The ABCs of Water Damage: Understanding Categories and Expert Restoration Methods

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Updated on:

June 16, 2023

Water Damage Uncovered: Understanding Categories and Restoration Methods

Water damage is one of the top worries for facility team members, property managers, and business owners. The repercussions of water damage, which might be caused by a natural flood, a busted pipe, an overflowed appliance, or any other problem, can be severe. To ensure complete restoration and safety, the water mitigation method necessitates precise effort. It's critical to know what to do if your building suffers water damage and what the best course of action is.

The damage might be so severe that you might not know what to do when you discover indoor flooding. You can reduce the harm and return to normal as soon as possible by acting quickly. Use this detailed guide to assist you in repairing water damage.

Key Takeaways:

  • Water damage restoration is crucial for mitigating severe repercussions caused by floods or burst pipes.
  • Understanding the three categories of water damage (category one, category two, and category three) is essential.
  • The restoration process involves inspecting, removing standing water, drying, and conducting necessary repairs. Contacting the insurance company and sanitizing affected areas are important post-restoration steps.

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flood damage in house

Flood Water Damage Categories

Water damage falls into one of three categories, depending on where it came from. These classifications relate to the degree of risk associated with the water damage. Remember that if water is allowed to rest for too long, it may fall into a more dangerous category. Standing water encourages the rapid reproduction of microorganisms and mold spores. It's critical to get rid of any water damage as soon as possible. The three categories of water damage are described in more detail below.

1. Category One

If the water comes from a hygienic source, you can classify the harm as category one water damage. When breathed in or consumed, the water does not present a health risk. Category 1 water come from sprinklers, rain, melted ice, roof leaks, or uncontaminated burst pipe or containers.

2. Category Two

Gray water damage, commonly referred to as category two water, is more severe. Water must be contaminated and present a health risk to fall under category two. It might make you sick if you consume it. It contains too much chemical or biological material. Category two water could consist of diluted wastewater, detergents, ruptured storage tanks.

3. Category Three

This category includes water damage that is the most hazardous. In category three damage, sometimes known as "black water damage," dangerous microorganisms and poisons are present in large quantities. Category three sources of water damage include sewer backups, river or stream brackish water, flooding seawater, contaminated water that has picked up pesticides or other chemicals.

A water damage restoration services will identify the category the damage falls under before starting the water damage cleanup process. Cleaning up category two or three water damage calls for personal protective equipment. If the type of any flooding has not yet been established, stay away from it.

flooded room

Water Damage Causes

Many things might cause water damage. It may originate from man-made or natural sources. No matter where the water comes from, it may be very destructive and expensive to remediate. The following are some of the most typical sources of water damage.

Severe Weather

Serious water damage might result from bad weather or a natural disaster. Huge amounts of water can accumulate as a result of thunderstorms, hurricanes, and rainstorms. After a storm, there is probably extensive water damage that affects many houses, businesses, and other structures. Flooding by itself can be quite damaging, but severe weather can also result in roof and structural damage.

Damaged or Clogged Gutters

To remove rainfall, a sturdy gutter system is required. Over time, gutters gather dirt, so it's important to frequently check and clean them. Flooding may occur if the building's gutters are blocked or malfunction. Gutter problems can harm flooring, walls, and ceilings.

Leaking Appliances

An appliance leak could also result in water damage. After pressure builds up in the tank, water heaters are frequently to blame. Make sure your water heater and any other appliances that use water are regularly maintained and inspected. Detecting a problem early could prevent major floods.

Clogged Drains

One of the most frequent causes of flooding inside a house is a clogged drain in the kitchen or bathroom. Hair, grease, grime, or other objects can cause clogs. A jammed railway frequently causes water damage with category three levels of danger.

water damage restoration

Water Damage Restoration Process

The process for flood restoration is a lengthy occurrence. From getting rid of the excess water, to the drying process and recovery process, everything make take up a couple of days. Here are taken to restore water damage.

1. Inspect the Damage

Inspection is the initial action. The source of the water and the severity of the hazard are revealed by an evaluation of the situation. Due to structural damage, it might not be safe to enter the building. Depending on the source and classification of the water, exposure to it could also be dangerous. Cleaning category three black water requires wearing a lot of protective equipment because it presents a major risk to one's health and safety.

