Surface Dressings

Posted on: March 21st 2024    •    Posted in: Road resurfacing

The choice of surface dressing plays a pivotal role in ensuring the longevity, safety, and usability of road networks.

Surface dressing involves the application of an asphalt emulsion (or bitumen) followed by a layer of aggregate. This technique not only enhances the road’s structural integrity but also significantly improves its resistance to skidding, thereby ensuring the safety of all road users.

Why surface dressing?

Surface dressing serves as a cost-effective method to prolong the life of roads by sealing existing minor cracks and preventing the ingress of water, which can lead to more severe structural damage if left unaddressed.

By choosing surface dressing, local authorities and private sector clients can avoid the higher costs associated with more extensive road repairs and reconstruction, thereby ensuring efficient allocation of maintenance budgets. This is crucial in the current climate. However, many are taking a short-term approach to spending, leading to a decline in surface dressing. The result is painfully high longer-term costs.

The pothole solution

We’ve got a big pothole problem. The annual cost of filling potholes in the UK in 2022/23 was £93.7 million (Source: AIA Alarm Survey 2023). If we’re getting to the stage of spending this much on filling potholes, we’ve missed the opportunity for a more cost-effective planned preventative approach.

Yet according to the Department of Transport, the number of roads getting surface dressing has reduced by 30% since 2016. This represents short-term thinking with reactive maintenance, when preventative maintenance would make much better financial and practical sense. Research done by the Asphalt Industry Alliance revealed that it’s a staggering twenty times more expensive to carry out reactive maintenance like filling potholes, rather than preventing them in the first place. With an approximate cost of £30,000 for a 6 metre wide 1 km road, and a lifespan of 10-15 years (plus the potential to re-do surface dressing time and again), it makes clear sense to opt for this preventative approach in many cases.

Surface dressings are a plus for sustainability

Surface dressings stand out as a sustainable choice for road maintenance for several reasons.

Firstly, they extend the life of roads by sealing cracks and preventing water ingress, reducing the need for more resource-intensive repairs. Surface dressing uses substantially less bitumen and aggregate than thin surface (asphalt) surfaces.

Secondly, the sweeper surface-cleaning process ensures the aggregate collected at the end of surface dressing is reused and recycled, ensuring minimal waste.

Additionally, the process is less disruptive and requires less energy than full road resurfacing, contributing to lower carbon emissions.

By enhancing road longevity and utilising eco-friendly materials, surface dressings are a practical approach to sustainability in road infrastructure maintenance.

GD Harries – suppliers of surface dressing aggregates

GD Harries supplies a range of aggregates in different sizes and PSV values suitable for surface dressing. PSV (polished stone value) is a laboratory measurement of skid resistance and generally a higher PSV aggregate is required for surface dressings. Our Syke quarry in Haverfordwest produces high PSV roadstone and chippings.

We work with local authorities in South Wales and are able to supply significant volumes. Whether it’s a high-traffic urban road or a rural lane, our team can guide you on the most appropriate aggregate to meet your project requirements.

With surface dressing we can ensure our roads are safe, resilient, and ready to meet the demands of the future.

Contact us on 01834 860 464 or email for a quote.