Home Water Damage: What is it?

Old wall that has water damage marks on its walls, door and window
How water can damage the walls of your home

Ever wondered, where do the unsightly stains on your walls, ceiling or  wooden floors come from?

Home water damage is one of the major reasons for property loss and poor health.  Yet, not much attention is paid to it. At least not at the right time anyway.

Do you even know what some of the top most common causes of water damage in your home are?  I have been thinking a lot about this lately. So, I did a little digging into the subject.

What is  Water Damage: Basics

Water damage  refers to a wide range of losses resulting from the destructive processes of water. And, it  can happen to your residential as well as commercial property.

How does water destroy your home ?

Water flows to different parts of your residence or business seeping into areas where it easily destroys material or system. The damage itself happens when destructive processes of water attack and break up the material/ system.

Residential water damage, which is also known as home water damage, is a form of water damage. And, it is the main focus of this article.

Some common examples of the destructive processes of water include:

  • mold growth,
  • rusting
  •  De-lamination of material
  • Rotting

You should know, water problems in your home do not come from the initial leak. In fact, most cases of damage from water take several weeks or even months to appear. Meaning, water can destroy your household, for a while, before it captures your attention. This is why so many people spend so much money  dealing with home water damage.

They only act when they see its signs.

And, by the time the unsightly stains are visible on the surface, the damage beneath is usually way worse than it appears. Probably, at its extensive level.

Imagine that overflowed bathtub you saw this morning but did not think so much of. So, you cleaned it up but did not do it very well. Or, a quietly leaking pipe that you’ve been forgetting to repair for a while now.

All these normal activities that are easy to ignore can, with time, lead to major  damage to your house. And, create serious health problems for you and your family.

How long does it take for water damage to show?

Clear signs of  water damage,  to any property, may take days, weeks or even months to appear. It all depends on two things:

  1. The rate at which the water causing the damage is evaporating.
  2. The type of material being affected.

All the same, time is a crucial factor when it comes to both commercial and residential water damages.

The longer it takes for you to notice the onset of water damage in your home, the more extensive the damage becomes. This means that you will have to dig a little deeper into your pocket to get any repairs done.

Handling  water damage is not easy. However, it is something you ought to prepare yourself for.


Because you are likely to experience water damage in your household many times- whether you like it or not.

Try looking at it this way:

Water is life- and the same goes for your household. Water is the life of your home and without it, you really don’t have a home. You may have a house, but, not a home. And, since water is, practically, the central part of your entire household system, its problems are inevitable. You literally cannot afford to ignore home water damage, even if you really wanted to.


What’s your best shot at handling household water damage problems in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible?

Learn everything you need to know about such damages.

That’s right.

Gaining a little insight on this subject is essential for 4 main reasons:

  1. It puts you in a good position to minimize your chances of experiencing water damage to your property.
  2. You will be able to handle any case of water damage as soon as it occurs- easily.
  3. It saves you a lot of money. Money that you would otherwise spend on serious water damage repairs.
  4. You will know how to keep the environment of your home free of water damage- at all times. Meaning, you can effectively protect the indoor environmental quality of your household. And, in turn, maintain the health of your home which supports your personal health and wellness.

Number 4 is probably the most important reason why you should pay utmost attention to this series. To protect yourself and your loved ones from the harmful health effects of serious home water damage.

This series outlines some of the most important things you need to know about this subject.

First, let’s discuss what water damage to your home means and what you need to do about it.

Home Water Damage Definition

Home water damage also known as residential water damage refers to any possible losses that occur as a result of water getting into different areas of your home. And, destroying its material or system either partially or permanently.

The destruction happens through various processes including the growth of mold, rotting of wood, rusting of steel and de-laminating of material.

Plywood is a good example of material that can be attacked and get completely destroyed by water in your home.

Water Damage on Spruce plywood arranged in layers
Spruce Plywood: Example of material that can be affected by water   damage at home

Types of water damage

Generally, there are two major types of water damages that can affect your home.

First, damage may occur as a result of floods from heavy rains and natural disasters such as hurricanes.

Second, you may experience water damage from everyday household issues including dishwasher leaks, water heater leaks, and burst pipes.

In most cases, home water damage caused by natural disasters is referred to as flood damage.

You may be wondering, what is the difference between flood damage and  water damage? Isn’t it more or less the same since water causes all the damage and property loss?