Keep in mind that if left untreated for a long enough period of time, water from any source can become category three. It could be just as deadly as water from a sewage backup if you've spotted long-standing water in a rarely used area of your building. Water is more likely to cause damage the longer it is left unattended. The examination will identify the type and classification of water damage.

If the building owner hasn't previously done so, turning off the electricity and water supply will also be a part of the inspection stage. This action will reduce potential safety risks and prevent the buildup of more water. The experts will design a strategy to remove the water from your building once the inspection is finished.

2. Remove standing water

The water removal process might start after the initial examination. Any standing water must be removed first. The majority of the water will be removed using specialized tools like wet vacs and submersible pumps. These tools are essential for any significant flooding since they can remove hundreds of gallons of water. Wet vacs and pumps may not be required for minor water damage, and drying procedures can start immediately away.

drying process of flood restoration

3. Begin the Drying Process

Wood and drywall are just two examples of the numerous porous building materials. Absorbed water can cause warping, swelling, cracking, and mold formation, which can compromise the structural integrity of your structure or provide health risks. To treat dampness that is difficult to see and hard to reach, professional drying is essential. Equipment for dehumidification is required for the drying phase.

Powerful machinery is required for the drying process. Building materials that have swelled or warped can be repaired with the aid of industrial dehumidifiers. The evaporation process on walls, floor mats, carpets, and other construction materials is sped up by large-scale air movers, which function like fans.

4. Watch Water Levels

Monitoring water levels is essential throughout the drying process. Hygrometers and specialized cameras are a couple of equipment that help with accurate monitoring. Hygrometers display the levels of moisture or humidity. Hygrometers will be used by the professionals to check the efficiency of the dehumidifiers and determine the moisture saturation levels. It may also be essential to use infrared cameras, which can be used to find hidden water buildup under flooring or behind walls. Professionals will continuously check for changes in moisture levels as drying progresses.

5. Finish Up the Water Removal

Cleaning and sanitization are frequently needed after all water and moisture have been removed to stop any further damage. Sanitation is always a good idea after flooding for safety reasons. Deodorization may be required since water damage might potentially leave behind offensive odors. It may be necessary to use professional air scrubbers because flood-related aromas are frequently too strong to be removed using air fresheners. Odor control and sanitization aid in returning your building to habitable condition as water damage restoration approaches its conclusion.

6. Repair Additional Damage Restoration

You might need to make extra repairs after the water has been removed. Depending on the extent of the damage, your building may need to have minor repairs like the roof repaired, drywall replaced, floors repaired, carpet installed, or the inside painted. Your building's usefulness and integrity will be ensured by these repairs, and experts may suggest specific actions to perform following the restoration procedure.

post damage flood restoration

Post-Water Damage Restoration

Water damage may have a long-term effect. You still need to take a few actions to restore your building to its original condition after the water has completely dried up. Utilize this checklist for water damage restoration to make sure your building is secure once more.

Contact Insurance Company

You can save a lot of money if you engage homeowners insurance provider. Start as soon as you can because the flood insurance claim process for water damage might be drawn out. Since only specific kinds of water damage may be covered by your policy, it's critical to understand and be able to demonstrate the source of the water. Take a lot of pictures to support your argument. Before a crisis strikes, talk to an agent if you're unsure of the types of water damage that your policy covers. If you reside in a flood-prone area, this precaution is extremely important.

Sanitizing and Cleaning

Even though you have gotten rid of all the flood waters, the water damage repair is not over yet. Sanitization of all affected areas is extremely important to prevent mold growth or bacteria. The air in your building is safe to breathe and the structures are safe to touch if they are sanitized and cleaned properly.

Learn more about post construction cleaning procedures with this guide.


Remember that any significant damage will also need to be repaired. Your building may require some degree of reconstruction to get it back to how it was and prevent further harm. You could need to make repairs to the walls, flooring, roof, and other components of your structure. Your furniture, appliances, and other equipment may also require repair or replacement.

Check our selection of best ozone machines for odor removal.

How to Clean After a Flood Damage Restoration

After a flooding water event, it is important to conduct a proper cleaning. Severe water damage vary depending on how fast the flooded areas have been rectified. If there is not as much destruction, the cleaning process will be faster. But with our tips, you will be able to complete the sanitization much faster.

