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Resin Based Surfacing
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resin surfacing
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Introduction

Resin based surfacing systems are another comparatively new introduction to the British and Irish paving markets. Their development has been made possible by significant advances made in polymer and epoxy resins over the past 25 years. The basic premise is that a decorative or coloured gravel is "glued" to an existing solid surface by means of a transparent or coloured resin.
park path The result is an extremely hard-wearing surface, suitable for indoor as well as external use, that is fairly resistant to weeds and relatively low-maintenance.

The better systems are totally resistant to oil or petrol spillage, do not fade in UV sunlight, are capable of tolerating a wide range of temperatures and can be laid in a massive range of colours and patterns, and all this is based on just two base ingredients: the aggregates and the resin itself.

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Uses and applications

One great advantage of the resin-base surfacing systems is their versatility. They can be used on more or less any project, or any scale, to suit any budget. Possible uses include internal flooring, driveways, paths and patios, footways, cycleways, bus lanes and road junctions, commercial properties, car parks ... the list really is endless!

bus lane Red resin and aggregate used to mark a bus lane on a busy town centre road

cycleway Green resin and aggregate laid to demarcate a cycleway within an existing footpath

car park Brown Bauxite used to surface an upmarket car sales forecourt area
Motifs, logos, house numbers or just about anything else imaginable can be inlaid into the resin surfacing by using a contrasting gravel.

Some suppliers claim to be able to supply almost 700 different colours by using imported aggregates or specially coloured gravels, and by 'blending' gravels from various sources to create unique colour schemes.

So, if it's so wonderful, why isn't it seen as often as, say, block paving?

inlaid number
Well, cost was once a major problem but this has been less of a problem over the last 3 or 4 years as more companies have entered the market to introduce more competition, and the market itself has matured, benefitting from advanced technologies and economies of scale.

The major barrier to wider use is simple customer awareness. Resin-based surfacing is not an option familiar to many architects, specifiers, designers and contractors in the construction trade, and in the vitally important residential market (driveways, patios etc.) customer awareness barely registers a flicker on the recognition meter. However, since being featured on this website, there does seem to be an elevated level of interest, sufficient to convince two of the leading companies to have their products and techniques featured on subsidiary pages of this section.

streetscene
Street surfacing in a city shopping area
brindley square
Urban design feature with three different levels of resin surfacing

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Construction

There are two basic methods of applying a resin-based surface: In the trade, they are referred to as Resin Bound and Resin Bonded, but I feel this is totally confusing for the customers, both those in the trade itself and those from the residential market. I've discussed it with leading manufacturers, but they seem to want to remain firmly bonded (or bound) to the existing terminology.

So, while I have to accept their allegedly descriptive terms, I prefer to use the much more easily understood terms, 'Scatter Coating' and 'Hand Trowelling'. "Scattercoat" refers to the resin BONDED systems, while "Trowelled" are the resin BOUND systems. Confused? Then read on and hopefully, all will be made clear.

Product Study The remainder of this page gives elementary coverage of the principles behind both methods, but there are comprehensive descriptions of the Scatter Coat method, using Ronadeck resin, and the Trowelled method, using the SureSet product, given on subsequent pages.

There is also a page looking at permeable/porous resin bound surfacing for tree pit surrounds and the like.

 

Base

Both systems require there to be an existing base to which the resin system can be applied as an overlay. This base, or substrate as it is sometimes known, can be an existing pavement of tarmac, asphalt, concrete or other monolithic material that has been cleaned and prepared, or it can be a newly laid base.

The preferred bases vary from product to product, but, in general either bitmac or concrete are preferred because they are "Monolithic", that is, they are whole, single 'slabs' of pavement, with few, if any joints. Accordingly, "elemental" pavings, that is those made from discrete units with joints between each unit, such as block pavers, setts, flags etc., are NOT suitable for use as the base for a resin-based system.

The reason for this is that Reflective Cracking is likely to occur with elemental pavements, and this would ruin the appearance, and the performance, of any resin-based system. Although extremely tough, the resin would be liable to crack when loaded unless it is laid over a suitable base.

Reflective Cracking
Reflective Cracking
Flags and block paving will move slightly under heavier loads such as cars and other vehicles, which can lead to the aforementioned problem of 'reflective cracking' - this is the phenomenon where a joint between two separate paving units is transmitted through the covering material, creating cracks and fissures in the surface.
 

Existing Bases

It is critically important that an existing base is in good condition, with no major cracks, potholes, weeds, contamination and the like. Bitmac, concrete or asphalt in good condition are usually adequate, but in all cases, the manufacturer's advice and recommendations should be followed regarding preparation, pre-cleaning, etching or whatever is required.

 

New Bases

These are best constructed from mass or reinforced concrete, or from bitmac, asphalt etc, as suits the planned end use and local conditions.

See concrete hardstandings and/or tarmacadam page for fuller details of constructing these types of bases.

 

Other Bases

Some manufacturers claim a base of wood, flags/slabs or block paving are suitable bases for resin bonded surfacing, but we would never consider any of these surfaces as adequate other than in the most exceptional of circumstances. A standard wooden base may be acceptable on indoor applications, but would swell, rot and/or move on outdoor projects, and so, if a wooden base is to be used, only a proper exterior grade wooden deck surface should ever be considered.

Except for specific applications such as tree-pits, resin-based surfacing cannot usually be laid on a granular sub-base, such as a layer of DTp Type 1, gravel or sand, no matter how well compacted.

