Role of clay minerals in the physicomechanical deterioration of sandstone

Inmaculada Jiménez-González, Carlos Rodríguez-Navarro, George W. Scherer

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Extensive weathering suffered by sandstone in natural outcrops as well as in historical buildings could be attributed among other mechanisms to the action of wetting and drying cycles. We have recently shown how to quantify the stresses generated during such cycles to determine whether damage can take place. This procedure is further developed in this paper and applied to the Tarifa sandstone, a sandstone with a 7 wt % content of clay minerals and used in. the main façade of the church of San Mateo in Tarifa (Cádiz, Spain) for which the relevant material properties are measured. It is shown that tensile stresses during drying can cause cracking of thin elements and that shear forces can cause buckling of wetted surfaces more generally, eventually resulting in scaling and/or contour scaling. These predictions are supported by visual observations on the monument showing degradation patterns characteristic of those types of damage. Similar weathering forms have been observed in natural sandstone landscapes. Application of swelling inhibitors (e.g., cationic surfactants) that selectively adsorb on the clay basal planes, results in a substantial swelling reduction. This confirms that the swelling clays typically present in sandstone are pivotal for its weathering and indicates that swelling inhibitors are a potentially valuable treatment to prevent or minimize damage to stone. The circumstances that would lead to weathering are discussed in relation to sandstone material properties in the wet and dry state. Clay-bearing stones are shown to exhibit softening during wetting, as well as viscoelastic stress relaxation, which is expected to limit the extent of damage. These results may aid in the better understanding of sandstone weathering both in nature and in urban enviroment and may help develop conservation methods to mitigate wetting/drying damage in ornamental sandstone or to prevent pore plugging in reservoir sandstones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberF02021
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 24 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Geophysics


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