Water Damage: Categories and Classifications

water damage pic

Depending on its origin, water damage can fit into one of three categories. These categories have to do with the level of danger involved with the water damage. Keep in mind, water can fit a more harmful category if left sitting for too long. Microorganisms and mold spores can reproduce at a rapid pace in standing water. If any water damage is present, it’s vital to remove it as soon as possible. Check out more details about the three water damage categories.


Category One

You can consider water damage category one if the water originates from a sanitary source. The water does not pose a health hazard if inhaled or ingested. Category one water can come from:


      • Sprinklers

      • Rain

      • Melted ice

      • Uncontaminated pipes or containers

    Category Two

    Category two water, also known as gray water damage, is more serious. For water to fit category two, it has to have some level of contamination and pose a health risk. If ingested, it could cause sickness. It has an unsafe level of chemical or biological matter. Category two water might include:


        • Diluted wastewater

        • Detergents

        • Ruptured storage tanks

      Category Three

      The most dangerous of any water damage fits into this designation. Category three damage, or black water damage, has significant amounts of harmful pathogens and toxins. Sources for category three water damage include:


          • Sewer backups

          • River or stream brackish water

          • Flooding seawater

          • Water that has picked up pesticides or other chemicals


        Water damage can also fit into four distinct classifications. The classifications distinguish between the amount of water present, what materials it has affected and how difficult it will be to remove. Class one damage is the least dangerous while class four damage is the most severe.

        Class One

        Class one damage is the least severe. It involves a minimal amount of water leakage onto low-porosity materials. Porous materials allow more water absorption, so water damage on low porosity materials is ideal. An example of class one water damage might include an overflowed toilet on a tile floor. Once you’ve removed the bulk of the water, drying will be easy.

        Class Two

        Class two damage entails a more significant amount of water on medium to high-porosity surfaces. You’ll have to remove a greater quantity of water, and it will take longer to dry. This damage might result from a broken pipe, causing water to seep into a gypsum board wall.

        Class Three

        If a large amount of water affects a high-porosity material, this is class three. A lot of water removal and evaporation will be necessary for the water damage extraction process. A storm leak covering a carpeted floor might fit into class three damage.

        Class Four

        This classification involves a great deal of water trapped in confined spaces and affecting porous materials. Cleaning up class four water requires special water damage restoration equipment. An example of class four water damage might include stormwater seeping into wall and floor systems. That damage requires extensive structural drying and dehumidifying.

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