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The results of a study of the effect of marine salt crystallization on the physical and mechanical properties of Plio-Pleistocene calcarenites cropping out in southern Italy are presented here. Owing to their workability, aesthetic appeal and availability, the calcarenites have been widely used as building stones in many historic monuments. Samples of medium-grained packstones and fine-grained packstones-wackestones were prepared for the salt crystallization test defined by EN 12370, using sea water instead of a 14% solution of Na2SO4 · 10H2O. To determine the effect of imbibition alone on the performance of the calcarenites, the same procedure was followed with distilled water without soluble salts. Microfabric analysis, evaluation of index parameters and grain-size distribution were carried out as well. Particular attention was given to pore-size distribution by mercury intrusion porosimetry (MIP), loss of weight and uniaxial compressive strength determined before and after the tests, and after every five cycles of complete immersion in sea water and distilled water. The results suggest that detailed information on fabric and pore network are indispensable to predicting the weatherability of rocks. Crystallization tests that involve the complete immersion of the samples in a saline solution are not effective for an understanding of the real importance of salt damage on soft and porous calcarenites owing to a significant incidence of imbibition in accelerating deterioration rates and in influencing patterns and intensity of weathering.

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