Methods for the assessment of the condition of timber and lignocellulosic materials in historic and new buildings

Subject description

A large part of the movable and immovable cultural heritage is made entirely or partly of wood. In addition, wood as a material has recently become increasingly important in the construction industry.

Wood and other lignocellulosic materials in buildings are exposed to abiotic and biotic decomposition factors. Decay by fungi is mainly caused by increased moisture content, while the effect of wood-boring insects is more difficult to predict. As a result of these decomposition factors, wood and other lignocellulosic materials are often damaged, which can even lead to building collapse. In addition to fire, fungal decay is one of the major factors in the collapse of timber buildings.

Students will first learn about the causes of wood damage in buildings and the most common types of damage. Various techniques are used to identify defects and assess the condition of wood in buildings and other immovable cultural heritage. Specifically, we will learn: visual condition assessment with a knife, spore presence analysis, XRF elemental analysis, non-destructive elastic modulus testing, density determination by screw extraction, resistance drilling. All of these methods are suitable for condition assessment of both cultural historical and recent structures. Students learn all these methods in detail and try them out on practical examples.

They learn about the use of the camera IR and its application for water leak detection, thermal bridges and quality analysis of the thermal envelope.

They will also learn the correct non-invasive collection of material samples for further laboratory analysis. For laboratory analysis, we focus on various microscopic techniques and methods for determining basic physical properties.

In buildings where damage occurs due to increased misture content and fungal activity, we perform air sampling and determine the number of spores. This is because high levels of spores in the air have a negative impact on the health of the occupants of such buildings.

Below, we focus on techniques for remediating wood and lignocellulosic damage in buildings, available biocidal products and application techniques, and non-biocidal techniques for repressive protection of wood, such as heating, microwave treatment. Learn about the latest trends in continuous moisture monitoring of wood in buildings and its importance for rapid (timely) detection of defects and reduction of remediation costs.

The subject is taught in programs

Objectives and competences

Objectives :

– Know the causes of building damage and how to detect them.

– Acquire practical skills to work with various techniques to assess the condition of wood in new and historic buildings.

– Knows how to check if wood treated with biocides and/or finishes has been used in a building.

– Knows techniques to continuously monitor humidity in buildings and can apply them to buildings and renovations.


– The student is able to assess the condition of wood in buildings and plan for the restoration of new and historic buildings due to fungal and insect attack.

Teaching and learning methods

Tutorials, consultations, practical demonstrations, seminars and individual project work.

Expected study results

Knowledge and understanding:

Knowledge and understanding of the causes of decomposition of wood and lignocellulosic composites in buildings. Familiar with various techniques for remediation of damaged buildings. Understanding of the different approaches to rehabilitation of recent and historic buildings. The student will learn and understand the effects of elevated wood moisture in buildings and the potential for continuous moisture monitoring on weak points in buildings.

Basic sources and literature

Unger A, Schniewind AP, Unger W (2001) Conservation of wood artifacts : a handbook. Springer, Berlin; London

Reinprecht, L. (2016). Wood Deterioration, Protection and Maintenance. In Wood Deterioration, Protection and Maintenance. JohnWiley & Sons, Ltd.

Sharapov E, Brischke C, Militz H, Smirnova E (2019) Prediction of modulus of elasticity in static bending and density of wood at different moisture contents and feed rates by drilling resistance measurements. European Journal of Wood and Wood Products 77:833–842.

Zabel R. A., Morell J.J. (2020): WOOD MICROBIOLOGY, Decay and Its Prevention, Second Edition, Elsevier: – izbrana poglavja

Du C, Li B, Yu W (2021) Indoor mould exposure: Characteristics, influences and corresponding associations with built environment—A review. Journal of Building Engineering 35

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