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Moisture in ancient masornries: materials’ decay and rehabilitation issues

Constituent Materials, Microstructure and Inner Structure

University of Bologna Team Leader: Franzoni Elisa - Assistant Prof. - Dep. of Chemical, Mining and Environmental Engineering.

University of Bologna Research Group: Franco Sandrolini, Elisa Franzoni, Simone Bandini, Barbara Pigino, Enrico Sassoni, technicians of Dep. of Civil, Enviromental and Materials Engineering.

Partner/Collaborations: University of Bologna - Dep. of Civil, Enviromental and Materials Engineering, Imola, Correggio and Carpi Municipalities, Procuratoria della Basilica di S. Marco in Venice.

Context and objectives


The presence of water in masonries can have different cause and origin (capillary rise, condensation, rainwater infiltration, accidental losses from pipes, presence of hygroscopic salts in the walls themselves), but in any case it represents the cause or the worsening factor of almost all the decay phenomena in building materials, i.e. rain-wash and erosion, freeze-thaw cycles, migration and crystallisation of soluble salts, chemical attack due to atmospheric pollutants, biological attack and corrosion of metallic elements.


Developing accurate and reliable measurements of moisture and soluble salts in ancient masonry walls, in order to quantify the decay state and set-up the most suitable intervention techniques.

Methodologies and equipment

  1. Experimental on laboratory masonry-models (Fig. 1 - Gallery) and correlation between materials’ microstructure and moisture-related phenomena;
  2. On-site testing, by mean of moisture monitoring in permanent sampling points in several historic buildings.


  1. Set-up of a, innovative technique for moisture measurement, aimed to monitoring moist and/or rehabilitated masonries (Build Environ 41 (2006) 1372-1380)
  2. Monitoring of moisture in several case-studies, such as Biblioteca Classense in Ravenna, St. Mark Basilica in Venice (fig. 2 - Gallery), ex-cloister of St. Dominc at Imola (fig. 3 - Gallery), St. Francis church at Correggio and Pio Palace at Carpi, Italy.