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Water Damage: Know Your Categories

As the winter season gets into full swing, questions about water damage in your home are likely to enter any responsible homeowner’s mind. But whether it’s an overflowing dishwasher, a leaky roof, or bursting pipes, the first questions we always get here at OHI are “How bad is the damage?” and “Will I be covered?”

Knowing the classes of water damage is the first place to start for homeowners and insurance agents alike. Only once you know what kind of water damage you have will you able to determine what kind of coverage you have and how protected your home is. But before we get to categories of water damage, you need to know to know the classes of water.


Classes of Water

According to the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certifiaction, there are three categories of water: Clean Water, Gray Water, and Black Water. These categories describe the state of the water in your home on a scale from sanitary drinking water to highly toxic contaminated water. Clean Water is water that is straight from the source, whether that’s an appliance, a supply line, or weather precipitation. The thing to remember is that Clean Water can become quickly become Gray or Black if a water damage situation is not dealt with quickly.

Gray Water is usually the result of an overflow of water from an appliance like a toilet or dishwasher. Gray Water can be especially dangerous in that homeowners often underestimate how quickly Gray Water can turn to a grossly contaminated Black Water. Don’t be the homeowner who just mops up what they can and lets the leftovers soak into the surfaces of their home.

As you can probably guess by now, Black Water is what you want to avoid at all costs. This highly contaminated water has spent a lot of time away from its source and is quite often standing water that has begun to host microbial growth. In other words, this is not something you want in your home.

Categories of Water Damage

All that is fine and well, but what about the actual damage that these classes of water have done to your house? That’s where the categories of water damage come in. These four categories allow us to describe the actual damage that is being done to your home and helps you describe the situation to both us here at OHI and to your insurance company.

  • Category 1 Water Damage (Slow Evaporation Rate): Water losses that affect only part of a room or area, or losses with lower permeance/porosity materials (e.g., plywood, particle board, structural wood, VCT, concrete). Little or no wet carpet or padding is present. Minimum moisture is absorbed by materials, releasing moisture slowly.
  • Category 2 Water Damage – (Fast Evaporation Rate): Water losses that affect an entire room or carpet and cushion. Water has wicked up walls 12″ – 24”. There is moisture remaining in structural materials (e.g., plywood, particleboard, structural wood, concrete).
  • Category 3 Water Damage – (Fastest Evaporation Rate): Water may have come from overhead. Ceilings, walls, insulation, carpet, cushion and sub-floor in the entire area are saturated.
  • Category 4 Water Damage – (Specialty Drying Situations): These consist of wet materials with very low permeance/porosity (hardwood, plaster, brick, concrete, stone). Typically, there are deep pockets of saturation, which requires very low specific humidity.

Again, the important thing to keep in mind is that a Category 1 situation can quickly become a Category 4 situation — all it takes is a homeowner who lets things get worse due to negligence. The good news is that the more you know and do before OHI arrives on the scene, the smoother the process will be.

If you have any questions about the classes of both water and water damage that we’ve detailed above, leave a comment in the comment section below. If you are experiencing water damage to your home yourself, get in contact with us so one of our experts can come take a look at your situation as soon as possible.

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