Classes and Categories of Water Damage


When it comes to water damage and water damage restoration, it’s important to be aware of the classes of water damage, along with the categories of water contamination. These two factors will dictate how water damage is mitigated and how much can be salvaged, so being familiar with them is key. Read on for an overview of the classes and categories of water damage.

Classes of Water Damage

The class of water damage is determined by the source of the water, its evaporation rate, and the amount of water involved. This allows professionals to understand exactly how to approach and begin the restoration process.

Water damage can be potentially catastrophic if not dealt with properly, so it is important to diagnose what type of water damage you are dealing with before the restoration process begins. There are four classes of water damage.

Class 1 Water Damage

This class of water damage is the easiest to deal with due to a slow evaporation rate and an affected area that is contained in a small space, not an entire house. Generally, carpet is not affected by class 1 water damage, and the only materials that are affected by the water damage have a low permeance rate, such as plywood or concrete. 

Although this is the easiest type of water damage to deal with and is relatively harmless, do not hesitate to have the damage dealt with by professionals.

Class 2 Water Damage

With class 2 water damage, the evaporation rate is much faster, and an entire room will be affected. Due to the faster evaporation rate and a larger volume of water affecting a larger area, carpeting will need to be dried out for an extended period of time. It is even possible that the carpet or hardwood will need to be torn out due to permanent damage.

When hardwood is subjected to class 2 water damage, the wood can warp and lose its original shape and flatness, rendering it unusable and unsalvageable. When it comes to the higher classes of water damage, there is always the potential for loss, but it is most important that the damage is contained quickly and efficiently to prevent further losses.

Class 3 Water Damage

This class of water damage has the fastest evaporation rate, the highest amount of water, and the most amount of absorption. It is possible that with this class of water damage, the water came from overhead. This means that not only is flooring being affected, but also ceilings, drywall, and insulation.

This type of water damage poses the highest potential for loss because the water is coming from above, affecting the area from the top down. Timing is critical in these situations because the potential for loss is very high due to the amount of affected area.

Class 4 Water Damage

Also referred to as specialty drying situations, class 4 water damage is defined by a volume of water that has been given enough time to penetrate and saturate materials with low permeability such as hardwood, brick, or stone.

This type of water damage can occur in basements with exposed bricks, for example. It is typically more difficult to dry out these materials since it requires low humidity.

Categories of Water Contamination

Categorizing water damage by the amount of contamination is important, as it determines the potential for health-related problems associated with the contents of the contaminated water. The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) classifies water into three categories.

Category 1: Generally Sanitary Water

In its current state, category 1 water contamination is not harmful. The water comes from clean sources, like falling rainwater, burst water pipes, or failed supply lines on appliances.

However, there is a likelihood that the water can become progressively more contaminated if not dealt with in a timely manner. This can occur if the water is mixed with other substances or materials as it sits or moves down from an upper floor in the house. As a result, this can degrade water from category 1 to category 2 or 3, posing an increased health risk.

Category 2: Gray Water

With category 2 water contamination, also called “gray water,” the water is unsafe to drink or come in contact with. This water could come from toilet bowl overflows containing only urine, and also discharges from dishwashers and washing machines. 

Like category 1, category 2 water contamination will become worse the longer it is left untreated. Failing to deal with the contamination promptly will allow more bacteria to grow in the water, further contaminating it. In turn, this can cause it to turn into category 3 water: black water.

Category 3: Black Water

Black water is riddled with pathogens and bacteria that can cause serious health issues and even death if consumed by humans. Examples of black water include sewage backup, toilet overflow containing feces, or rising flood water from rivers and streams.

Dealing with black water requires significant safety equipment in order to clean it properly and without potential health risk. It is also important to note that anything that black water has come in contact with should be disposed of immediately.

Final Thoughts

Water may appear to be a relatively harmless substance in controlled settings, but when it becomes intrusive and interacts with materials and parts of your house that are not supposed to take on water, you are dealing with dangerous conditions that can negatively impact the integrity of your home and pose health risks if the water becomes contaminated. 

Compleat Restorations has a team of highly trained professionals that are fully equipped to deal with the complexities of water damage and how it affects your home. The first step in the restoration process is finding a company that you can trust to return your property to pre-loss condition.

If you are in need of water damage restoration, count on the Compleat Restorations team to work closely with you throughout the entire restoration process.

Learn About Our Services