Discerning Water Damage

Water damage is not usually due to floods, especially in the Bay Area.  With the rare exception of the overflowing creeks in San Jose and Napa, it is not a flood we are coming to help you with, it is a broken pipe, a broken toilet, a damaged or faulty fire sprinkler, water left on and forgotten or a roof leak.  The IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification) defines

Category 1: Clean Water

“Clean water” does not mean drinking water, it means it is toxin-free, water from sinks and bathtubs and water hoses. It does not pose threat to humans, but left unmitigated, in around 48 hours it changes category from bacteria growth.  Quickly get it dried and you do not need to dispose of any of the materials it touched.

Category 2: Grey Water

Water from broken toilets, broken sump pumps, seepage and washing machines leads to this category of water damage. It contains a significant degree of chemical, biological or physical contaminants. Exposure can make you sick.  It contains microorganisms and nutrients of microorganisms.  Porous surfaces may need to be cut as with black water.

Category 3: Black Water

This refers not to the color of the water but the amount of bacteria contained in it and it requires quick actions to avoid serious health issues. Sewage water from toilets, outside water from rivers or streams, the contaminated water that sits in fire sprinkler systems and fish tanks are all filled with bacteria. This category of water damage has to be mitigated with PPE (personal protective equipment) and porous surfaces like rugs and drywall have to be cut and disposed of.  Tile and non porous materials can be cleaned and dried.

The category of water determines the scope of work and whether drying or demolition are necessary.  Usually insurance companies consider it the responsibility of the owner to dry the property immediately so a Cat 1 does not become a Cat 3.  With few exceptions, most water damages get worse with time, so it is always recommended to get someone out right away.

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