Surface Dressing

What is Surface Dressing?

Surface Dressing is the most cost effective road surface treatment used to prolong the life of roads that are starting to show the first signs of minor deterioration.

It extends the life of the road surface, increases skid resistance and seals the surface to stop water ingress, protecting it from damage caused by severe winter weather, such as potholes.

 How is Surface Dressing laid?

The material consists of a thin film of bitumen which is sprayed on to the road surface followed by the spreading of one or two layers of chippings. The chippings are then rolled in to the bitumen by a heavy roller to form an interlocking surface.

Loose chippings are swept away after 24 hours, then again after four/five days. This process is completed quickly, and can then be trafficked immediately after under reduced speed limits. These are put in place to protect road workers and reduce the risk of damage from loose chippings.

Why are you doing it now?

Surface dressing is normally carried out during the spring/summer months as the bitumen veneer adheres best to a dry surface. Surface dressing cannot be carried out in cold, excessively hot or wet weather. We will endeavour to stay to our programme date. This could mean that the crew cannot work on the day they have notified. Please accept our apology if this is the case.

 What benefit do road users see?

Surface Dressing is quick to apply and often requires only temporary road closures. It is ready for traffic to travel on the new surface immediately, reducing delays to road users as only temporary road closures are required. The surface is normally used for arterial routes and rural carriageways. It creates a seal, preventing water from penetrating the road surface, prolonging the life of the road.

What about parking?                               

During the operations, please ensure that your vehicles are not parked on the highway as the operations will require full access at all times to the road. ‘No Parking’ signs will be erected throughout sites to advise residents of the times when vehicles should be removed. Areas that have significant parking throughout the day will be required to move vehicles up to periods of seven days after the application to ensure that all of the excessive aggregate has been removed by mechanical sweeping.

What can you do to help?

We want to get as much done as quickly as possible. Parked cars are our biggest challenge. We will notify you of the days we are working and ask that you ensure all vehicles are taken off the roads and paths. This means we get the best results and can really make a difference in your area.

Towaway – moving vehicles parked in our work space.

We have been working with Northamptonshire County Council and have agreed that unlawfully parked vehicles, whose presence is preventing or hindering the works taking place, may be relocated to an adjacent street. This will be carried out by an approved contractor and vehicles will be moved within the vicinity. We understand that it may not be possible to move your vehicle at this time, if this is the case, please contact us on the details below to discuss how we can help.

Please look out for the signs in your street.

What to expect

This method of road repair and the necessary road closures does mean that delays are unavoidable. Your cooperation is appreciated and our teams will allow you access as soon as it is safe to do so.

Before work starts:

  • You will receive notice before the work starts.
  • Parked cars are a real problem and we ask that roads are kept clear of vehicles on the days of work so that we can complete the stretch of road in one visit.
  • Signs will go up if we are using Towaway.
  • Traffic management will be put in place to ensure public safety and minimise disruption. At each location we will implement a road closure with a signed diversion route.

 During the works

  • Every attempt will be made to keep delays to a minimum.
  • Pedestrian access to your property will be maintained during the works.
  • Vehicle access and on street parking will be restricted whilst the work is taking place. Please follow any advisory signs.


The works will be carried out under a full road closure for safety. Access to your property/business will be provided during the works.

 After the works have been completed

This is a very robust, cost-effective way of carrying out road repairs but it is very important that everyone drives carefully after the chippings have been laid to avoid any stones, flying up and causing damage.

Traffic movement is essential to embed the chippings. Excess chippings are swept away within two weeks but all road users are urged to slow down and drive very carefully, whilst this process takes place.

  • The new surface can be driven on almost immediately.
  • Please do not access your property by vehicle until the contractor has left site.
  • The surfacing does remain soft and could get onto shoes. Please take great care and inspect your shoes before entering property and cars.
  • Please be mindful of children and pets after the surface has been laid.
  • Road markings will be repainted.

Why do you put on a 20mph speed limit?

 During and after work, speed restrictions are introduced, with drivers reminded to drive at 20mph or less through areas being treated with surface dressing. This speed is advised to help keep workers safe and to minimise the hazard of flying chippings picked up by tyres. We leave these signs for some time as it does take time for the chippings to bed in and this needs traffic movement. We urge everyone to follow these speed limits.

Do you think about cyclists and motorbikes?

In everything we do we think about the implications for all road users. We understand that the chippings do pose an issue for those on bikes or motorcyclists. This method of treatment does mean we can address longer stretches of road and make the best use of the funding available to us. The treatment does take time to settle and we will put up advance warning signs at sites so people can make their own decisions about the route to take on their journeys.

 What should I do when the works are taking place?

Please observe the traffic control measures that are in place at all times and do not drive on the wet bituminous surface at any time.

Please do not walk on the freshly laid materials, because it may stick to your shoes and can be transferred to carpets, wooden floors, etc.

Unavoidably there will be some disruption during the works but we aim to minimise this wherever possible. We work with the utility companies that provide gas, electricity, telephone and cable services to ensure we coordinate and manage the activities to cause as little disruption as possible.

After the Surface Dressing has been completed

The road will be swept approx. 24 hours and four/five days after the new surface has been installed. Road markings will also be repainted within 2 weeks. This will usually be carried out overnight (20:00 – 06:00). Please monitor yellow advanced warning signs on the approach to the works for dates/times.

The NCC Commitment to You

Northamptonshire Highways is committed to the consistent improvement of the places and spaces in Northamptonshire and to working closely with local communities, residents and businesses to build a better County.

We promise to

  • Keep the public informed of our programme and any changes
  • Minimise disruption
  • Co-ordinate with other road works
  • Provide updates via Twitter @nnhighways

Contacting us

To ensure any enquiries are dealt with correctly and to report defects please use our online Street Doctor service. This process ensures issues are recorded and dealt with appropriately. Once reported you will be issued with a unique reference number and be able to follow the progress of your enquiry.


  • For information and transport and highway updates follow us on Twitter @nnhighways
  • To view road works and diversion routes go to network