Water can enter homes from numerous sources. Most damages are caused by water pipes breaking or by defective appliances. Cold weather can cause pipes to freeze and burst, flooding a house. The washing machine hose bursts, or the water heater springs a leak. Although these situations do not sound drastic, consider the amount of water a burst pipe can dump into a house while everyone is away at work for 8 to 10 hours.
Different sources of water cause different types of damage. Water damages are classified into three major types of water-clean water, gray water, black water-based on the source of the water and its contents.
Clean water is "clean." Treated water and water that does not contain waste products are considered to be clean. Burst pipes, overflowing sinks and defective appliances are sources of clean water. So also are rain and snow when a structure has a leaky or damaged roof. Natural disasters, such as storms, earthquakes, fires and heavy snowstorms, can damage roofs severly and open up buildings to the elements. This water is relatively clean and presents few health risks for workers during water removal, providing the water has not flowed across soil or through much of the structure. The restoration industry refers to clean water damage as Category 1 damage.
Gray water is water that has been used and carries waste products, but does not contain human waste products. For example, an overflowing washing machine dumps wash water on the floor, a dishwasher leaks wash water, or a shower stall or sink overflows. Gray water contains waste products, but generally does not present the hazard of spreading diseases. Water used to control structural fires also carries wastes, but does not normally present a danger of spreading diseases. The restoration industry refers to gray water damage as Category2 damage.
Black water is extremely unsanitary water. Special precautions must be taken to protect workers from disease-carrying residues. One type of black water is sewage back-ups. Sewage back-ups can result from a simple commode overflow, but they can also be massive. Municipal sewage lines become plugged and force large amounts of sewage up through drains connected to the system.
Floodwaters represent another type of water damage having the potential of spreading diseases to workers and building occupants. Floods can completely overwhelm structures, causing severe damage to the structures and their contents. Floodwaters carry silt, mud and debris of every imaginable type, and diesease-causeing organisms. Because of the potential for large amounts of water, and the possibilith that days or even weeks may pass before floodwaters recede, structural damage will be more severe.
Because of sanitation problems, carpets, carpet padding and other porous materials must be replaced when contaminated with sewage or floodwaters. The restoration industry refers to black water damage as Category 3 damage.