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Resin based surfacing systems are another comparatively recent 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 high quality resin is used to “glue” a decorative or coloured gravel, or fine aggregate to a firm base (usually tarmac or concrete), or to bind together selected aggregates before laying over a base or sub base.
The first system is known as ‘bonded’ or ‘scattercoat’, while the second system is referred to as ‘bound’ or ‘trowelled’.
The result is an extremely hard-wearing surface, suitable for indoors and outdoors, 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 key ingredients: the aggregates and the resin itself.
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, you may ask, if it’s so wonderful, why isn’t it seen as often as, say, block paving?
- Also known as ‘trowelled’
- Aggregates mixed with resin binder
- Single layer usually 15-40mm deep
- Often permeable
- Huge choice of aggregates
- Good range of aggregate sizes – 3mm up to around 20mm
- Also known as ‘scattercoat’
- Fine aggregate over layer of ‘glue’
- Single layer often only 3-6mm thick
- Usually impermeable
- Limited choice of aggregates
- Only fine aggregate (3mm or so) is suitable
Most systems require there to be an existing base to which the resin system can be applied as an overlay. The base, or substrate as it is sometimes known, can be an existing pavement of tarmacadam, 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 tarmac or concrete are preferred because they are “monolithic”, that is, they are whole, single ‘slabs’ of pavement, with few, if any joints. In most cases, “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.
This is because cracking is likely to occur with elemental pavements, and this would ruin the appearance, and the performance, of many resin-based systems. Although extremely tough, the resin could be liable to crack when loaded unless it is laid over a suitable base.
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.
It is critically important that an existing base is in good condition with no major cracks, potholes, weeds, contamination and the like. Tarmac, concrete or asphalt in good condition is usually adequate, but in all cases, the manufacturer’s advice and recommendations should be followed regarding preparation, pre-cleaning, etching or whatever is required.
These are best constructed from mass or reinforced concrete, tarmac or asphalt etc., as suits the planned end use and local conditions. However, if a new concrete base is cast then the resin paving system wouldn’t comply with SUDs. Concrete isn’t permeable so planning permission would be required
Tarmac with a large open-grained structure would be the preferred option.
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.
There are two methods of applying the surface layer: ‘scatter coating’ and ‘hand trowelling’.
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.
This method relies on the aggregate and the resin being combined 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.
Pros, Cons and Prices
When properly laid, resin based surfacing is a superb paving system. There are no loose stones and no weeds. The colours are light-fast, and oil and petrol have no effect on the resin once it has set and can be simply wiped off. It also 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.
While resin based surfacing may seem ideal, 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 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.
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.
On other projects, unscrupulous contractors use a resin of inferior quality, ‘thin’ the resin to cut the cost 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.