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Water Damage Categories and Classes
By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff
When water damage strikes a home or business, it generally goes a bit beyond everything just getting wet and needing to be dried out. In any case of water damage it is important to locate the source of the leak, for two major reasons. 1) It allows you to shut off the water and prevent any more from entering your property, and 2) it should give you an idea of the kind of water you are dealing with, if it contains contaminants, and how you should proceed with the restoration process.
Water is basically broken down into three categories:
Category 1 – Also known as Clean Water, this category of water is sanitary water, with no contaminants at the source, and poses no major health risks to you or your family. You can drink it, wash with it, or (if it is steaming), you can inhale it safely. Most of the water that comes into your home will be Category 1 until it leaves its source, either a supply line, an appliance, or melting snow or rain. Category 1 water may also be referred to as "Clear Water."
Once clear water has left its source for a prolonged period of time, however, it can quickly become contaminated and deteriorate to Category 2 or 3. Water with a foul odor is a good indicator that it has been mixed with soil or other pollutants.
Category 2 – Also known as Gray Water, this contains a degree of contaminant material and is unsafe for either contact or consumption by you or your family. Category 2 is typically found as overflow water from an appliance, toilet, aquarium or waterbed.
Like clean water, gray water will also deteriorate and become foul smelling. This process will take less time to become toxic, and should be attended to as soon as possible.
Category 3 – Also known as Black Water, this type of water is grossly contaminated and may be highly toxic to you and your family. It may contain raw sewage, pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, viruses, or toxic organic substances.
Unlike the first two categories, Black Water will have a foul smell and likely contain pathogenic, toxigenic, or other harmful agents.
Water is also divided into various classes that are determined by the rate of evaporation due to the type of materials affected, as well as the room or area that was flooded out. Proper determination of the class of water you are working with will help determine the type of equipment needed to properly remediate the problem and dry everything out as it should be.
Class 1 Water Damage - Slow Evaporation Rate: Water losses that affect only part of a room or area, or losses with lower permeance/porosity materials (e.g., plywood, particle board, structural wood, VCT, concrete). Little or no wet carpet or padding is present. Minimum moisture is absorbed by materials, releasing moisture slowly.
Class 2 Water Damage - Fast Evaporation Rate: Water losses that affect an entire room or carpet and cushion. Water has wicked up walls 12" - 24". There is moisture remaining in structural materials (e.g., plywood, particleboard, structural wood, concrete).
Class 3 Water Damage - Fastest Evaporation Rate: Water may have come from overhead. Ceilings, walls, insulation, carpet, cushion and sub-floor in the entire area are saturated.
Class 4 Water Damage - Specialty Drying Situations: These consist of wet materials with very low permeance/porosity (hardwood, plaster, brick, concrete, stone, crawlspace). Typically, there are deep pockets of saturation, which requires very low specific humidity.
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