October 3, 2012

Water & Moisture

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You may be wondering –  Is it possible that water or moisture is impacting my property?

As we all know, there are three (3) forms of water: solid (ice), liquid, gas (vapor).  Due to the various forms of water, moisture accumulation can occur in your property due to indoor plumbing leaks, water intrusion (from outside source), elevated relative humidity, inadequate air circulation, frost/ice from frozen pipes, etc.

As water loss experts, American Metropolitan Environmental, Inc. (AMEI) can determine the categorization of the water loss (IICRC S500), identify the extent of water damage, and submit a comprehensive report that includes the scope of work to assist you, and your insurance (when necessary), in restoring your property to a Pre-Loss Condition.  Essential tools in identifying sources and extent of moisture accumulation are the Protimeter MMS© (moisture meter) and Infrared Camera (FLIR).


In many situations, it’s not the initial moisture accumulation or water loss episode that causes problems to the interior, but rather the length of time that the moisture is present.  The longer that building materials remain wet, the more deterioration can occur, thus eventually promoting microbial growth (mould/bacteria) in as little as 24 to 48 hours.

In some situations, the source of the water loss can be of great concern!

Categorizing the level of water contamination is required to appropriately perform a loss assessment and evaluation.  The category of water contamination must be considered so that procedures can be established for processing water-damaged structures and materials safely. 

Water damage is divided into three (3) general categories: Category 1, Category 2, and Category 3.  Note: the category of water contamination is not determined by the color of the water, rather the category is determined by the source, contents, history and characteristics of the water.  The following definitions for water damage are extracted from the ANSI/IICRC S500-2015 Standard for Professional Water Damage Restoration document ( IICRC Website )

  • Category 1 WaterCategory 1 water originates from a sanitary water source and does not pose substantial risk from dermal, ingestion, or inhalation exposure. Examples of Category 1 water sources can include, but are not limited to: broken water supply lines; tub or sink overflows with no contaminants; appliance malfunctions involving water-supply lines; melting ice or snow; falling rainwater; broken toilet tanks; or toilet bowls that do not contain contaminants or additives. Category 1 water can deteriorate to Category 2 or 3. Category 1 water that flows into an uncontaminated building does not constitute an immediate change in the category. However, Category 1 water that flows into a contaminated building can constitute an immediate change in the category. Once microorganisms become wet from the water intrusion, depending upon the length of time that they remain wet and the temperature, they can begin to grow in numbers and can change the category of the water. Odors can indicate that Category 1 water has deteriorated.

  • Category 2 WaterCategory 2 water contains significant contamination and has the potential to cause discomfort or sickness if contacted or consumed by humans. Category 2 water can contain potentially unsafe levels of microorganisms or nutrients for microorganisms, as well as other organic or inorganic matter (chemical or biological). Examples of category 2 water can include, but are not limited to: discharge from dishwashers or washing machines; overflows from washing machines; overflows from toilet bowls on the room side of the trap with some urine but no feces; seepage due to hydrostatic pressure; broken aquariums and punctured water beds. Category 2 water can deteriorate to Category 3. Once microorganisms become wet from the water intrusion, depending upon the length of time that they remain wet and the temperature, they can begin to grow in number and can change the category of the water.

  • Category 3 Water Category 3 water is grossly contaminated and can contain pathogenic, toxic or other harmful agents and can cause significant adverse reactions to humans if contacted or consumed. Examples of Category 3 water can include, but are not limited to: sewage; waste line backflows that originate from beyond the trap regardless of visible content or color; all other forms of contaminated water resulting from flooding from seawater; rising water from rivers or streams; and other contaminated water entering or affecting the indoor environment, such as wind-driven rain from hurricanes, tropical storms, or other weather-related events if they carry trace levels of contaminants (e.g., pesticides or toxic organic substances).


Vapor, or relative humidity (Rh), can be naturally occurring such as outdoors during a rain, in the warm summer months, or it can originate from man-made sources such as showers, vaporizers, utilization of air-conditioning, improperly functioning humidifiers, etc.

When it comes to relative humidity, there is no “ideal” humidity level and temperature suitable for all building occupants. Many factors, such as personal activity and clothing may affect personal comfort. There is considerable debate among researchers, IAQ professionals, and health professionals concerning recommended levels of relative humidity.  In general, the range of indoor humidity levels recommended from ASHRAE Standard 55-2017 is 30% to 50%.  Relative humidity levels below 30% may produce discomfort from dryness whereas indoor relative humidity levels above 62% have been documented to produce environments ideal for the proliferation of fungi (mould) on surfaces.

ASHRAE documents Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality (ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2016) and Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy (ASHRAE 55-2017)


In some situations ice forming on exterior surfaces such as windows, siding, roofing, guttering, etc. can cause moisture infiltration into a structure, create condensation on windows, and even reveal unknown roof leaks.  In addition, in lower temperatures, outdoor faucets and hoses can freeze causing domestic supply plumbing lines to rupture and flood crawlspaces, wall cavities, basements, etc.

For further information on Phases of Water, see the following information from NASA:


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