Water Damage Classification Levels

water damage classification levels

If water damage of most any sort strikes your home, you’ll probably classify it with just one simple word: Bad.

For water damage professionals, however, these events are placed into more specific classifications as defined by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) in accordance with ANSI, the American National Standards Institute. IICRC water damage classification enables water damage professionals to apply techniques and principles tested and proven to be effective for each classification.

As established in 2006 and updated in 2015, these are the three IICRC water damage classification levels:

Category 1

Originating from a sanitary source, Category 1 is basically water that could initially be safe drinking water before the event occurred.  Examples include a broken indoor water supply line, overflowing sink or bathtub without soap or other contaminants, falling rainwater, melting ice or snow, or a broken toilet tank. Category 1 sanitary water doesn’t stay sanitary long. As spreading water contacts surfaces and contaminants, or pooling water is allowed to remain in place for an extended time, eventually, Category 1 water may become toxic and advance to Category 2. If accompanied by active mold growth, this factor will also downgrade the water to Category 2.

Category 2

Category 2 water is contaminated and can potentially cause mild illness or discomfort if contacted or consumed. Common examples include overflowing dishwashers or washing machines, broken aquariums or punctured water beds, toilet overflows with urine but no feces, and seepage of groundwater into the house.  Factors that may make Category 2 more toxic are the age of the house, a history of previous water damage that was not properly remediated, certain construction methods and building materials, and elapsed time since the event occurred.

Category 3

Known as black water, this category refers to water designated as grossly contaminated due to pathogenic or toxigenic contents. It presents an acute health threat and requires specialized crews equipped and experienced to handle toxic substances. Category 3 water damage includes sewage backups, toilet overflows, including feces, and virtually all forms of outdoor flooding that may enter the house.

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