Before starting this process, make sure to wear protective gear and protective clothing that you don't mind getting dirty.

Clean Appliances

Be careful around the appliances, gas lines and electrical equipment.

1. Use a disinfectant cleaner

Combine 1/2 cup bleach and 1 gallon of clear water in a bucket to disinfect equipment. Do not use vinegar, baking soda, or essential oils in place of this due to the significant quantity of dangerous pathogens that can be found in flood waters. 

2. Refrigerators and Freezers

Empty and discard the contents after unplugging the devices. Create a note of the objects you've thrown out for your insurance claim. Dry them off with paper towels both inside and out before cleaning and disinfecting them. Never rinse. Prop the doors open and let them dry naturally.

3. Washing Machine and Dryer

Make sure the drain and vents are open, then use paper towels to dry the units both inside and out before throwing them away. Use a disinfectant to clean them both inside and out. Never rinse. To clean the inside of the hoses, run the washing machine on the hottest, highest setting while adding only 1 cup of bleach and 1/2 cup of powdered laundry detergent. Before to usage, let both machines air dry while supporting the doors if necessary.

4. Dishwashers

Dishes still in the dishwasher from the flood should be removed and washed by hand. After washing everything in a sink filled with hot, clean water and one spoonful of bleach, rinse everything with liquid dish soap. These dishes should air dry. Disinfectant should be used to clean the dishwasher's inside, including the racks and filters. To make sure the disinfectant has a chance to clean the hoses, run a cycle with two teaspoons of bleach and your usual amount of dish detergent.

cleaning furniture with vacuum steamer

Clean Furniture

Clean your furniture after your appliances are operational. If you haven't already, open all the windows in your house to let the air in and start drying your possessions.

1. Mattresses

There is no method to destroy dangerous bacteria soaked into mattresses by flood waters, and mattresses cannot dry out soon enough after flooding to avoid the growth of mold. Bring every mattress to the curb so that it can be picked up and so that it won't interfere with your other cleaning. Include them in your insurance claim, making note of their size, maker, and model. Snap pictures to record it.

2. Upholstered Furniture

Similar to beds, these things are typically useless after a flood and dangerous to have inside your house. Transport them outside while documenting each item for your insurance claim.

3. Wood Furniture

To prevent wood furniture from absorbing more water, place strips of aluminum foil between the legs or the bottoms of the pieces of furniture. Drawers should be taken out, placed somewhere dry, and their contents set aside for subsequent cleaning. Remove the backs of wooden furniture if you can to let the air circulate and speed up the drying process. Use paper towels to pat each item dry. Furniture should be disinfected, cleaned, and then dried with paper towels after waiting five minutes.

Clean the Structure

1. Ceilings and Walls

Mud and other filth can be removed by wiping with wet paper towels. Use a mop and a disinfectant cleaner to clean the walls and ceiling of each room. As soon as the disinfectant solution in the bucket starts to seem muddy, replace it. Dry surfaces with paper towels after the disinfecting cleaner has been in contact with them for at least five minutes. Keep windows open and, if practical, turn on a fan to move air and hasten drying.

steam cleaning of wood floors

2. Floors

Linoleum and tile floors that are intact may be saved. Use paper towels to remove mud or grime. Clean paper towels are used to dry the floor after mopping it with the disinfectant cleanser and waiting five minutes. Keep in mind that the subfloor is probably also damaged if the linoleum is ripped or the tiles are cracked. As part of your claim, talk about this with your insurance agent.

Laminate and vinyl plank floors must be replaced since they are not waterproof. For the time being, you should still clean them with a disinfectant. If you want to include them in your claim, talk to your insurance agent about it.

About the Authors

Kristina Tretyakova
Distinguished as a South Florida Top-10 student in 2021. Studying Marketing and Business Administration at FIU. Proficient in daily operations and skilled in cleaning, auto detailing and copywriting.
Kris Traczynski
As the visionary behind Fortador Steamers, I've revolutionized the cleaning landscape across both the USA and Europe. With a profound understanding of the cleaning industry, I've fostered expertise that sets new standards. My journey is one of innovation, commitment, and a relentless pursuit of exce

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