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The Three Categories of Water Damage and the Risks to Handling Them Improperly

Plumbing contractors know full well about the different types of water damage because they see them every day. But they may not be aware of the different ways different types of water damage must be handled by their restoration contractor partner.

If water damage of any category is neglected or handled incorrectly, it can lead to secondary damage, lowered property values, serious health risks to building inhabitants and potential liability issues. One of the biggest issues that can result from improper water damage restoration is the growth of mold—particularly toxic molds.

Understanding Categories of Water Damage

How the category of water is determined is largely determined by the source of the water, and the higher the category, the higher the severity of the situation.

Category 1

This water originates from a clean or sanitary source such as a broken clean water supply line, a toilet tank, a faucet, a failed water heater, etc. Although the water may originate from a clean source, Category 1 water can quickly degrade into Category 2 or 3 depending upon such factors as time and contact with contaminants.

This is why it is so important to dry wet structures without delay and to dry them completely. A relatively simple problem can become a big and expensive one with only a couple of days delay. And, just because the visible water is gone does not mean the materials are dry. Building materials such as drywall, insulation, framing, flooring and sub-floors and so on must be verified and documented as properly dried to avoid secondary damage.

Category 2

This is water with some level of contaminants that could cause discomfort or illness if ingested. Category 2 water can come from washing machine overflow, toilet overflow with some urine but no feces, dishwasher overflow, etc. Category 2 water can also quickly degrade into Category 3 depending upon such factors as time and contact with contaminants. And, like Category 1, Category 2 losses can easily become Category 3 if not dried quickly and properly, resulting in a much more serious and costly problem.

Category 3

Category 3 is the most serious type of water damage and is known as black water (or sewage), which contains human and/or animal waste and other serious contaminants. This water is grossly unsanitary and could cause severe illness or even death if ingested.

Sources of Category 3 water include sewer backups, flooding from rivers or streams, wind driven rain, water from beyond the toilet trap (regardless of visible content or color), water from the toilet bowl with feces, standing water that has begun to support microbial growth (mold), etc. Black water is teeming with thousands of disease causing viruses, bacteria and protozoa and can cause very serious illnesses if not treated properly.

T ‘n’ T

T ‘n’ T refers to time and temperature. These two elements without airflow present can be extremely volatile, as they can potentially transform a Category 1 water loss into a Category 2 or 3. Responding to water emergencies as quickly as possible reduces the chances of category escalation, secondary damage and mold growth.

The Importance of Fast Response and Fast Restoration

Regardless of the type of water damage any delays only make the situation worse. Bacteria starts to grow and multiply, mold spores begin to grow on wet materials and structural materials become more and more saturated. The longer the delay the more likely reconstruction will be necessary when, if started early, materials can instead often be dried in place. All of this increases the severity of the loss which increases the time and cost to restore the property and makes for a very unhappy home or business owner.

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