Primary Classifications of Water Damage

Just like there are many causes of water damage—a flooded basement or the result of putting out a fire—there are specific water categories and classes. Knowing the source of the damage and when it occurred will help the experts determine what steps need to happen to make sure damage is cleaned up properly, leaving you with fully restored, good-as-new items.


The water damage restoration process is highly regulated. All restoration companies should be following a specific standard to ensure the property is effectively and safely restored, and workers are safe during the restoration process. ANSI/IICRC S500 provides a specific set of practical standards for water damage restoration. It doesn’t teach procedures but provides the foundation for basic principles of proper restoration practices. Water damage is classified by how dirty the water is and the level of difficulty in removing it. There are 3 categories and 4 primary classifications of water damage.


Category 1: Water damage is caused by clean, sanitary water that does not pose substantial harm if occupants are exposed to it. This could be water that overflowed while running a bath, for example. Once the water comes into contact with other surfaces (already dirty flooring), it may no longer be sanitary. Water is extracted, and extra moisture is removed with air movers and dehumidifiers.


Category 2: Water is sometimes called gray water. The water is contaminated by bacteria, mold, and/or chemicals, so it poses a health risk if exposed to it. Examples of Category 2 water damage is dirty water from washing machines or dishwashers, and leaks from water beds or aquariums. Carpet is usually removed and replaced or restored, as it is the perfect breeding ground for mold and bacteria if not treated properly. The carpet should be treated within 2 days, or it can lead to a Category 3 situation.


Category 3: Water damage is often called black water because it contains disease-causing agents. It is unsanitary and contains toxins. Category 3 water damage usually happens when overflow is caused by a sewer backup or rising flood waters. Rising flood waters may contain substances such as animal feces, fertilizers, and decaying debris. In the case of Category 3 water damage, carpet and anything else damaged (like sheetrock) should be thrown away. Chemicals should be applied to kill any remaining bacteria.


Water damage is further classified into how large of an area it affects.


Class 1: A minimal amount of water damage has occurred, and water has only overflowed onto materials/flooring of low porosity.


Class 2: A significant amount of water has overflowed and the materials it has affected are classified as medium to high porosity.


Class 3: A large amount of water has been absorbed by materials of high porosity.


Class 4: Water has overflowed into a building and is trapped. In Class 4 situations, the restoration process is especially difficult and expensive because the areas are highly porous and difficult to reach.


Expert restoration technicians will assess the category and class of water damage before deciding the appropriate measure to get your property back to safe conditions.