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Maintaining roads

Surface dressing

When the surface or sub-surface layers of the road have deteriorated to a point that they need to be replaced, we remove the existing layer and lay a new surface. Resurfacing is expensive, but will normally last at least 15 years.

We surface dress many of our roads; this involves treating the road surface to stop it getting worse. These treatments are usually cheaper than expensive rebuilding works so we can maintain more roads for the same budget. This is why some of the worst roads are not worked on first.

What is surface dressing?

Surface dressing is a cost-effective way of restoring the road surface and sealing it in one process. Surface dressing also:

  • improves skidding resistance which makes the roads safer
  • helps to make a road waterproof
  • protects the road against frost and water damage.

We spray the road with bitumen binder, followed by a layer of stone chippings. The chippings are pressed into the surface by a roller. To ensure a uniform coating of the emulsion, more chippings are deliberately applied to the surface than are actually required to complete the dressing process. Before the road is open to traffic it is swept to remove around 90% of excess chippings. The road then receives further sweeps to remove any loose chippings that result from the action of road traffic.

Advisory speed limits are used to keep traffic speeds to 15 mph until we are confident the dressing has settled down.

We treat roads between April and September because the process needs warm, dry weather to allow the dressing to become established.

If your road is scheduled for surface dressing, please see further information here.


Micro-asphalt is an alternative treatment to surface dressing and is more suitable in urban areas.

If your road is scheduled for micro-asphalt treatment please see further information here.

What should I do?

  • Look out for signs saying that surface dressing will be happening in your area – we will try to minimise disruption, but there may be some minor delays to traffic.
  • Make sure that your car is not parked on the road when the surface dressing is happening.
  • If you walk on the road, check your shoes for bitumen before going into your house or car.

What happens if my vehicle is damaged?

  • To protect your vehicle it is important to keep it off the road while we are surface dressing and to only drive at 15 mph for the first few days after the road has been treated.
  • Broken windscreen – if your windscreen is damaged by chippings make a note of all the details of the incident and notify the contractor as soon as possible. In most cases this will be covered by your own insurance.
  • Bitumen on paintwork – some splashes of bitumen may occur and can be cleaned with products available from car accessory shops or garages. If there is substantial damage make a note of all the details of the incident and contact the contractor.
  • Bitumen on tyres – do not attempt to clean tyres with any products. Usually bitumen will wear off by itself. If there is substantial damage make a note of all the details of the incident and contact the contractor.