Predicting salt damage in practice: a theoretical insight into laboratory tests

Robert J. Flatt, Nevin Aly Mohamed, Francesco Caruso, Hannelore Derluyn, Julie Desarnaud, Barbara Lubelli, Rosa Maria Espinosa‐marzal, Leo Pel, Carlos Rodriguez‐navarro, George W. Scherer, Noushine Shahidzadeh, Michael Steiger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Salt crystallization represents one of the major causes for the degradation of building and ornamental stone. As such, it has attracted the attention of researchers, who over the years have progressively unraveled most mechanisms involved in salt damage. Despite this mechanistic understanding, many questions subsist about how to quantitatively predict damage or its progression, and in particular how to relate performance on site to that in laboratory tests. In this context, a new RILEM TC 271‐ASC has been started with the objective of defining laboratory tests that deliver more reliable predictions of field behavior. One deliverable of this TC is to provide a theoretical insight into this question based on recent progress on the understanding of salt damage. This paper presents a summary of this work, highlighting key aspects relating to crystallization pressure, chemo‐mechanics and mass transport. Implications are discussed in relation to the most used accelerated salt crystallization tests in an attempt to better define which field exposure conditions that these tests best represent and may be used for, or define effective test procedures representing specific field conditions. A simple conceptual model for the development of salt damage is introduced. During an initial “induction” phase, transport of ions and accumulation of salt in the porous materials occurs without causing detectable damage until a critical point, termed “damage onset” is reached. Beyond this point, during the “propagation phase”, the material degrades, typically losing strength and cohesiveness. The implications of these two phases are discussed in relation to the selection of appropriate salt weathering tests and conservation interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-118
Number of pages11
JournalRILEM Technical Letters
StatePublished - Sep 21 2017


  • Brick
  • Conservation
  • Crystallization pressure
  • Cultural heritage
  • Masonry
  • Salt Damage
  • Salt testing
  • Sodium chloride
  • Sodium sulfate
  • Stone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • General Materials Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Predicting salt damage in practice: a theoretical insight into laboratory tests'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this