Surface dressing

Find out why we lay bitumen and loose chippings on road surfaces, and advice for motorists and residents during surface dressing works.

Every year, we improve the county's 9,000km of roads with a regular programme of surface dressing.

Surface dressing offers a quick, efficient and cost-effective way of maintaining skid-resistant and waterproofed road surfaces, helping to prevent future deterioration. It's not always popular with road users, mainly because of the loose chippings which are an inevitable part of the process. However, the speed of the operation, and the short time motorists are inconvenienced, are important benefits.

What is surface dressing?

We spray the existing road surface with a coating of bitumen, then spread stone chippings on top. The chippings are then rolled into the bitumen. Once the bitumen has set, we will sweep the road to remove any loose chippings. This will usually be done after 24 hours, but during hot weather this may take longer.

Traffic is allowed onto the new surface, at a reduced speed, to help to push the chippings into the road. The action of traffic soon begins to embed the chips, forming a stable and hard wearing new surface. We then complete a final sweep after seven days.

It is important to keep to the temporary speed limits of 20mph, and avoid sharp turns. This allow the surface to stabilise, and prevents any damage to your vehicle.

Surface dressing provides added protection to the carriageway surface, as well as enhancing the skid resistance, making it safer to drive on.

What's the difference between surface dressing and resurfacing?

Surface dressing is preventative, for roads which are in relatively good condition. It can last around ten years, roads can be re-dressed up to three times, and is very cost effective. Also, the work is done relatively quickly, minimising the inconvenience for residents and motorists.

Resurfacing is a more extensive structural maintenance treatment which involves digging down and removing the top layer of a worn out road surface, and replacing this with new material. Resurfacing is around five times more expensive than surface dressing - 200 miles of roads can be surface dressed for the cost of resurfacing 40 miles. Find out about other types of road maintenance here.

It's much more cost effective to preventatively surface dress a road which is in relatively good condition, to prolong the life of the road surface.

When do we carry out surface dressing?

We carry out a countywide surface dressing programme starting in April and continuing into August. Surface dressing work is undertaken in the spring and summer, because the process requires warm, dry weather to make sure the dressing becomes established.

Advance warning signs advising of the anticipated date for working on the road will be put out a day or two before the work will start. However, whilst we aim to start work on the advertised date, delays or issues such as weather may affect the advertised date. Advance warning signs will be kept as accurate as possible, but please bear with us if the date changes.

Road closures during surface dressing

We make every effort to keep traffic disruption to a minimum. However, it is inevitable that road closures will be in place at times.

  • it may be necessary to close the road prior to the surface dressing to allow for removal of road studs
  • further short term closures may also be required following the completion of the works to allow for reinstatement of road markings and road studs

Where possible, traffic will be allowed past any machinery using manually operated 'stop/go' boards whilst the works are being carried out. In some cases drivers may have to use an alternative route for a short period. 

We aim to complete the works within a morning or afternoon, and time the works to coincide with quiet periods. This can also include times earlier in the morning or later in the day when the temperatures are cooler.

What to expect if we are surface dressing in your street

Yellow signs will be set up at either end of site informing people when the work will take place. Usually this will be between 7:30am and 6pm, and could be during the week or at the weekend.

If you have any questions during the work please ask a member of staff who will be happy to help.

We will try to let you in and out safely, but this will depend on the exact stage of the work at the time you require access. We will normally have staff at each end of the closed road to control traffic. To get to your road or drive, please park in a safe place and speak to a member of the team on site to let them know where you need to get to. They will try to make sure you can safely drive to your property as soon as possible. 

On the day the contractor will:

  • sweep the road to remove any loose material and cover all gullies and manholes covers
  • 'dress' the road surface
  • where possible, allow traffic past any machinery using manually operated 'stop/go' boards whilst the works are being carried out. In some cases roads may be too narrow for this, and drivers may have to find an alternative route for a few hours
  • complete the works within a morning or afternoon and time the works to coincide with quiet periods

Advice on what to do if we are surface dressing in your street

We shall do our very best to minimise the impact of the surface dressing works. You can help us to get the job done by following this simple advice.

  • please do not park on the road (during the day) until the road has been surface dressed and the initial sweeping has been completed
  • please keep children and pets away – for safety and cleanliness
  • when driving, please keep to the temporary speed limits and avoid sharp turns or heavy braking to allow the surface to stabilise
  • check your shoes before entering your car or home
  • remove bitumen stains promptly with a proprietary cleaner for cleaning tar which can be purchased from any motoring store
  • you may be asked not to park on the road again, in 14 days' time. This is so that the contractor can give the road a final sweep and repaint all the lines. We may also clean the gullies at the same time

Your patience and co-operation are greatly appreciated and we hope not to bother you again for another 10 years!

Beware of cold callers

Our contractors will only be carrying out work for Highways North Yorkshire. They will always be wearing their uniform and will never offer to do any private work, such as resurfacing driveways. If you’re approached by anyone offering to surface your driveway, and claiming that they are working for Highways North Yorkshire, please contact us to report it to our trading standards team.