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Water Damage Categories You Must Know Before Doing Anything

3 Categories of Water Damage and How to Handle Each Water Type

Water damage caused by a leak or flooding can cause damage to your house pretty quickly. How you handle the damage will depend on the type of water damage and the scope of the damage.

It’s important that you have the right tools to perform a smaller amount of water damage should it occur. However, larger and more severe water damage will require professional cleanup and restoration equipment that most homeowners will not have.


What is Water Damage?

Water damage is when one or more types of water damage your home in one capacity or another. This damage can be to your flooring, walls, electrical, insulation, or other areas of your house.

Water damage occurs when the water of any kind begins to accumulate and pool in a given area without being able to run off. Water damage can cause staining, discoloring of the area, and even more severe damages to destroy a house.  To detect water damage, it’s a good idea to have a water sensor system of some kind.


What are the Types of Water?

There are 3 main categories of water they are:

  • Clean water
  • Greywater
  • Blackwater

Below we will go into each kind and what you need to do to treat the respective types of water damage.


Categories of Water Damage

Category 1 Water: Clean Water

Category 1 water damage is water that comes from a clean source. This means that the water is from a clean source and does not pose a threat to people.

This type of water damage can be caused by a broken hot water tank (see this Low Hot Water Pressure: The 5 Causes and What To Do) or can involve water lines breaking or leaking in the house, like a leaking flexible hose under your sink that goes undetected for a week.

The leaks are commonly seen in household items that have either overflown, such as a bathtub or sink. Or a malfunction in an appliance like an ice maker, dishwasher, or washing machine, where the automatic shut-off feature doesn’t work, and the water keeps pumping out.

Related: What to do if you have carpet in your wet basement.


How to Handle Clean Water

When you have clean water damage depending on the amount, you can clean it up with towels and fans like you would when you have water damage on wood floors. In larger cases, you may need a sump pump to get rid of the extra water you have in your basement, and depending on the damage, you will need to contact your insurance agent for the proper treatment of the walls and flooring to ensure that there are no mold or mildew issues.

If you are dealing with Category 1 water damage and it’s within the first 24 to 48 hours, there are minimal health risks. However, the longer the water damage is left untreated, the large a risk it can pose, turning it into a Category 2 water damage.


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Category 2 Water: Grey Water

Greywater is the water that has a certain amount of contaminants in it that would cause illness if you were to consume it or be exposed to it.

This type of water commonly referred to as greywater, is in every home. It is the water that is has been used then discharged from a dishwasher, washing machines, and showers. It is the water that is in toilets which have urine in it but without fecal matter.

This water can also happen when a sump pump fails (see about sump pump maintenance here), and water comes back into the house.


How to Handle Grey Water

Category 2 water damage can pose health risks and can lead to illness. For this type of water damage, it’s best to contact a professional and have them properly clean the affected area and treat it with the necessary chemicals to make sure there is no bacterial growth. Exposure to greywater, both direct and indirect, can cause damage to your health.


Category 3 Water: Black Water

This water is unsanitary and can be dangerous to your health. They are water from your septic tank that flows back into the house, sewer backups,

Blackwater is dangerous because of the bacteria that is present in it and it’s potential to cause illness and spread viruses, and cause infection.


How to Handle Black Water

This type of water is hazardous and should be dealt with by professionals. Blackwater damage carries a host of risks such as infections and illness, to name a few, and without the proper safety and health considerations as well as the proper equipment, you run the risk of damaging your health or worse.

3 Steps for Handling Water Damage

If you find you have water damage to deal with in your home, here are the 3 steps you should take immediately.

  1. Determine water type: Refer to the above to see which type of water category you are dealing with
  2. Consider the health risks: Once you know the water type, determine if you are capable of dealing with it or if you need to contact a restoration professional and a plumber.
  3. Stop the spread and move items to a dry place: Once you have identified the water and where it is coming from, stop the spread and move all potential items in the area to prevent them from being damaged. Here’s where to get free cardboard boxes.

Related: How to Stop Water From Coming Under Door

Type of Water Damage FAQ

Can water damage be fixed?

Yes, water damage can be fixed. But in many cases, there will be several steps that need to happen with a restoration service to get the area back to new. As our builder told us, there’s nothing here that can’t be rebuilt, but that, of course, comes at a price and takes time.


How bad is water damage?

Severe water damage can cause foundation issues, structural damage as well as cosmetic damage to a home. Plus, there is the loss of personal possessions and the stress of having to move to have the home restored.

Water damage ranges on a scale of 1 to 10. From a spilled glass of water (a 1) to sewage backing up into your house (a 10), there is a range of issues that arise for each one. The best thing you can do is to assess the damage and contact your insurance provider to see what can be done and what coverage you have.

When it is possible, it is best to maximize the ways to prevent water damage to your home by using as many tactics as possible.


Is water damage an emergency?

Yes, the longer any type of water is entering your house, the larger the risk. Make sure to identify what type of water it is and deal with it quickly. The longer you leave it, the worse it can get.


What are the signs of water damage?

Water damage can easily be spotted in will leave a ring of water around the damaged area and will discolor the ceiling, walls, and carpet if left for too long. Other signs of identifying water damage are:

  • Sound of dripping water
  • Water pools
  • Dark spots on the ceiling
  • Wet spots on walls and floors
  • Musty and damp smells (aka damp basement smell)
  • Extra humidity
  • Cracking and flaking of paint



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