The Institute of International Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) is an accreditation given by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This administering government body sets the standard that addresses the water damage restoration process for both best practices in remediation and safety.

The IICRC S500 provides a specific set of practical standards for water mitigation, flood damage repair, and sewage cleanup. The document provides the foundation for basic principles of water damage restoration, including the steps in the process. It includes both the standards and the supporting references.
It is important to note that the guide does not attempt to teach the comprehensive and complex water damage restoration process — rather, it provides the foundation for the basic principles of proper restoration practices.

The three water damage classifications are:

  • Category 1 Water Damage: This is where the water originates from a portable or sanitary source and is fit for human consumption. This water does not pose a threat to ingestion, dermal or inhalation exposure. Sources typically include broken supply lines, sprinkler systems, overflowing containers with no contaminants or natural sources like rain or meltwater. This is known as “fresh” water.
  • Category 2 Water Damage: This is where the water contains significant contamination and potentially can cause sickness or discomfort if humans consume or come in contact with it. This type of water contains unsafe levels of microorganisms and/or chemical or biological matter such as diluted urine, detergents, seepage from hydrostatic pressure or ruptured storage tanks. This is known as “gray” water.
  • Category 3 Water Damage: This is where the water is “grossly contaminated” and contains harmful pathogenic and toxigenic agents. Raw sewage is by far the most common offender of “black” water and can be deadly to people and destructive to property if sewage damage restoration is not completely remediated. Sources of black water include sanitary sewer backups, brackish water from rivers and streams, flooding seawater and all forms of ingress from natural events where contaminants like pesticides and heavy metals are carried into a building.


The IICRC further separates water intrusion into four classifications:

  • Class 1: Where a minimal amount of water has flowed onto materials that are predominately low porosity. This class of water damage requires limited mitigation and little moisture is left after the bulk of the water is removed, leaving a minimal amount of evaporation needed to finish drying. Examples would be a burst hot water tank on a sealed concrete floor or an overflowed toilet on a tile floor.
  • Class 2: Where there is a significant amount of water discharged and the exposed materials are medium to high porosity. There is a greater absorption of water into the materials and the water damage process is lengthened by the volume of water that needs to be removed and a lengthened drying time. Examples would be a ruptured pressurized water line inside a gypsum board wall, or a wooden floor joist system.
  • Class 3: Where a large amount of water, regardless of its category, is absorbed by highly porous materials, resulting in the highest rate of evaporation necessary to affect the water damage restoration process. Examples are a storm-forced leak, which floods a building’s interior and soaks carpeted areas, or broken water mains filling an underground parking area.
  • Class 4: Where water intrudes and is trapped by building materials and assemblies, which makes the restoration process difficult, time-consuming and expensive. Affected areas are highly porous or tightly confined and require special methods and equipment, longer drying time or substantial vapor pressure differentials. Examples would be stormwater flooding of wooden, plaster, masonry or concrete enclosures or a severe sewage backup that permeates floor and wall systems.


Water damage restoration shouldn’t stop at restoring back your real estate back to proper functioning. Inspect underlying causes which caused the water damage in the first place and make sure there won’t be a reoccurrence. Repair structures and replace materials to make your property safe for years to come. If your property has been exposed to water damage you may have to do water mitigation. Strict actions are required in water mitigation such as removal of damaged materials such as drywall and flooring. Molds and mildew that have accumulated in areas in your property will be disinfected and deodorized to restore a healthy environment. Further cleaning and deodorizing should be done to make sure your real estate is back in top shape.

Water damage mitigation should happen immediately after flooding or water buildup. Take action immediately because letting your property sit in water causes further damage and expense. Materials soaking in water collect microbes and spreads water-borne diseases. Furniture, wood flooring, and walls will crack, sag and collect fungi after prolonged exposure to moisture.
If your property is particularly old it may be time to replace materials such as pipes to prevent a reoccurrence of water damage. If pipes are behind walls it may require more extensive repair.

The water mitigation process will depend on how long your property has been exposed to water. Air humidifiers and drying equipment must be turned on round the clock in areas with severe water damage. Mold spores are especially dangerous to health and thorough cleaning and disinfecting should be done as part of the water damage mitigation. It is advisable to get the temperature, humidity, and moisture of your property tested to see if it has been restored to normal standards.


Water damage is truly problematic because it can cause structural damage and even adversely affect the healthy environment of your home or establishment. Continued rainfall, burst, and leaking pipes are common culprits of water damage. It is essential to have a water clean up immediately after an event to prevent further accidents and damage. If water builds up in a certain area it is important to start a flood damage cleanup by shutting off the water source. There are some water damage restoration tips you can do immediately right after a sudden water build up.

Remove the water by mopping the area and blotting areas with high saturation. If the flooded area has furniture and valuable items like paintings or electronic devices it is important to get these items in a safe place. Carpeting and rugs should be removed immediately and laid outside to dry. If water damage occurs in the summer, open doors and windows to let the air aid in drying the wet area. Open all closed compartments like closets and cabinets to hasten drying. Any wet fabric should be hung to dry.

Water damaged ceilings should be given immediate attention because it can fall off due to gravity and cause accidents and further damage. Check for the source of leaks in ceilings and roofs and repair it immediately. Porous materials are usually the most susceptible to water damage and these include your furniture’s upholstery, carpet, and insulation. Drywall, unsealed cement and wood are other porous materials that can degrade when exposed to water. More often than not you may have to replace these materials completely if they have been left in the water for too long.

Professionals can help repair extensive water damage. Besides their technical skills, water damage remediation companies have high powered equipment that can repair water damage in a few days. Air movers are especially powerful in promoting fast drying of surfaces like floors and wet walls because it aids in the circulation of air inside the area. Dehumidifiers hasten to dry by removing moisture from the air and air scrubbers help restore cleanliness and sanitation by removing musty smells that come with mildew.

