Understanding a Water Damage Loss

First step is to identify the source of the water and eliminate it

Water losses from weather and non-weather related events account for approximately 30% of all homeowner claims, representing the highest percentage of any claim category. When a water loss occurs, the first step is to identify the source of the water and eliminate it. The next step is to have a qualified contractor, quickly evaluate the loss and respond accordingly. Water losses are evaluated based on two separate criteria: categories and classes.

Category of Water refers to the source of the water and the range of potential contaminates in the water. Categories are broken down on a scale from one to three. Listed below are the breakdowns for each.

Category 1 – originates from a sanitary source and does not pose substantial risk from contact, ingestion, or inhalation exposure. Examples of Category 1 events include, but are not limited to: broken water supply lines; tub or sink overflows with no contaminants; an appliance malfunction involving water supply lines; melting ice or snow; falling rainwater; and toilet bowls that do not contain contaminants or additives.

Category 2 – may contain contamination, and has the potential to cause discomfort or sickness if contacted or consumed. Category 2 water may contain microorganisms or nutrients for microorganisms, as well as organic or inorganic matter. Such events can result from an overflow of washing machines; seepage due to hydrostatic pressure; broken aquariums; and punctured water beds.

Category 3 – water is significantly contaminated and can contain pathogenic, toxigenic or other harmful agents. Examples of Category 3 water include but are not limited to: sewage; toilet backflows that originate beyond the toilet trap; all forms of flooding from seawater, rivers, or streams; and other contaminated water entering or affecting the indoor environment, such as water from hurricanes, tropical storms, or weather related events.

Time and temperature can affect the quality of water and thereby change its category. The cleanliness of Category 1 and 2 water may also deteriorate after coming in contact with building materials, systems, contents, or other contaminates.

A Class of Water refers to the amount of water that is consuming the space and the anticipated rate of evaporation. There are four classes that define this category.

Class 1 – water losses that affect a relatively small area with minimal moisture absorption by surrounding materials, and has a lower potential rate of evaporation.

Class 2 – water losses that affect a significant area with moisture absorption by highly porous materials, such as wet carpet and padding and water which has wicked up the walls (generally less than 24”).

Class 3 – water may have come from overhead and the greatest potential rate of evaporation (ceilings, walls, insulation, carpet, and padding).

Class 4 – water losses with water that is hidden or trapped within building materials, such as wood and concrete, resulting in a low potential rate of evaporation.

Now that we have defined Category of Water and Class of Water, let’s evaluate the importance of this information. Identifying the category of water helps determine the necessary steps to mitigate and prevent further contamination in the affected area. With the category established, we can quickly determine items that can or cannot be salvaged based on the potential contaminates in the water. Knowing the class of water helps determine how much water exists, best removal methods, and the type and quantity of equipment needed to remove it.

Drying the affected area starts with removing any standing water. This is generally carried out using portable or truck-mounted water extracting equipment. Following extraction, evaporation is achieved by properly balancing air movement and dehumidification with the use of fans and dehumidifiers. To guarantee that a space is completely dry, we may also need to alter the temperature of the area; the air needs to be hungry for moisture. Other considerations in the drying process involve building assemblies. This relates to how building systems are constructed. For example, is their insulation in the walls or ceilings? Do floors contain vapor barriers that inhibit the drying process? Our goal is to return all materials to their normal (or just below normal) moisture levels as quickly and efficiently as possible in order to prevent mold growth.

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