Gravel Road Stabilization: What Are the Options?

In EK35®, Gravel Roads, Soil Stabilization by Jim Silva

Country roads may be rural, but they are often important haulage routes and essential for getting people and products to where they need to go.

Depending on the region, these roads may be exposed to extreme heat, ice, or both, as well as heavy vehicles. This creates a challenge in terms of maintenance, and it’s something experts still can’t agree on: how do you create a low-dust, easily maintained, and long lasting surface in an environmentally friendly manner?

Lethbridge’s Approach

We read with interest in the Lethbridge Herald that a half-million dollar project is underway on Lethbridge County’s Range Road 20-3. The County is trialling a calcium stabilized gravel approach to surfacing, testing a series of variables to ascertain the perfect formula for Lethbridge’s unique weather patterns, traffic, and needs.

A new section of road was added back in 2013, and the surface was prepared by reconditioning and leveling off the crown. The new section includes a larger percentage of fractured rock than the rest of the road and a small percentage of “plastic” clay to bind it.

A 4-inch layer of the this new substrate was laid in 1,000-foot-long installments, with each section containing different percentages of pure chloride (0%, 1%, or 1.5%) and mixing depths of either one, two, or three feet. The variables will now be measured and tested to find out which chemical combination results in the most effective surface.

It will be interesting to see how this trial project deals with fines containment — keeping the road in the road, so to speak, But we have to wonder if this is the most efficient way of attacking the problem at hand. The cost of hauling in materials alone could make the project more expensive than it needs to be.

Midwest’s Solutions

Although the testing-based approach Lethbridge County is employing should be applauded, Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. would handle the situation somewhat differently. Midwest’s own studies and experience have helped it develop a range of products that can be used straight out of the box or customized as a site-specific solution.

Road-Bldr® Natural Paving

Road-Bldr Natural Paving is a tried and tested, nine-step process that turns dusty, potholed roads into smooth-running surfaces. Road-Bldr doesn’t rely on expensive, hauled-in substrates, saving you time and money on materials.

It uses the existing surface, which is loosened and augmented with Eco-pave, a polymer enhanced, resin based organic emulsion. Once treated, the Eco-pave is blended, brought to final grade, and compacted to create a superior sub base.

Then, a coat of Eco-Pave chip is laid down, serving as a binder, followed by a layer of aggregate chip for durability, before the road is compressed again. Applying a final top coat of Eco-pave chip completes the process with no post-installation sweeping required.

The Road-Bldr process can be installed over a wider range of temperatures than asphalt chip, so it works well in all climates almost all year-round. Specifically, it works well in the summer months because the finished surface does not absorb heat.

At the same time, it provides excellent skid resistance in all conditions. All Midwest products are developed with the environment in mind, so you don’t need to worry about runoff harming crops or wildlife.


SF2 is Midwest’s synthetic fluid and fiber system. Like the Road-Bldr system, it doesn’t require tons of shipped-in substrate and it doesn’t use water for dust control.

Instead, high-tensile synthetic fibers are incorporated into the surface. Over that comes the SF2 fluid, which contains cohesive and adhesive binders. Then, the six surface inches are mixed, graded and compacted before a final top coat of SF2 fluid is applied.

Once that process is complete, the road is ready to use — no curing necessary. Within 48 hours, the California Bearing Ratio (CBR) increases by as much as 80%, and the surface only gets stronger with use. Finally, SF2 is water-, freeze-, and thaw-resistant, and can be installed year-round.


Originally developed for gravel runways, Midwest’s EK35 Synthetic Organic Dust Control is another great option that provides stability and superior fines preservation.

This system comes approved by both the U.S. EPA’s Environmental Technology Verification Program and Boeing’s Evaluation of Aircraft Maintenance Materials, so you know that you’re getting a product with a remarkable pedigree.

EK35 works by binding dust, silt, and clay together to create larger particles and increase the surface’s California Bearing Ratio. The product is safe and non-toxic, and it tackles dust without the use of water.

As we await the results of the Lethbridge County trial, we urge you to consider your options. Do you have the budget to run your own, similar experiment? Perhaps it’s better to call in Midwest, a pioneer in the industry. Your problem may be unique to you, but your customized Midwest solution comes with more documentation and support than any other manufacturer.

(Image credit: Lars Ploughmann/flickr)

Jim is Midwest’s Business Unit Manager for Global Mining. He is experienced in operations management, asset management, and business improvement.