North Carolina Department of Transportation
Research & Innovation Summit – 2021

Engineered Water Repellency in Frost Heave Mitigation

Authors: Micheal Uduebor, Emmanuel Adeyanju, Mohammad Wasif Naqvi, Md Fyaz Sadiq
University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Michigan State University
View or Download PDF


  • Cold weather and frost action have a major effect on the design, construction, performance, and maintenance of roadways.
  • The presence of Frost Susceptible Soils (FSS) coupled with freezing temperatures and the availability of a water source provide suitable conditions for frost action (Heaving and thawing).
  • Frost action causes changes in moisture content, stress, and strain leading to substantial damage to road pavements (Figure 1a-c).
  • National recurrent annual maintenance costs are estimated at over 2 billion dollars annually (FHWA, 1999). This excludes other economic impacts because of related vehicle damage, road closures, and weight restrictions.
  • Remedial techniques utilized so far (Stripping and replacement, thermosiphoning, soil stabilization or increasing pavement thickness) are generally cost prohibitive or unfeasible.
  • Engineered Water Repellency (EWR) is an innovative approach that improves the properties of FSS by making it hydrophobic. This involves the treatment of soil with organo-silanes(OS) to form a water repellent coating.
  • This treatment is cost-effective and can be used in various applications to limit the transport of water through these soils, therefore, the process of frost heaving can be mitigated.