Why knowing the source of water is important
One of the first things I ask a customer, often before I leave to go to their home or business, is, “Where did the water come from?”
This is one of the most important things for me to know when getting ready to come out. There is a difference is how I treat clean water versus sewage, for example. In our industry we categorize water based on source, how much time it has been there and the temperature. The difference is contamination.
Once we have determined the source we can figure out how to proceed.
Different categories of water
Category 1 water
Category 1 is water that one could confidently drink. Minimally contaminated water is the easiest for us. We extract it out of carpet and pad, get everything ready to dry and use airflow, heat and dehumidifiers to get the water out. We may have to remove some baseboards and drill some holes but there is no demolition, cleaning or decontamination involved.
Sources of category 1 water can be clean water supply lines, drinks, potable water tanks rupturing, rain that is up and down and snow.
Category 2 water
Water is category 2 when it has some contamination, but not a lot. It is not likely for you to get sick if you are exposed to it, but you don’t want to let to much get on you. Water from a toilet bowl is the best example of this. You wouldn’t want to drink it, but a dog doesn’t care and doesn’t get sick from it.
It is important to know what you have to remove in this case. We have to remove some building materials but not other. For example, when a carpet gets wet we pull the carpet back, remove the pad, spray an anti-microbial and dry the carpet to be re-installed. Easier said than done but it’s what we do and it saves the carpet.
Sources can be sink overflow, sump pump failures, sink overflow, washing machine discharge and bathtub overflow.
Category 3 water
Category 3 water has gross microbial and chemical contamination. This is water that will make you sick or potentially injure you. When you think category 3 think of sewage. This water will make you sick. Category 3 water can have any form of bodily fluid, acids, poisons, radioactive waste, heavy metals or drugs in it. It is hard to tell if you are downstream from a hospital, butcher or laboratory so when you see that you have sewage in your basement you don’t want to go anywhere near it even if the water is clear.
In cleaning this out of your basement we get pretty aggressive on removing materials. Porous building materials will absorb and hold all of this contamination. Any building materials that easily absorb water must be removed, like carpet, drywall, press-board or laminate flooring. There is no safe way to clean these out.
Examples of sources of category 3 is sewage backups, flood water, fish tank spill and horizontal rain.
Can water category change?
In short, yes. The main factor is contamination. In a class I have done we had a debate on if category 1 water becomes category 2 when it hits the floor. The conclusion was it depends.
Three main factors can change category: Time, Temperature and Pre-existing conditions.
Let’s take a frozen pipe burst as our example:
If the water flows for several days before being noticed we can expect it to start growing mold. It goes from being category 1 to 3 within 4 days at room temperature.
If that water freezes and becomes an ice sculpture we can still treat it like category 1 once we thaw it out.
Some pre-existing conditions that could change the category would be mold that is already there, or pet accidents. That pristine water could be the roomba that cleans up fido’s little mess and makes it ten times worse.
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To stop flooding or keep as much water out of your home or business before it starts, see our previous article for steps you can take in advance to reduce damage. You can also contact us for a free estimate on ways to prevent flooding around your home or business.