The ultrasonic pulse velocity (UPV) method can be conveniently used for non-destructive testing of physical–mechanical properties of the stones within historical masonry, as well as to check the state of damage and microcracking. Before to proceed with in situ measurements, it is important to assess the contribution that both intrinsic characteristics of the stones and external factors may give to the ultrasonic response. In this work the effect of different wave frequencies, sample geometry and application of a compression load on the response of a natural stone to UPV test has been investigated. An extensive experimental campaign in laboratory conditions was carried out on a soft limestone, used in the historical building heritage of the Southern Italy. A negligible UPV dispersion was found at the used frequencies of 1 MHz, 120 and 55 kHz when a compression load was not applied; the measured velocities were found to be influenced by the stone inhomogeneity rather than by the sample size. They showed a slight decrease and still negligible dispersion under load up to the visible damage. Dispersion increased with the cracking progression. This indicates that enhanced capability of UPV, in checking material quality and damage conditions, can be obtained by combining the use of different wave frequencies.
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