Water damage can take many forms. Hurricanes, burst pipes, overflowing appliances and flooding are just some of the things that can bring water into business or home. After a flood or plumbing mishap, classifying water damage might not be the first thing on your mind.
But some types of water damage are more serious than others. That’s why an initial step to restoring a water-damaged home is defining the kind of water present. With any type of water damage, understanding the incident’s origin is a crucial step in the cleanup and restoration process.
The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration (IICRC) is a non-profit organization that sets standards for the cleaning and restoration industry. The IICRC has published standard S500, which defines several classifications for water damage. It identifies three different categories based on the following:
- The water’s point of origin
- The water’s quality after it contacted materials in the damage site
- The water’s quality given the time spent and temperature in the damage site
When evaluating water damage, the IICRC uses the above factors to separate degrees of severity and potential health threats. Category 1 damage is the least dangerous while category 3 poses the greatest threat.
Category 1 damage comes from a sanitary water source. The water, known as “clear water,” does not pose a significant health threat if it comes into contact with skin or if it’s accidentally swallowed or inhaled.
Common sources of clear water include:
- Broken pipes
- Bathtub or sink overflows
- Melting ice or snow
- Broken toilet tanks
- Clean toilet bowls
Even if your water originated in category 1, the damage it causes might fall into category 2 or category 3. The clear water can mix with a variety of contaminants at the damage site, stand for a long time or heat up, all of which affect its quality. A strong odor is a common sign that category 1 water has deteriorated.
Category 2 damage comes from an unsanitary water source. Often called “gray water”, this type of water usually has significant contamination such as high levels of microorganisms, chemical matter or biological matter. If accidentally consumed, this water could potentially cause illness.
Common sources of this type of water include:
- Dishwasher overflow
- Washing machine overflow
- Basement flooding due to hydrostatic pressure
- Broken aquariums
- Punctured water beds
- Toilet bowl overflow (with urine only present)
Category 2 water damage become category 3 if serious damage site contaminants are present.
Category 3 damage comes from grossly contaminated water sources. Also called “black water”, category 3 water can contain pathogens, bacteria, fungi or other toxic and harmful agents. This type of water poses a serious health threat to anyone who comes into contact with it, and it should only be handled by a professional.
Common sources of this type of water include:
- Sewage water
- Toilet backflows
- Seawater flooding
- River or stream water
- Natural disaster water
With black water, there is a risk the water may be carrying harmful chemicals, pesticides, metals or toxic organic substances. In special situations, category 3 damage may involve hazardous, regulated materials. You may need a specialized expert if your water contains:
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
- Certain pesticides
- Certain chemicals
The biggest thing to remember with category 3 water is that you need to take action fast. Avoid the contaminated water, call a professional and decide together how to proceed in a safe and effective manner.
Mitigating Damage Until the Professionals Arrive
In most cases, you’ll want to call a restoration professional to take care of your water damage. While you’re waiting for the pros to arrive and officially assess your water damage, the IICRC recommends a few action steps. Here’s what you can do:
- Remove Water: As soon as it is safe to return to the water site, clear as much water from the area as possible if it’s category 1 or 2. Act quickly, as removing the water within 24 to 48 hours can help minimize overall damage. If you’ve experienced significant hurricane or flood damage, you’re likely dealing with category 3 damage. In that case, leave water removal to a professional.
- Increase Airflow: To avoid mold growth, keep the affected area well-ventilated. Use fans and open external and internal doors and windows to increase airflow and speed up the drying process. Rugs, carpets and furniture can retain large amounts of water, so make sure these items are especially close to a source of ventilation.
- Climate Control: Use dehumidifiers to get rid of excess moisture in the air and keep the affected area cool. Lingering water and high temperatures can make water damage worse.
- Look for Health Hazards: Take a look at the damage site to determine whether it has been exposed to sewage or other dangerous contaminants. For your safety, wait for a professional to take action.
- Document Damage: Chronicle damage and cleanup with photos during every step of the process. Thorough documentation will help make the insurance claim process simpler.
Be cautious around water damage, as it can weaken the structural integrity at the site of the incident. When in doubt, wait for the professionals before taking action.
When the pros do arrive, they’ll begin with a damage site inspection. They’ll explain the types of safety precautions you should take around the damage and recommend whether you should remove or replace the water damaged items. Damage restoration can be an complex process, so make sure the professionals you call are experienced, quick and compassionate.
Whatever category of water damage you’re facing, we understand you want it repaired with expert precision. Beacon Restoration is here to bring quality water damage restoration services to Orlando and the surrounding areas.
Night or day, our IICRC-certified team will respond immediately to restore your home or business. Our full range of water damage restoration services means we’re equipped to handle the problem from start to finish. We understand your space is important. That’s why our team will treat your property like their own. We’ll even help you with insurance claims to make sure the repairs line up with your budget.