Water damage is a grave concern for many property owners because if left unchecked it causes considerable destruction that results in thousands of dollars of repairs. Inspect areas where water damage is likely to occur on a regular basis to ensure a safe environment in your property.


Preventing water damage requires regular inspection and maintenance where damage is like to occur. Basements, attics, bathrooms, and kitchen are likely sources of water damage so repair water leaks immediately and check for watermarks on walls which signal a leaking pipe. Ensure there is good drainage in your property by directing downspouts away from your property and checking your sump pump to make sure water is being drained out of your property during rainfall.


Water can get in your home during heavy rainfall or if there are burst pipes and malfunctioning appliances. It is important to clean and inspect areas where damage is like to occur such as gutters and roofing. Replace shingles immediately and apply coating and sealants to holes. Make sure your lawn doesn’t tilt toward your home because it may cause flooding in your home during rainfall.


Wood that has been damaged by water, rots and affects the structural integrity of your property. Wood that has been exposed to moisture should be thoroughly cleaned of dirt, mold, and mildew. You can apply an oil-based waterproofer or sealant on wood to protect it from water damage in the future. Mold can live on wood and it is important to disinfect wooden materials in your home to prevent mold after water damage.


Laminate flooring is beautiful and versatile but to prevent water damage on this kind of flooring use it away from water prone areas like your bathrooms, kitchen, and basements. It is important to wipe spills immediately from laminate floors because it may stain and discolor the laminate material. If your laminate flooring has already suffered water damage you should have extra boards on hand to replace severely damaged boards to keep your floor looking good as new.


When water damage occurs in indoor commercial or industrial environments, it is vital to get the right drying equipment in place as quickly as possible to minimize damage to property and the risk to the workers’ health. There is a wide variety of commercial air movers, dehumidifiers, air scrubbers and other disaster restoration equipment available from suppliers like Aer Industries. Professional equipment suppliers like Aer Industries have the industry knowledge to offer the most effective solution to a water damage restoration process.

Air Movers: These are portable drying devices that move a large volume of air around the flooded area. Air movers promote fast drying of surfaces like floors and provide general air circulation for the entire indoor space. Aer Industries provides air movers in many sizes, ranging from compact models to larger, more powerful units. They are measured in the capacity of Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM), as well as the electrical power consumption in amperage required.

Commercial Dehumidifiers: These are also portable machines that are effective for removing the excess moisture from the air which contributes to growing mold and mildew. Dehumidifiers come in ionizing and non-ionizing models and a range of sizes, from compact and conventional to LGR (Low Grain Refrigerant) models.

Air Scrubbers: These are designed to remove odors and other particles from the air. Typically, air scrubbers are used for fire damage restoration, where they remove smoke particles from the air. However, these tools are also effective for removing the musty smells associated with water damage and mildew presence. Wet air scrubbers have a wet filter that traps and removes airborne particulates, whereas dry scrubbers use an ionic purifier.


Each category of water damage has its own health hazards that present workers with various safety issues where precautions must be taken. These precautions could include anything from ensuring adequate ventilation to wearing fully enclosed biological hazard protective equipment, depending on the level of contamination and the health risks associated. Each situation will present its particular safety-related challenges, whether it is simple freshwater mitigation, flood damage repair or sewage cleanup.

Occupational Health and Safety (OHSA) regulations are very clear and strict about what materials present a health hazard in flood and sewage cleanup. OHSA rules and regulations identify the risks of many materials that workers can be exposed to in the water damage restoration process and prescribe the measures of dealing with them to minimize the hazards of exposure. This includes the methods of treatment, removal, bagging or packaging of hazardous materials, and the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to be used by workers who may be exposed to hazardous materials.

Generally, Category 1 water damage presents little or no hazard from the clean and potable water itself. This could expand the risk if there are hazardous materials where water comes in contact, including exposed electrical wiring or devices.

Category 2 situations present moderate risk from the presence of gray water. Standard PPE like coveralls, waterproof boots and rubber gloves should be worn and all workers should be aware of what incidental materials on the job site may present a health and safety risk. With this information, PPE should be adjusted accordingly.

Category 3 water damage situations must be taken seriously. The presence of sewage and non-organic contaminants can be highly dangerous to workers. These effects can be immediate (acute) or long-term (chronic). Category 3 cleanups require full-body protection and for contaminated materials to be placed in biohazard containers. Commonly, entire biohazard suits are worn, including an air-assisted ventilation apparatus.


All workers involved with the restoration of water damage require training and education regarding their tasks and the possible environmental hazards, especially where flood damage remediation or sewage cleanup is required. All workers and supervisors must be aware of the applicable OHSA rules and regulations, as well as health and safety orders from local and state authorities. Before starting a flood or sewer damage restoration project, all workers should attend an IICRC WRT class and IICRC ASD class and be familiar with their industry’s standards of care and safety.
Proper training in the use of PPE should also be completed, including the fitting and wearing of respirators and the proper use of eye protection. They should also be aware of the workplace hazardous materials, as well as the information on applicable Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).


Here are helpful scenarios describing real-life situations and what can be involved in the water damage restoration process, depending on the category and classification of the damage severity. They include the steps to be taken and the equipment to be selected and implemented, as well as the safety precautions to be taken.

Professional water damage companies and contractors have the training and capabilities to be able to safely, effectively, and economically undertake water damage repair. Both proper trainings in best practices and safety measures and proper equipment are necessary to take on these projects.

The professionals at Building Enclosure Specialists also know the water damage restoration business.