What Are the Categories of Water Damage?

What Are the Categories of Water Damage?

Not all water damage is created equal. Experiencing damage from a leaky sink is much less severe than a septic backup. That’s why the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) created separate categories to determine the danger level of the water affecting a property.

All water damage can be classified into three categories: clean, grey, and black. Home restoration teams like CFRS will use different water mitigation techniques depending on the type of damage. Here’s what you need to know about the categories of water damage.

Category 1: Clean Water Damage

Category 1 water damage, or clean water damage, is any damage caused by clean, unpolluted water. While it’s the least serious of the three categories, it’s also the most common and can be caused by any number of household issues:

  • Leaking pipes
  • Clogged sinks
  • Hot water heaters
  • Bathtub overflow
  • Rain or melting ice
  • Broken toilets

Although clean water damage isn’t dangerous to humans or pets, it should be cleaned up quickly. Any standing water left behind could lead to mold growth or structural damage, which will cause major issues down the road. Luckily, because it’s not dangerous, clean water damage is simple to clean up. There aren’t any safety measures or extensive cleaning routines necessary. Simply mop up the water, dry out anything that got wet, and you’re good to go! 

But be careful; it doesn’t take long for category 1 water damage to turn into category 2 if the cleanup isn’t thorough enough. That’s why even for less-dangerous clean water damage, it’s best to hire a home restoration professional. It’s the only way to ensure that all the water has been removed and that you won’t have to take any additional measures in the future.

Category 2: Gray Water Damage

Category 2 water damage, otherwise known as gray water damage, is caused by water containing chemicals or biological contamination like mold or bacteria. This category of water damage is mostly caused by appliance malfunctions:

  • Septic backups
  • Sump pump failures
  • Dishwasher or washing machine discharge
  • Fire sprinklers
  • Condensate water from refrigerators and freezers

Coming into contact with gray water damage typically isn’t harmful to humans, but it could make you sick if ingested. Category 2 water damage requires the same water mitigation strategies as clean water damage with one additional step. After cleaning the standing water, any saturated items need to be decontaminated and disinfected by a home restoration team to prevent harmful chemicals and bacteria from affecting your health in the future.

Category 3: Black Water Damage

Category 3 water damage, or black water damage, is the last thing you want to happen to your house. It’s the worst type of water damage caused by water that’s been heavily contaminated with raw sewage. It’s typically a result of natural disasters like rising rivers or flood waters that have come in contact with sewage, either from a private septic tank or city sewage systems.

Obviously, this category of water damage is quite severe and can pose serious health risks to anyone in the area. If you experience category 3 water damage, contact a water mitigation professional immediately and evacuate the area to prevent any harm to you or your family.

Cleaning up black water damage requires a professional. Because the water is so contaminated, the home restoration team needs to wear protective clothing and equipment so they don’t get sick. Unlike clean water, black water can’t just be pumped outside; it needs to be contained and taken to a safe location. Anything that comes into contact with black water also needs to be removed and safely disposed of.

After the water has been cleaned up and all the infected items removed, your home will need thorough disinfecting. Any floors, subfloors, walls, or even ceilings affected by the black water need to be taken out, and the area needs to be scrubbed with powerful cleaning solutions. Once everything is clean, the home restoration team can make repairs and replace any drywall and flooring to bring your house back to its pre-water damage glory.

CFRS: The Home Restoration Experts

No matter which category of water damage you encounter, it’s always best to hire a certified professional to handle the cleanup. An experienced home restoration technician will be able to identify the extent of the water damage, contain it, and eliminate any traces of water so you and your family won’t have any issues down the road. Even clean water damage can cause mold and structural damage if the cleanup isn’t handled properly.

Regardless of category, the experts at Central Florida Restoration Solutions are here to help with all your water damage restoration needs. We’re trained and certified to handle any category of water damage: clean, gray, or black. Our skilled team can handle both water mitigation and damage restoration to remove any traces of water and contamination and leave your house looking good as new.


If you’ve experienced water damage, contact the experts at Central Florida Restoration Solutions. We’ll clean up the mess, restore your house to its former glory, and keep your family safe and healthy through any water, fire, smoke, or mold disaster.

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