 


Surfacing

The base is cleaned to remove all loose and/or organic material, dust and detritus. Edging strips, usually aluminium, may be fixed to free edges to contain the surface layer and prevent edge crumbling. With certain products, a polymer primer is then applied over the base and the surface layer applied.
Typical Gravels
Just a few of the many coloured gravels available
As mentioned above, here are two methods of applying the surface layer, 'Scatter Coating' and 'Hand Trowelling'.
 

Scatter Coating

As the name suggests, this method involves applying the resin over a suitable base, and then 'scattering' the chosen gravel or aggregate over the tacky resin before it sets. Some systems use pre-coated aggregates, while others rely on applying a resin over the scattered stone.
scatter coating
Product Study
Click to access
Click here to access an in-depth 'Product Study' of the Scatter Coat method, using Ronadeck resin.


 

Hand trowelling

This method relies on the aggregate and the resin being agitated together in mixer, and then spread over the prepared base with hand floats, screeding bars and trowels. This type of work generally ensures an adequate thickness is applied to the entire area and is a fairly common method of application.
hand trowelled
Product Study
Click to access
Click here to access an in-depth 'Product Study' of the Hand Trowelled method, using SureSet resin.


 

Permeable

Some of the trowelled (Resin Bound) systems have been tweaked to render them incredibly permeable yet suitable for direct application over an unbound sub-base, which makes them ideal materials for use in surfacing the many tree pits that now adorn the centres of our towns and cities.
permeable tree pit surfacing
Product Study
Click to access
Click here to access an in-depth 'Product Study' of a permeable resin bound system.


Whichever method of application is used, the resin sets relatively quickly - usually within 1 hour, and so needs to be worked efficiently to ensure the resin and the aggregates are spread, levelled and smoothed before it becomes too stiff. For this reason, this type of surfacing is best laid by experienced, specialist contractors, although, for smaller areas, such as garden paths, patios and small driveways, it can be done by competent DIY'ers.

A solvent is used to clean the tools and the mixer when work is finished. Protective clothing and a suitable mask/respirator should be worn when working with epoxy resins and the cleaning solvents.

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Pros, Cons and Prices

When properly laid over a sound base, resin based surfacing is a superb paving system. There are no loose stones, no weeds to clear out or to soak in 'PathClear'. The colours are light-fast, oil and petrol have no effect on the resin once set and can be simply wiped off. It provides good slip-resistance. It can be used to continue a paving scheme throughout a corporate site, so the that external walkways and internal atriums, foyers and corridors are all the same. There is an almost limitless choice of colours and multi-colour 'blends'. Panels of contrasting colours can be laid, as can all sorts of logos and motifs.
close up
York blend (a browny-buff mixture) The 10p coin (25mm diameter) gives an indication of scale.
While resin based surfacing may seem a panacea, it does have occasional problems, and most of these are attributable to one common factor - cowboy contractors. There are recorded instances of the resin being 'thinned' with the cleaning solvent, of the base not being properly prepared or primed, of the resin/stone mixture being laid over bare earth and on top of existing patios. The importance of finding a reputable, experienced contractor cannot be overstated, and most of the reputable manufacturers, including those with products featured on this website, either supply their own, in-house laying gangs, or provide lists of contractors that have been properly trained and certified as competent in the laying of these products.
pothole
Pothole caused by unsuccessful bonding of the resinous overlay to the base layer
The major structural failure of resin based surfacing comes when the primer or the resin itself 'lifts' from the underlying base. This is most often because of frost heave or base movement, but there are other reasons, most of which are directly related to the standard of workmanship. Frost heave or base movement often leaves a void beneath the surfacing layer which then 'collapses' into the void when subjected to a heavy load.

As with other monolithic surfacings, such as tarmac or PIC, invisible repairs are impossible. The only way to correct a defect is to cut out the affected area and re-surface, with the likely consequence of the repair being noticeably distinct from the rest of the paving.

loose aggs
In some scattercoat applications, the contractors fail to remove the excess aggregate and the result is that the aggregate 'migrates' to other areas, which not only looks untidy but is potentially dangerous.
bald patches
On other projects, unscrupulous contractors use a resin of inferior quality, 'thin' the resin to cut the costs, or fail to apply sufficient aggregate, resulting in bald patches, such as those shown here.
Prices are highly variable. Many contractors have a minimum job charge of £2,000 or more. The resin based surfacing itself costs, on average, between £20 and £80 per square metre, depending on the thickness of application, the size of the area to be covered and the type of aggregate chosen. Construction of a suitable base is not included, nor is preparation of an existing base. If you are obtaining a price for this type of surfacing, make sure the contractor stipulates what is and what isn't included in the price.
resin bonded golden
6-10mm Golden Gravel
resin bonded flint
6-9mm Flint Mix
resin bonded red
6mm Red Blend
different sizes view different sizes close up
The pair of photos above show a project where the same blend of decorative aggregates in two different sizes has been used to create a distinctive, qualitative difference to a wide boulevard. The central pathway uses a 3mm light grey blend, edged with a single 100mm wide band of charcoal pavers. This pair of bold stripes marks the boundary between the central and the outside paths, which use the same aggregate but in a 6mm size. The close up photo on the right show the difference between the two sizes.
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Construction Diagram

construction cross section

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Other Resin pages on this website....

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