Category 3 Water Damage: What It Is and How to Deal With It

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: May 21, 2024

When you’re faced with water damage in your home, you need to clean and dry everything as quickly as possible. 

Fortunately, you’re not alone in the process.

Here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, we have more than 85 combined years of experience in the restoration industry. 

In this blog, we’ve compiled our top tips to help you identify and deal with dangerous Category 3 flood water.

What Is Category 3 Water Damage?

Category 3 water damage occurs when highly contaminated black water soaks porous materials like sheetrock and wood.

Problems can range from sewage water in basements to mold-infested crawl spaces.

The most common sources of Category 3 water, or blackwater, include:

  • Broken sewer lines
  • Backed-up sewer mains
  • Extended rain events
  • Flash floods
  • Hurricane flooding
  • Toilet overflows
  • Contamination of stagnant water
  • Groundwater

Even a small toilet overflow causes Category 3 damage when dirty water deposits bacteria on the floor, baseboards and surrounding fixtures.

What Are The Dangers Of Blackwater?

Category 3 water damage, also known as ‘black water,’ is the most severe form of water damage and poses significant health risks due to its highly contaminated nature. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises that exposure to Category 3 water can lead to the following conditions:

Blackwater and sewage backup health risks spread quickly through an affected home. Ordinary cleanup can’t address the hazardous contamination that soaks deep into sheetrock, carpets, furnishings, and personal belongings. Because of this, anything in your home that has been touched by Category 3 water must be removed.

If you have blackwater in your home, seek professional remediation services that are equipped with the specialized equipment and training necessary to safely and effectively restore the environment.

How to Identify Category 3 Water Damage

Identifying this type of water damage involves looking for several key signs.

  • Consider the source of the water. Category 3 damage often originates from sewage backups, flooding from rivers or streams, or water left to stagnate for extended periods. The water is typically murky, has a foul odor, and may contain visible debris or waste particles.
  • Check for signs of dampness in materials like drywall, carpeting, or insulation. These materials may not only be wet but can also exhibit signs of fungal growth or discoloration due to the pathogens and contaminants present in the water.
  • Monitor your health. Be on the lookout for any adverse health effects in occupants, such as allergic reactions or respiratory issues, which can indicate the presence of dangerous microbes or chemicals in the environment—a hallmark of Category 3 water damage.

Always consult with a professional restoration service when dealing with Category 3 water damage. Only a professional team will have the appropriate equipment and expertise to handle the situation safely and effectively.

How Restoration Pros Deal With Category 3 Water Damage

sewage backup cleanup

While every team works differently, here’s a simple overview of how most restoration companies handle this situation.:

Step 1: Inspection and Damage Assessment

Upon arrival, specialists conduct a thorough inspection to determine the extent of the damage and develop an action plan. This will involve identifying the sources of the water and categorizing the type of contamination.

Step 2: Water Removal / Water Extraction

The team uses powerful pumps and vacuum units to remove contaminated water rapidly, helping to prevent secondary water damage and mold growth.

Step 3: Drying and Dehumidification

After water removal, the drying process begins using industrial-grade dehumidifiers and air movers. The goal is to get the affected area as dry as possible to inhibit the growth of mold.

Step 4: Cleaning and Sanitizing

Restoration professionals clean all of the restorable items and structures damaged by the water. They are trained to remove odors using fogging equipment and air scrubbers and to sanitize with antimicrobial treatments.

Step 5: Restoration

The final step is the restoration process, which may involve minor repairs, such as replacing drywall and installing new carpet, or may entail major renovations, like the reconstruction of various areas or rooms in a home or business.

Safety is paramount during Category 3 water damage restoration, and personal protective equipment (PPE) is mandatory for all restoration staff.

Do You Need Assistance In Chicago, Il, Or The Suburbs? We Can Help!

category 3 water clean up

If you ever have doubts about cleaning up after any type of flooding, call us right away. We’ll quickly assess the level of contamination and advise you on the safest course of action.

You can count on ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba for certified sewage flood cleanup and the best water damage home repair services in Chicago and the suburbs: 773-647-1985.

Will Insurance Cover Category 3 Water Damage?

Most homeowners insurance covers water damage, but you need to purchase a separate policy for natural flooding events. If you aren’t sure about your coverage, discuss different options and additional protection with your agent. This is a good time to update the details on your current policy too. Ask your agent to recommend a water damage restoration company now so that you’ll be prepared just in case. An established restoration contractor can also help you handle insurance paperwork and navigate the claims process. If you find yourself facing the aftermath of Category 3 flood damage, it’s good to know you already have a partner who can handle the recovery from start to finish.

How Does Category 3 Water Damage Spread So Quickly?

The cellulose in walls and flooring serves as a food source for black water contaminants. Every porous surface in your home becomes a breeding ground for pathogens and fungus.
The high humidity, warm temperature and stagnant air in a flooded house create an ideal environment for bacteria and mold growth inside walls and under floors.

Does Mold Make Water Category 3?

No, mold alone does not classify water as Category 3. Category 3 water, or “black water,” refers to highly contaminated water that can cause severe illness or discomfort if ingested or exposed to the body. 
It typically stems from sewage backups, flooding from rivers or streams, or water from beyond the toilet trap. 
Mold growth can result from Category 1 or 2 water escalating to Category 3 if it’s not addressed promptly due to the proliferation of bacteria and other hazardous microorganisms in the stagnant water. Therefore, while mold is a secondary effect of water damage, it is not the defining factor of Category 3 water.