University of Bath

Moisture movement beneath solid ground floors in historic buildings

We are investigating water flow in the walls of historic buildings to improve our understanding of heritage conservation.

Photograph of a historic building
This building is being monitored for moisture movement as part of the research

Scope

This project will explore the role of floor slab foundation material on driving moisture movement within the walls of historic buildings. We will use long-term field monitoring and laboratory-scale experiments to understand the physical processes and drivers. Numerical modelling will project long-term wall slab moisture conditions for a range of building types, over long-term changes in seasonal weather, and a changing climate. We will use preliminary data from the first six months to form the basis for a more detailed investigation over two years or more.

Finite element modelling

We will consider a wall moisture scenario based on typical internal and external temperature and humidity conditions. The model inputs will come from published material properties data.

Laboratory investigation

We will develop experimental apparatus to measure liquid and water vapour flow through different slab material types on a clay soil.

Preliminary field investigation

We will establish instrumentation at a field site to capture six months of weather, wall, floor and soil monitoring data. This will provide the basis for longer-term data acquisition during seasonal weather changes.

Background

Water movement through the masonry walls of historic buildings is an important control on wall deterioration (e.g. salt weathering) and damage to the internal environment (e.g. wall damp). Gaining a better understanding of the water flow and moisture regimes within such structures is critical to heritage conservation.

Concrete or limecrete slabs are often installed in historic buildings during a renovation. Yet, such interventions can influence the water supply from the underlying soil and the rate of water flow through the wall. It is unclear how the slab's installation will affect the moisture flow regime within the wall, and whether it will promote or reduce wall damage.

Investigators