Success on Water Losses


By Dan Mesenburg

In our businesses, we try to supply our toolbox with the latest in technology and equipment so that we can not only better serve the customer, but also serve the customer in a profitable way. Success depends on our knowledge of the technology and equipment we use. But do we have the proper knowledge of the standard for our industry? The IICRC S500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration (S500) is the tool that can complete your toolbox and provide your business success on water losses.

In this article, we will highlight key elements provided by the S500 and how you can utilize them in your business.

Editions of the IICRC S500

The current fourth edition of the IICRC S500 came out in December 2015. The challenge in the industry today is the fact that many are still quoting the third edition and not recognizing the changes that were made. This causes issues with completing jobs and getting paid for those jobs. So, the first thing you need to do is make sure your business is using the fourth edition.

The fourth edition is a great resource for your business to understand how to successfully mitigate a water loss. It consists of the standard in the front of the document followed by the reference guide. If you are in Section 10 of the standard, you can go to chapter 10 of the reference guide to get a more in-depth explanation of the information in the standard. Sections and chapters are directly related to each other, creating an easier document to explore.

Guidance by the S500

Before you start using the S500 as a tool, you must know a couple of key definitions that are used to show the levels of importance in particular sections of the text.

If you see the words “shall” or “should” in a sentence, they are components of the standard of care. “Shall” is used for text that is mandatory due to natural law or regulatory requirements. “Should” is used for text that is accepted standard of care to be followed but is not mandatory by regulatory requirements.

Other keywords include “recommended,” which means something is advised or suggested. “May” or “can” denote permissive or possible action. Each of these aids your business in determining the level of importance items in the standard have in the water loss and procedures you will follow.

Safety and health

The IICRC places safety and health at the top of the list for all losses. Each restorer needs to provide for the safety and good health of the workers and occupants of the structure being restored. This includes applying proper engineering and administrative controls as well as PPE.

DocumentationFlood IICRC S500

Once the environment is safe, documentation provides a safety net for your business to not only provide support for your invoice, but also to lessen the liability that accompanies not having things documented.

Today our industry has embraced technology, using tablets or computers for electronic platforms that gather our data.  Within those, check to make sure you have the authorization to repair, the authorization to pay, and a statement of satisfaction. On the drying side, you should have a record of drying conditions and moisture points, which includes atmospherics, moisture points and dry standards, equipment numbers and placement, and other supporting documentation. Notes on each loss are a must.


The category of water loss is determined by the level of contamination. The category is determined at the beginning of the loss. There are three categories:

  • Category 1: Water originates from a sanitary source and does not pose a substantial risk from dermal, ingestion, or inhalation exposure.
  • Category 2: Water contains significant contamination and can contain potentially unsafe levels of microorganisms or nutrients for microorganisms.
  • Category 3: Water is grossly contaminated and may contain pathogenic (disease-causing) organisms.

It is important that we document the reason for the category of water loss and paint the picture of why the loss falls under the category you have chosen. The IICRC S500 gives detailed definitions and examples for each of the three categories. Don’t cut and paste the document’s information to your notes; rather, paint the picture for each loss (sight, smell, etc.).

Class of intrusion

The class of intrusion is the amount of water absorption and evaporation load. It is determined by the amount of wet material as a percentage of the combined floor, wall, and ceiling surface area. It is important to know that the class is determined after demolition or remediation activities are completed. Remember to provide humidity control during these activities until the class can be determined and the proper equipment levels are set. The chart above provides information on each class of water intrusion.

Class of
Description of amount of water absorption and evaporation load Amount of wet, porous materials…as a % of combined floor, wall & ceiling surface area in the space Absorption into low evaporation materials or assemblies
1 Least Less than ~5% Minimal
2 Significant ~5% to ~40% Minimal
3 Greatest More than ~40% Minimal
4 Deeply held or bound water Significant



Our main goal during the drying process is to dry the wet materials. To do so, a dry standard or drying goal needs to be established for each material type. It is recommended that the dry standard is taken from a reading on an unaffected material in the property being dried. Do not use a canned list of dry standards as they can produce inaccurate results.

The science of drying can be confusing at times. The S500 provides basic background information on the terminology and science of restorative drying. This information is important to understand so your business can effectively and efficiently remove moisture from materials and the environment.

Air filtration

Air filtration devices give us the opportunity to HEPA filter the air when the need arises. The IICRC S500 outlines their use, especially on jobs that are contaminated (Category 3 water); when particulates are being added to the air (drawing moist air out of potentially contaminated cavities using negative air pressure or during demolition even if contained); and if health concerns are present with the customer. If you are working with an insurance company, you will want to be sure to get preapprovals.


The use of antimicrobials occurs on most water losses. However, this is not the case on a Category 1 loss, as stated in the standard. If a loss is a Category 1 water loss, that means the water is not contaminated and would not require an antimicrobial. Antimicrobials work best if the surface is cleaned first and when the label directions are always followed, with no exceptions.

HVAC systems

HVAC systems can pose issues on water losses. In projects where Category 2 or 3 water has entered directly into the HVAC system, you must contain, disassemble, and remove the system components. The components should then be cleaned by a qualified HVAC contractor.


We all value the equipment we use because this is a component of not only better drying performance, but also profitability. The S500 provides a simple and detailed calculation for dehumidifiers and airmovers. These calculations provide the proper amount of equipment to most efficiently dry a structure. They also provide a justification for the equipment you have placed.IICRC S500

Use the IICRC S500

The IICRC S500 (fourth edition) provides background information and a roadmap of how to successfully complete a water loss. This is the first tool you should add to your toolbox to ensure you are following industry standards.

By following the S500, you can make all your water losses a success!

Dan Mesenburg has been in the cleaning and restoration industry for over 22 years. He is an IICRC board director, IICRC approved instructor, and WRT technical advisory committee chair. He and his wife own a ServiceMaster Restore franchise, and he serves as the regional training manager for a ServiceMaster distributor in the Midwest.

Cleanfax Staff

Cleanfax provides cleaning and restoration professionals with information designed to help them manage and grow their businesses.

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