Fibrous plaster is a culturally significant material used in high-status buildings from the late nineteenth century. Fibrous plaster ceilings are typically suspended using load-bearing fibrous plaster wads, which are attached to roof structure components. Understanding the behaviour of wads is highly significant, with important safety implications emphasised by the partial collapse of the Apollo Theatre ceiling in 2013. This study demonstrates an original, innovative test method for fibrous plaster wads that enables quantification of load capacities, with manufactured specimens representative of historic in situ wads. The methodology is rigorously evaluated for traditional and alternative wad designs, reinforced with hessian scrim or continuous fibre glass (CFG) mat, with and without steel wires in looped (untwisted) or looped-twisted configurations. Tensile tests generated load-displacement characteristics and determined failure modes including cracking of plaster, deformation and tearing of fibrous reinforcement, and if present, plastic failure of a wire. Results demonstrate that hessian performs better than CFG in axial tension and inclusion of a wire increases tensile load capacity and ductility. An industry standard repair wad with hessian and looped-twisted wire can typically support 3 kN. Looped wire performed better in isolation than looped-twisted wire, with higher peak loads and greater ductility, while looped-twisted wire carried a greater load as part of a fibrous plaster composite wad. The test methodology and findings have revealed new insights into the mechanical behaviour of wads which will inform commercial practice and conservation of historic buildings, preserving important heritage and promoting safe longevity.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalStudies in Conservation
Early online date12 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 May 2024

Data Availability Statement

The fibrous wads tensile test data supporting this manuscript and the results of fibrous plaster tests are available from the University of Bath Research Data Archive, https://doi.org/10.15125/BATH-01213

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