be investigated further)
Materials affected are clean and well-maintained.

Examples include:
  • broken water supply line
  • appliance malfunction involving water supply line
  • tub or sink overflow with no contaminants
Once identified, Category 1 losses can be mitigated with structural drying; no additional procedures to address contamination are needed. Materials need to be completely dried in a time-sensitive fashion and only need to be replaced if permanently structurally or aesthetically damaged.
Step 3: Category 2 (Grey Water)
This water has:
  • a significant degree of chemical, biological and/or physical contamination
  • potential to cause sickness or discomfort
Examples include:
  • aquarium or waterbed leaks
  • toilet bowl overflows containing urine
  • dishwasher or clothing washer leaks
  • water entering the structure from below-grade
Cleaning processes need to take place to take care of contamination prior to drying procedures. The water must not be allowed to dwell for a significant time. Carpet underlay needs to be removed and disposed of, and carpet itself must be thoroughly cleaned. Antimicrobials are used to prevent bacterial growth.
Step 4: Category 3 (Black Water)
This water is:
  • from a significantly unsanitary source
  • carrying disease-causing agents
Examples include:
  • discharge from toilets beyond the toilet trap (ex. sewer or septic system)
  • flood waters
Dealing with a Category 3 loss is much more complicated. Proper PPE must be used for your safety. Worker and occupant health and safety are the first priority on these (and any) projects. Evacuate individuals with compromised immune systems until mitigation has been performed. All highly porous materials must be removed and various decontamination methods employed prior to drying the structure, and any surfaces that are to be restored must be cleaned.

Be familiar with the labeling on any biocides used as well as the local laws that govern its use.
Step 5: Special Situations
  • Consult a third party expert when dealing with a loss that involves contamination from a regulated or hazardous material. These do not change the category of the loss.
  • If mold is growing in a Category 2 loss, the loss is still Category 2, but mold remediation techniques must be employed during mitigation.
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