Highway Maintenance

Surface Dressing - Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantages of Surface Dressing are:

  • It is one of the fastest and most economical ways of sealing cracks (bitumen seals the existing surface against the ingress of harmful moisture) reducing the likelihood of potholes forming;

  • It reduces the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays, slowing down the oxidisation process;

  • It can be applied to any class of road or footpath;

  • It improves grip (chippings provide a new, skid-resistant surface);

  • It reduces the risk of aquaplaning on roads, thereby helping to reduce the possibility of accidents;

  • It can extend the life of a road by up to 10 years;

  • It minimises the use of scarce aggregates;

  • It maximises the use of limited highway maintenance funding (costing only around one-fifth of conventional resurfacing). Even the simplest and cheapest of the resurfacing treatments is likely to cost four times the rate of surface dressing and the disparity in cost rises to about a factor of twelve for main road resurfacing.

  • It leads to less congestion to road users because of the speed at which the works are carried out.

Given these benefits, surface dressing is one of the most favoured maintenance techniques nationwide.

The Disadvantages of Surface Dressing are:

  • It does not remove undulations or regulate uneven surfaces or correct structural defects in a road or footpath (rutting or potholes need patching);

  • There will be a slight initial increase in traffic noise as a consequence of increased surface texture although this will reduce over the first few months as the chippings become embedded;

  • Roads often appear to be in reasonably good condition when treated and it may not be clear to road users why they are being treated;

  • There will be some loose chippings and householders will need to check shoes before entering the home or car

  • There is also a slight possibility of wet bitumen being carried on shoes but any staining may be removed with a suitable solvent.

  • There is a need for temporary speed restrictions to remain in place for 2-3 days after completion of surface dressing, to prevent the chippings from being torn out of the new surface before they are properly embedded.

  • Surface dressing is a weather sensitive process and hence works can be delayed by both wet, cold and very hot weather.