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On-Site Conservation Lab

An architectural conservation lab is available for students' easy access in the program's main building. The lab is equipped to help students better understand building materials and conservation of those materials through, research, examination, testing and treatment. A Nikon Eclipse 80i microscope in the microscopy lab helps students examine materials from mortar, finishes and wood testing. A full complement of essential lab equipment is available for students use in the conservation lab.

Lab experiments include:

  • Mortar analysis/gravimetric and acid digestion of mortar and stucco samples
  • Surface water permeability/capillary action
  • Wood maceration/identification
  • Wood swelling and shrinking
  • Stone repair treatments
  • Metal identification
  • Paint/finishes analysis
Aggregate A common analytical technique in architectural conservation is a mortar analysis. A mortar analysis is performed to characterize the aggregate and binder constituents of mortars. It is often used in order to create replacement or repair mortars that match the aesthetic and performance characteristics of original mortars. Here a student begins the process of a gravimetric mortar analysis which will start with crushing the sample using a mortar and pestle (left foreground), followed by acid digestion, drying, and then sieving the resulting material using the brass sieve stack. 
Mortar Analysis At the end of the acid digestion process, the fines are retained in filter paper, dried and then analyzed by weight and visually characterized under a microscope.
Acid Digestion Process The sieve stack separates the aggregate (sand) into specific size categories and fines. On the left is a magnified photograph of quartz aggregate after the acid digestion process. Some of the paste (binder) is still adhered to the grains which may necessitate another acid digestion procedure.
Aggregate and Binder Once a mortar analysis has been performed, matching aggregate and binder (e.g., lime/cement) are selected, mixed with water, and then placed in a form. The mortar is then left to set (and possibly carbonate or cure). The end product is analyzed for its ability to match the original mortar based on appearance and performance characteristics.