Water Damage Categories

There are three distinct categories of water damage according to the ANSI-approved Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) S500 Standard. These categories are based upon the level of contamination present, or presumed to be present, in the source water.

Category 1 - Clean Water

This water originates from a clean or sanitary source such as a broken clean water supply line, a toilet tank or bowl, a faucet, a failed water heater, etc. Although the water may originate from a clean source, Category 1 water can quickly degrade into Category 2 or 3 depending upon such factors as time and contact with contaminants.

  • Hot water tank burst
  • Toilet tank burst/rupture
  • Water supply line rupture
  • Washing machine line break
  • Category 2 - Grey Water

    This is water with some level of contaminants that could cause discomfort or illness if ingested. Category 2 water can come from washing machine overflow, toilet overflow with some urine but no feces, dishwasher overflow, etc. Category 2 water can also quickly degrade into Category 3 depending upon such factors as time and contact with contaminants.

    Discharged Water From:

  • Dishwasher
  • Washing machine
  • Toilet bowl with urine only
  • Category 2 includes water damage (Category 1) that has not been cleaned up after 24 hours.

    Category 3 - Black Water

    This water is grossly unsanitary and could cause severe illness or even death if ingested. Sources of Category 3 water include sewer backups, flooding from rivers or streams, wind driven rain, water from beyond the toilet trap (regardless of visible content or color), water from the toilet bowl with feces, standing water that has begun to support microbial growth (mold), etc.

  • Sewage-Water/contaminates from toilet trap.
  • Any type of sewage back-up.
  • Category 1 greater than 48 hrs from loss

  • Category 3 includes water damage (Category 1 and 2) that has not been cleaned up after 48 hours.


    T 'n' T refers to time and temperature. These two elements without airflow present can be extremely volatile, as they can potentially transform a Category 1 water loss into a Category 2 or 3. Responding to water emergencies as quickly as possible reduces the chances of category degradation, secondary damage and mold growth.

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