Non-invasive estimation of moisture content in tuff bricks by GPR

Rosa Agliata*, Thom A. Bogaard, Roberto Greco, Luigi Mollo, Evert C. Slob, Susan C. Steele-Dunne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
58 Downloads (Pure)


Measuring water content in buildings of historical value requires non-invasive techniques to avoid the damage that sample taking or probe insertion may cause to the investigated walls. With this aim, a stepped frequency ground penetrating radar (GPR) system was tested to assess its applicability in moisture measurements of porous masonry elements. The technique was tested on a real scale wall made with yellow Neapolitan tuff bricks, a material commonly found in historical buildings of Campania (Southern Italy). First, the antenna was calibrated to find its characteristic transfer functions. Then 64 GPR acquisitions, coupled with gravimetric measurements of the volumetric water content, were performed on the tuff wall in laboratory controlled conditions. A full inverse modelling of the GPR signal on tuff was used to retrieve dielectric permittivity and electrical conductivity of tuff at various water contents. By linking these characteristic electromagnetic parameters to the water content, the calibration relationships specific for yellow Neapolitan tuff are defined, which can be used for moisture measurements by GPR in real case studies. The experimental results lead to a robust identification of clearly defined monotonic relationships for dielectric permittivity and electrical conductivity. These are characterized by high values of the correlation coefficient, indicating that both parameters are potentially good proxies for water content of tuff. The results indicate that GPR represents a promising indirect technique for reliable measurements of water content in tuff walls and, potentially, in other porous building materials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)698-706
Number of pages9
JournalConstruction and Building Materials
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2018


  • Ground penetrating radar
  • Inverse modelling
  • Moisture
  • Non-invasive measurement
  • Tuff masonry


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