Well, you are right and wrong at the same time.

While it’s true that water causes both types of home water damage, they are quite different.

One of the main difference comes from the way the damage takes place. Flood damage occurs due to flooding whereas home water damage mainly arises from internal issues within your house or building.

Another difference comes from the person responsible for the damages- both financially and legally.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) covers most flood damages. Especially, if your home is located in an area prone to flooding.

On the other hand, for most cases of home water damages, you might find that you have to use your own money. Or, cover from your personal insurance company. (I will cover this topic- in detail- in another article.)

For now, let’s focus on 2 things:
  1. The categories of water that may destroy your home.
  2. The major classes of water damage and levels of damages these classes are likely to cause in your home.

Categories of  water damage

There are several categories of home water damage but only 3 are well-known as they happen often.

It is important to note that residential water damage is categorized according to the level of pollution of the source of water causing the damage. This will help you understand the health impact each category of water damage has on you and your family.

Also, the more polluted the source of water is, the more dangerous its resultant damage becomes in your home.  Therefore, you need to be very cautious when dealing with each category of  damage as shown below.

  • What is category 1 water damage?

Category 1  water damages are caused by category 1 water which comes from clean sources of water.

The common name for category 1 water is clean water.

Good examples of clean water sources that can lead to category 1 home water damage include:

  • Broken fresh water supply lines. 
  • Clean water overflows from sinks or tubs. 
  • Malfunctions involving the fresh water supply lines of your appliances.
Destruction Level

Often, you will find that category 1 water only affects a small part of your room. Because, it’s evaporation rate is slow.

Also, clean water does not cause illness or ill effects of any kind. As a result, you can easily handle category 1 damages using various DIY methods. However, keep in mind that water damage from category 1 water only remains as category one if it affects clean surfaces.

How clean are the floors that got destroyed by category 1 water in your home?

If your answer to this question is not clean, you definitely have a different category of water damage to deal with.  And, you have to be very cautious when applying any remediation measures.

  • What is category 2  water damage?

A category 2 damage comes from category 2 water. Also known as grey water, category 2 water has a significant amount of physical, biological or chemical contaminants.

Grey water also contains several micro-organisms and nutrients that these micro-organisms feed on. Therefore, the water continues to get more contaminated as time goes by.

Some good examples of category 2 water sources include:

  • Failure of sump pumps and seepage resulting from hydrostatic failures.
  • Waste water discharged from your house appliances including washing machines and dishwashers.
Destruction Level

Category 2 home water damages are more serious compared to category 1. Reason being, the rate of evaporation  of the water here is faster.

Additionally, grey water is more permeable and can destroy a wider area. It also causes great discomfort or illnesses- either through contact or just mere exposure to it.

Therefore, always consider leaving any repairs following category 2 water to expert water damage restoration companies.

Due to their professional training, you can trust that all the moisture will be removed successfully. Leaving the affected area completely dry. This way, your risk of experiencing severe mold growth, because of dampness, is highly reduced or completely eliminated.

  • What is category 3  water damage?

Commonly, category 3 water is referred to as black water.

According to the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), black water is grossly contaminated and highly unsanitary.

Category 3 water has toxins, pathogens and other unsanitary agents which are harmful to you and your family’s health.

IICRC warns that  pathogens found in black water cause adverse reactions when you consume or come in contact with them. Generally, there are many harmful bacteria and fungi, found in black water, which pose serious health risks in your home.

Often, category 3 damage is referred to as black water damage.

Some well-known category 3 water examples include:

  • Sewage back-up
  • Storm waters
  • Overflowing toilets

Additionally, damages from toilet back-flows, especially if it comes from beyond the trap, is considered black water damage.  The color or visible content of such back-flows does not matter.

Remember, water can look very clean but still be highly contaminated.

Destruction Level

Category 3 water causes the highest level of damage in your home. The rate of evaporation here is the fastest and damage can easily extend to all parts of your home. From your ceilings to the floors and walls.

Black water damage is also the most dangerous to deal with.

Any unprotected contact with category 3 water may lead to severe illness or even death. Thus, it is safer that you call well-trained water damage experts to handle ANY  damages from black water.

Often, you will realize that you have to evacuate your home or building even when it’s experts handling these damages. For one main reason, black water is highly toxic and unsafe for you and your loved ones.

