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November 2003

APRG TECHNICAL NOTE 13


CONTROL OF MOISTURE IN PAVEMENTS DURING
CONSTRUCTION

1. Introduction 3. Preventative Measures


A common contributory factor associated with the premature To help prevent build up of excessive moisture in a
failure of newly-constructed unbound pavements is the pavement during construction, the following preventative
presence of excess moisture within the pavement base measures should be undertaken:
immediately prior to the application of the bituminous (a) Allow time for the pavement surface to dry back
surfacing.
Ensure that the contract duration and/or works program has
Controlling the moisture content of pavements during provision to allow the pavement to dry back to the specified
construction will reduce the risk of damage to the pavement moisture requirement or a stable state prior to bituminous
and the loss of community benefits after the road is put into surfacing.
service.
(b) Program the works to minimise exposure to rain
The aim of this Technical Note is to provide assistance to
those involved in specifying, constructing and testing of In winter or during the wet season, fully construct short
pavements. sections of pavement up to and including the bituminous
surfacing, rather than the construction of the whole of the
sub-base, then the whole of the base and surfacing.
2. Effect of Moisture
(c) Reduce the exposure of pavement material stockpiles
The stability of unbound pavement materials generally
to the entry of water
decreases with increasing moisture content or the Degree
of Saturation (DOS). The DOS is a measure of the ratio of Construct stockpiles on a drained site with a minimum
the volume of water to the combined volume of air voids grade of 1 in 20, preferably with two-way cross fall, and
and water within a material. A material with a DOS of 100% shape and "track roll" stockpiles to assist with shedding of
is fully saturated and has a very high pore pressure and water.
high instability under load. As the DOS reduces, the (d) Minimise the period loose or not fully compacted
reduction in pore water pressure also reduces with a pavement material is left in the roadbed
corresponding increase in stability. Only sufficient pavement material for each day’s operation
It has been shown that high pore water pressures will should be spread out on the pavement. Windrowed material
develop within pavement materials where the DOS exceeds should not trap water on the surface of the pavement layer,
80%. The stability of the majority of unbound pavement and boxing drains should always be provided to remove
materials, significantly improves when the pavement is surface water.
dried back to a DOS of 70% or 60% in the case of very (e) Reduce the moisture content used for compaction
moisture sensitive materials.
Construct the pavement at the lowest moisture content
The presence of excess moisture in a pavement can cause: necessary to achieve the specified density.
‰ Shearing or bearing failure resulting in extensive (f) Minimise the amount of water required for surface
cracking and shape loss;. preparation
‰ Premature rutting due to the material becoming The addition of water to a pavement after placement should
unstable when too wet. be just sufficient to produce a tight cohesive surface
‰ "Lifting", “blow-outs” or delaminating of the road suitable for bituminous surfacing.
surfacing due to positive pore pressure. (g) Seal off the pavement surface as soon as possible
‰ Embedment of the cover aggregate of the chip seal Prime or primerseal the prepared surface as soon as the
into the soft underlying pavement base resulting in pavement has dried back to the recommended or specified
severe loss of surface texture. DOS (see Section 4).
‰ Premature fatigue cracking of any asphalt surfacing
due to inadequate pavement stiffness.

