Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An Overview of Water Damage Classifications and Categories

Water damage comes in a variety of forms that can be merely annoying or potentially dangerous, depending on the source of the flow. Today, we will go over the general categories of water leaks, the type of damage they can cause and the recommended steps to treat them. Water damage is split up into various categories and classifications according to standards set by the IICRC.
Category 1 (Clear Water)
This type of water damage occurs when a pipe or appliance springs a leak or overflows when left on unattended. Fortunately, in these types of situations, the water is usually clean and does not pose any real risk to you immediately. Clean water damage typically is an issue for the surrounding environment, such as carpets, books and other belongings which are not waterproof and may need restoration work done if the flooding happens over a long period of time. Additionally, water damage can potentially lead to more severe issues such as mold growth that will need the attention of a professional mold inspector and remediator.
Category 2 (Grey Water)
Gray water damage involves some degree of contamination, whether it's physical, biological or chemical. In layman's terms, gray water is dangerous but not hazardous and needs some form of remediation in order to ensure that the environment is properly restored for human inhabitation. The most common household gray water situations come from toilets, dishwashers and washing machine leaks, where detergents or food particles are mingled in with the water supply. Gray water, like clean water, may also cause mold damage in unattended situations and can also potentially lead to other structural issues depending on the type of contaminant in the water.
Category 3 (Black Water)
This is the most uncommon form of water damage as well as the most dangerous. Black water contains extremely unsanitary agents including bacteria and fungus, and contaminate all surfaces it touches. Black water damage is usually caused by natural disasters such as storms and floods, where debris is washed into the water, or from ruptured sewage lines or septic tanks. This type of water damage must be handled by a professional restoration firm and potentially the state environmental protection agency, as the consequences of leaving the situation untreated or improper treatment can be devastating to many others besides the property owner.
In addition to the types of water damage, there are also various classifications to specify the rate of evaporation for a water damage scenario. This information is subsequently utilized by the technicians to determine the proper method of dryout and an approximate timeline.
Class 1 (Slow Evaporation Rate)
This is the most benign level of water damage in which only a part of a room or area is affected, or the materials involved are relatively low permanence or porosity such as particle board, structural wood or plywood. In these situations, there is usually a minimal amount of moisture absorbed by materials and restoration time is typically fast.
Class 2 (Fast Evaporation Rate)
This class generally involves an entire room, or flood damage where water has wicked up to 24 inches on the wall. Moisture can be present in the structure as well. These scenarios are middle of the road as far as the work and time involved.
Class 3 (Fastest Evaporation Rate)
Class 3 situations commonly involves water that comes from above, either from an upstairs room or outside during heavy rain. In these scenarios, water has saturated more than 24 inches above the wall, posing severe structural risk and potential damage if not immediately addressed.
Class 4 (Specialty Drying Situations)
In this class, the surrounding structure and materials have very low permance/porosity, causing water to remain in saturated pockets throughout. Examples include hardwood, brick, concrete or other materials that do not have a high amount of absorption rate for moisture. These scenarios require very specific low humidity and ventilation solutions in order for water to be effectively removed.
While the class and categorization of a water emergency can usually be quickly inferred, be sure to double check with your water technician when they arrive on site to get the full scope of the situation after a professional inspection has been conducted. Your technician should be able to provide you with an approximate estimate of the timeframe, as well as details on the exact work that needs to be done to bring everything back up to speed. We will cover the various methods of water damage restoration in our next article so be sure to stay tuned!

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