Areas affected by category 3 water  should be a no-go zone. And, you should wait to get the go ahead to access such areas again by a team of experts.  That is, after they have dealt with all the black water damage ensuring the areas are safe to access.

Dark brown water damage marks on a white home ceiling board
Water damage to a home ceiling

Water Damage and Contamination

It is important to understand; water can start out as clean water but become grey or black water  when contaminated. Literally, any contamination that clean water comes across, including soil or dirty carpeting, can change its category.

And, as water changes from category 1 to either 2 or 3, the damage happening to your home gets worse. The longer water stays around an area, the more contaminated it gets.  Because, standing breeds different types of bacteria.

More contamination also means that you (or the restoration team that you call) will have to apply more aggressive measures when cleaning out the damage.

This is why time is a very essential factor when it comes to water removal and handling damages. (I cannot emphasize this time factor enough.)

Classes of water damage

Classes of damage describe how water damage in your home takes place.

Classification occurs according to the potential rate of evaporation and absorption of water. Also, classification depends on the amount of water causing damage. The faster water evaporates from a surface, the worse the damage becomes.

Generally, there are 2 things which determine the potential rate of water evaporation during water damage

  • Type of affected material- Is it porous or non-porous? How fast can it absorb moisture?
  • Level of wetness of the area affected by water damage

Understanding these classes of home water damage will help you determine the level/ extent of damage you’ve suffered once it occurs. So, you can choose the right equipment to use when drying out your home.

What is a Class 1 water loss?

You can tell a class 1  water damage or loss simply by looking at the size of the affected area.

Since the water evaporation rate for class 1 damages is slow, only a small portion of an area is affected. Additionally, materials affected by class 1 water damage have low porosity or permeance thus absorb minimum moisture.

Over all, class 1 water damage has the least impact on your home. Damages from this class are minimum and easy to contain compared to class 2, 3 and 4.

What is a Class 2 water loss?

Normally, a class 2 water loss affects a much bigger portion of your home.

Why? – Because of two main reasons:

  1. The rate of evaporation and absorption of water here is faster than that of class 1.
  2. There is a larger amount of water causing damage. 

In this case, water damages can extend to the entire room including the cushion and carpet. Also, it may wick up approximately 24 inches of the walls of your home.

What is a Class 3 water loss?

Class 3 water loss has the fastest water evaporation rate hence the worst damages.

For class 3, water comes from overhead and affects the entire area. It may attack and damage all the ceilings, walls, cushion, insulation and carpet.

Home water damage from heavy rains fall under this class.

What is a Class 4 water loss?

Class 4 water loss or damage involves materials that have very low porosity or permeance.

Good examples of such material include concrete, crawlspaces, hardwood , brick, stone and plaster.

For this class of home water damage, drying requires special methods and a longer time.

Usually, you’ll find deep pockets of water saturation which need low, specific humidity to dry. This helps to completely dry out the damaged material without leaving any moisture behind.

What is the difference between the categories and classes of  water damage?

The categorization of  water damage depends on how polluted the source of water that has caused the damage is. Whereas, the classes of water damage describe the level of destruction that has taken place.

However, you’ve probably noticed a small connection between the two by now, right?

Evidently, damages from category 1 water can easily be classified under class 1 home water damage.  The same goes for home water damages from category 2 and category 3 water.  They can be classified under class 2 and class 3 water damages, respectively.

Final Thoughts

Home water damage can be minor- involving a few water spots that may ruin a surface over time.  Or, major- affecting huge areas of your home or the entire property altogether.

Whichever way it occurs, you are likely to suffer great losses to your property.

Water damage also reduces the value of your home, and the quality of your home environment.  You may also end up spending a huge part of your finances handling  repairs.

In addition to the repairs, you’re likely to spend a fortune dealing with the damages’ harmful effects on your health. Therefore, preventing water damage is a significant aspect of home maintenance that you cannot afford to ignore.

You may also want to understand what some of the top, most-common causes of home water damage are. This will help you know when you are at risk of experiencing water problems even before they happen.

Here are the top 6 most common causes of water damage in your home.

Over to you

Do you pay attention to the quality of the environment you live in? Or, do you let your immediate surrounding control you?

Remember: your home is the energetic anchor of your entire existence. So, paying attention to it is the first step to paying proper attention to who you are and how you live.


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