Road surface dressing

Surface dressing is a proven, long-established road maintenance technique.  It involves the even spray application of  a bituminous binder onto an existing road surface, followed by the levelled application of aggregate, clean crushed chippings to “dress” the binder.  This is then rolled into the bitumen to form a protective, water-resistant layer which improves skid resistance.

Using this process means that the treated road can be opened to traffic immediately as vehicles help to bed-in the chippings.

Another method of surface dressing is resin bonded surfacing, a technique using high strength polyuria resin to bind decorative aggregates to a base to create a hard-wearing and traffic friendly surface.  This produces an attractive, low-weight, natural gravel-like surface and is widely used in the commercial sector for use on car parks, schools and other public buildings as well as drives.

Surface dressing has many advantages:

  • Seals and protects the road surface against water, the major cause of asphalt deterioration (potholes, etc.).
  • Slows down the deterioration of road surfaces and underlying road pavement structures.
  • Improves skid resistance.
  • Well timed intervention can enable worn out road surfaces to last longer, increasing the time till structural maintenance needs to be carried out.
  • Helps with the reduction of spray caused by vehicles travelling in wet weather.
  • Maximises cost effectiveness of limited highway maintenance budgets.

When roads require surface dressing

All classes of roads can be surface dressed, from single track, footpaths and unclassified roads through to national motorways.

Roads tend to require surface dressing before the road deteriorates to the point where expensive patching or reconstruction is required, and also when surface skidding levels fall below the nationally accepted intervention level for the class of road in question.

All national roads receive regular assessments to monitor their condition.  Both mechanical and manual surveys measure cracking and deformation, as well as skid resistance.  Usually roads require surface dressing when small cracks appear with general wear, and skid resistance drops.

Its important to remember that surface dressing is not a permanent fix, it’s a maintenance technique that has a limited design life and is a temporary solution until structural maintenance is carried out.

Read more: Road surfacing and Quantity Surveyors