Frost heave damage to roadways costs millions of dollars every year. The need for an improved understanding of the fundamental mechanisms associated with frost heave and methods for efficiently improving frost-susceptible materials prompted the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Brigham Young University (BYU) to undertake a project to design, construct, and verify the functionality of a new frost heave testing apparatus. Frost heave research has been carried out for more than 75 years. The equipment used to conduct this testing has advanced in accuracy and utility over the years. To establish a background in past and current frost heave research, a survey of 12 frost heave devices, including their construction and capabilities, was performed in this research. Several design objectives were then delineated, and a nine-specimen frost heave device was designed and constructed to meet the specifications. The apparatus uses one collective heat source and one collective heat sink for all nine specimens. Heave data and temperature data are collected electronically, while the weights of the specimens before and after frost heave testing are measured manually. Preparatory tests were conducted to confirm the functionality of the data acquisition systems, the uniformity of conditions experienced by all specimens, and the replication of natural roadway freezing conditions. Once preparatory testing was complete, a full-scale frost heave test was performed using the apparatus to investigate the efficacy of cement stabilization in reducing the frost susceptibility of a Montana silt and to validate the functionality of the finished device. Results from the testing indicate that adding 2.0 percent cement actually induces frost heave in excess of that exhibited by the untreated soil. However, additions of 3.5 percent and 5.0 percent were found to be effective in preventing frost heave. Although minor, recommendations for further improvements to the frost heave apparatus include provisions to further decrease the thermal gradient across the specimen and installation of an automatic temperature control device for the water source.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Civil and Environmental Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





frost heave, Montana, silt, tube suction test, pavement, roadbase