Control of Moisture in Pavements During Construction 1


(h) Permeability and moisture sensitivity  ρw
1 1 
Materials used for the pavement base should be relatively DOS = × w or w = DOS ×  − 
impermeable to ensure that most surface water runs off  ρw − 1
  ρd APD 
rather than infiltrating into the pavement. Further, use of  ρ d APD 
very moisture sensitive materials should be avoided in wet
environments. Moisture sensitivity can be checked by CBR, where:
Repeated Load Triaxial or wheel track testing at varying APD = Apparent Particle Density (t/m3) as determined
DOSs to produce plots showing the effect of moisture on by the AS 1289.3.5.1;
strength and/or permanent deformation. The latter tests are DOS = Degree of Saturation (%);
preferred over the CBR test, particularly for crushed rocks.
w = moisture content (%);
4. Drying Back of Pavements Prior to ρw = 1.0 t/m3 (density of water); and
Surfacing
ρd = Dry Density of the Material (t/m3).
Most construction specifications express the moisture
content of a pavement material in terms of Moisture Ratio Care should be taken when determining the APD in
(MR). MR is the moisture content expressed as a situations where the material comprises blends of different
percentage of OMC. materials or porous aggregates.
An Accelerated Loading Facility (ALF) trial (APRG Report The most convenient way to measure the moisture content
16) was undertaken at Beerburrum, Queensland in 1996. is with a nuclear gauge although oven drying methods can
This trial indicated that by drying back a pavement from a also be used for greater accuracy for thicker layers. The
MR of 75% to 70% (a DOS of 85% for the material type Characteristic MR is determined from 6 to 10 randomly
used), resulted in about a four fold increase in pavement life selected test sites in a similar way to the Characteristic
under accelerated loading. This difference may not be as Density Ratio.
pronounced at lower moisture contents but it demonstrates 5.2 Clegg Impact Value (CIV)
the importance of allowing pavements to dry back to
maximise the service life. In conjunction with checking the dry back moisture content,
or, if weather conditions do not permit the pavement to be
Also, observations indicate that a pavement material that dried back to the specified DOS prior to bituminous
has been allowed to dry back will also tend to remain drier surfacing, the stability of the surface can be checked with a
(thus stronger and stiffer) in the long term than a pavement 4.5 kg Clegg Impact Hammer. This is a portable device
material that has never been allowed to dry back. consisting of a drop hammer fitted with an accelerometer
Drying back also improves the performance of the that has been suitably calibrated to provide an indication of
bituminous surfacing by allowing satisfactory penetration of the strength at or near the surface of the pavement.
the primer or primer binder into the surface. If the Characteristic CIV calculated from of 6 to 10
randomly-selected test sites is 50 or greater, then the
5. Specification, Measurement and pavement base should have sufficient stability to avoid
Assessment of Drying Back delamination of the surfacing or excessive deformation
To assess whether or not a pavement base has been dried shortly after opening to traffic. The Clegg Hammer can also
back sufficiently prior to bituminous surfacing, one or more be used to detect isolated areas that may not have dried
of the following techniques can be used. back sufficiently.
There are other types of impact hammers in the market
5.1 Moisture Content at a Specified Degree of
place but the Clegg Impact Hammer is the most common
Saturation
device used in Australia.
Specification and measurement of the moisture content of
the pavement base is considered the most reliable way of 5.3 Test Rolling
ensuring that the pavement surface has been satisfactorily In conjunction with the suggestions in 5.1 and 5.2 above, a
dried back. specified test rolling procedure can also be used to provide
Some works specifications include a maximum MR for the an indication of the stability of a pavement prior to
pavement base prior to sealing although this can be surfacing. Assessment is made on whether or not visible
misleading for some materials as the MR does not always movement of the pavement surface can be detected.
provide a good indication of stability. For this reason, it is
preferable to specify a maximum DOS prior to surfacing. If 6. References
the material is relatively uniform, an equivalent maximum Main Roads Queensland (1993). Controlling Moisture in
MR (or actual moisture content) can be calculated from the Pavements. Technical Note 7 (MRD Qld, Brisbane)
DOS to make moisture assessment simpler on site.
Austroads (1996). Performance of Unbound and Stabilised
For major highways and freeways with a traffic loading in Pavement Materials under Accelerated Loading: Summary
excess of 5x106 ESAs, a maximum DOS of 60% for the Report of the Beerburrum II ALF Trial. APRG Report No 16.
base pavement prior to bituminous surfacing is
AUSTROADS (1992) Pavement Design – A Guide to the
recommended. For other roads the maximum DOS may be
Structural Design of Road Pavements.
increased to 65%.
For any material, the DOS for a given moisture content or For further information please contact:
alternatively, the moisture content for a given DOS can be Ross Paul – VicRoads GeoPave
calculated by: Tel: (03) 9881 8928; Fax: (03) 9881 8900
Vasantha Wijeyakulasuriya – Main Roads Department,
Queensland Tel: (07) 3834 3020; Fax: (07) 3834 3011
Control of Moisture in Pavements During Construction 2