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Categories of Water Damage; Clean Water Sourced Water Damages Are Often More Dirty Than You Think

Categories of Water Damage & The Risks Your Property Faces with Each

Tri State Restorations, LLC operations adheres to the industry standard operating procedures as produced by the IICRC. The IICRC Standard for Professional Water Damage Restoration (IICRC S500) is a procedural standard that defines the 3 categories of water and the correct procedures to mitigate each. Category 1 revolves around clean water sources, Category 2 is a slightly contaminated water source and Category 3 or “black water” is a highly contaminated water source. What this definition doesn’t specify though, is how a water source’s category can dramatically change based on the materials and substances it comes in contact with throughout the migration path within your property’s building materials.

Misnomer: Category 1 Water Classification = “Clean Water Source”

The IICRC S500 defines Category 1 water damage as water that “originates from a sanitary water source and does not pose a substantial risk from dermal, ingestion, or inhalation exposure.” The keywords here are “sanitary water source” and “does not pose a substantial risk”. That is why this water is considered “clean”. It is also why a restoration contractor like Tri State Restorations can theoretically salvage and dry affected building materials. Wet drywall, carpet, pad, hardwood flooring, and more can and are oftentimes dried and salvaged on Category 1 water damage incidents. While Category 1 is classified by the IICRC as “Clean Water,” it’s important to know that this classification is only specific to the water source, (i.e.: Water Supply Line), and not the affected building materials it has migrated through. This is where a true professional comes in. While the water source is “clean”, the affected materials it touches and migrates through include: carpet & padding, lead paint, asbestos containing materials & mastic, plus many other miscellaneous building materials. You also need to keep in mind that water is also migrating through contaminants within your building materials, including Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and organic agents (pet dander, urine, etc.). Certain materials such as concrete, plaster, ceramic tile and brick may even require specialty equipment and drying methods to properly mitigate damages.

Category 2 Water – Significantly Contaminated

The IICRC S500 defines Category 2 water damage incidents as water that “contains significant contamination and has the potential to cause discomfort or sickness if contacted or consumed by humans.” We feel this is the most appropriate way to describe most property damage derived from water.

Category 3 Water – Grossly Contaminated or, “Black Water”

The IICRC S500 defines Category 3 water damage as water that is “grossly contaminated and can contain pathogenic, toxigenic, or other harmful agents and can cause significant adverse reactions to humans if contacted or consumed.” Examples of Category 3 water damage can include:


  • Sewage & wastewater line backup

  • Seawater

  • Wind-driven rain from hurricanes & tropical storms

Not sure what type of water damage you have, or what you may be susceptible to? Contact us 24/7 at 866-818-1949


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