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There are three basic sources of water.

 Category 1 originates from a sanitary source and poses no substantial risk from dermal, ingestion, or inhalation exposure. However, it may not always remain clean after it comes in contact with other surfaces or materials.
 
Category 2 contains significant contamination and has the potential to cause discomfort or sickness if contacted or consumed by humans. It may contain potentially unsafe levels of microorganisms or nutrients for microorganisms, as well as other organic or inorganic matter (chemical or biological).
 
Category 3 is grossly contaminated and may contain pathogenic, toxigenic or other harmful agents. Such water sources may carry silt, organic matter, pesticides, heavy metals, regulated materials, or toxic organic substances.
 
*Time and temperature can also affect the quality of water, thereby changing its category
There are four primary classifications of water damage.

Class 1 is the least amount of water, absorption and evaporation. It affects only part of a room or area, or larger areas containing materials that have absorbed minimal moisture. Little or no wet carpet and/or cushion is present.
 
Class 2 involves a large amount of water, absorption and evaporation. It affects at least an entire room of carpet and cushion (pad). Water has wicked up walls less than 24 inches. There is moisture remaining in structural materials and substructure soil.
 
Class 3 involves the greatest amount of water, absorption and evaporation. Water may have come from overhead. Ceilings, walls, insulation, carpet, cushion and subfloor in virtually the entire area are saturated.
 
Class 4 relates to specialty drying situations. Includes wet materials with very low permeance/porosity (e.g. hardwood, plaster, brick, concrete, light weight concrete and stone). Typically, there are deep pockets of saturation, which require very low specific humidity. These types of losses may require longer drying times and special methods.
 
 *See the IICRC S500 for complete definitions.