Smooth Move: 3 Common Ways to Resurface BC Highways

resurfacing bc highways
If you’ve ever slowly cruised by paving projects in your community, you’ve probably noticed there are different types of paving processes. Turns out, there’s more than one method our contractors use depending on the amount of TLC required. The majority of projects we work on aren’t straight from scratch paving. By “straight from scratch,” we mean the kind of paving where we start with a gravel road instead of an existing paved road.

Instead, most of the paving projects in BC focus on rehabilitation by using resurfacing methods on existing asphalt. To help you identify which method of pavement rehabilitation you’re seeing, we’ve put together a list of the three main methods we use: overlay, hot-in-place, and mill and fill.

The Overlay Process in Action

1. Overlay

Overlay can be used when surface defects have not opened or penetrated far into the existing pavement structure. In other words, if the road is in pretty decent shape and we can repair existing cracks without grinding, the overlay can serve to increase the structural integrity of the highway. For this method, we add a fresh layer of asphalt to restore structural strength without having the underlying pavement stresses working themselves back into the new surface. The end result is a road that has a better life cycle than the mill and fill process (“life cycle” is how long the asphalt lasts before repairs/resurfacing are required).

How does it affect your drive? Overlay takes the shortest time frame to complete compared to the hot-in-place and mill and fill methods.

Hot-in-Place Recycling as it happens

2. Hot-in-Place Resurfacing

If the existing asphalt pavement still has some “life in it” (minimal surface cracks and the asphalt binder is soft enough), we can use specialized “train-like” equipment to do the work. First, the asphalt is heated, then re-processed on the spot with new asphalt mix (usually 20%) and finally placed where the existing asphalt was just removed; thus, why we call it “hot-in-place resurfacing.” The bonus of this method is that it rehabilitates the pavement surface in one fell swoop, and with one super machine, saving natural resources and lowering emissions and costs!

How does it affect your drive? This method is quick and cost effective. Once the asphalt is compacted and cooled, the road is immediately ready for your driving pleasure.

Traditional Mill and Fill

3. Mill and Fill

We use this method when the pavement surface has deteriorated to the point where it cannot be maintained because cracks, stresses and structural defects have made their way below the surface. This generally means the underlying asphalt layers are still strong and sound to bear vehicle loads. Our paving contractors start by grinding the damaged asphalt – milling (taking off) the effected areas, and then laying down and compacting fresh asphalt to cool. If you’re keen on recycling, it’s interesting to know the leftover ground or milled asphalt is recycled into the new layer being replaced or used on a side or secondary road for resurfacing.

This method helps extend the asphalt surface life cycle. For example, hot-in-place lasts an average of 8 to 12 years, while mill and fill and overlay projects can last approximately 15 to 18 years. Mill and fill and hot-in-place recycling projects typically do not require supplementary work found in overlay projects, which could include roadside barrier improvements and gravel shouldering work.

How does it affect your drive? You may have spotted a stage of this process if you’ve ever driven over pavement after it’s been milled and before it’s been filled. Mill and fill can take a bit longer than some of our other methods, but once the new asphalt is in place, it can be driven on in a matter of hours because the asphalt has been compacted and cools quickly.

If you spot flaggers working at any construction, be sure to slow down for them and check out what our paving contractors are up to.

Now you can use your new knowledge about paving methods for your next round of roadside trivia! Want to learn more? Check out:

>> The Problem of Perennial Pothole Patching on BC Highways

Share this page:SharingFacebookTwitterLinkedInCopy Text

Page 1 of 18 comments on “Smooth Move: 3 Common Ways to Resurface BC Highways”

Leave a Comment

  1. Let me ask this question to you.
    Have you ever been to Youbou BC, or even heard of Youbou BC?
    Well I have lived here since since 1995 and Youbou Rd from Parkinson Rd to the old Mill site, has not been “TOTALLY RESURFACED” in that time period, except for odd area that was
    “Mill and Fill”.
    From the old timers that lived in Youbou for the past 60 years, the road was done in the early 80’s.
    Even thou the Mill site has been closed since 2001, Logging companies are still logging past Youbou. The logging trucks for the past 50 years have destroyed the road. There are dip’s and valley’s, where water literally runs down the groves, wear the truck tires have made thier impression in the road.
    I know this, because I see this outside my window. Nobody in Youbou walks or rides there bicycle along the shouder, for the fear of getting “SPRAYED”.
    Please find this in your heart to please fix this problem, it’s been 50 years. Let the people of Youbou walk and bike, and to enjoy the outdoors.

  2. How long before they can paint lines? The hot in place paving north of blue river still has no lines making it extremely unsafe. I had to drive it at night in the rain with fog and it was horrible.

  3. What about chip sealing? I presume that method is only used on lower-traffic roads since it can be less comfortable to drive on and takes a while to be “pressed” into the asphalt base…

    • Hello, David.

      Sealcoating is another common road resurfacing method used on BC Highways. The process does require a curing process where traffic must be kept to a max of 50km/h otherwise the gravel breaks loose from the fresh seal coat risking flying rock which may crack or break a windshield. You can read more about how it works in our blog post about sealcoating.Thanks for connecting with us here.

  4. A section of highway 19 northbound on the Lantzville / Nanoose Bay boundary has significant problems with fatigue (alligator) cracking. We’re nearing the end of summer without correction and I’m not looking forward to a repeat of last winter that saw multiple cases of suspension damage. Perhaps you would discuss how this forms and what the best method of repair would be?

  5. What is the best way to get a road paved in British Columbia? The Whitewater Ski Resort access road has more car parts than Western Auto Wreckers these days. I want to ski bumps not drive them!

  6. Are they paving in glade b.c would like labelle rd in glade paved in fact would just like a rd they will not maintain this rd or do any snow removal in winter there are 3 residents on this on this rd. Now

    • Good afternoon Arnold,

      The ministry is paving Glade area roads, but Labelle Road is classified as an 8F, so you are correct in that there is no maintenance. It is likely classed an 8F because the road was not brought up to our standards during subdivision. As it is the responsibility of the developers to bring roads up to standard before the ministry takes them on, the district would not be in a position to upgrade the road. We are also prioritizing our existing hard surface roads for rehab before we add more hard surface to our inventory.

      We would consider bringing it into our inventory for maintenance if the residents brought it up to or proved it met ministry standards but we would likely still not pave it.

      We hope that this information is helpful. Here is the ministry area office contact info for your reference:

      Grand Forks Area
      7290 2nd Street
      Box 850
      Grand Forks, BC V0H 1H0
      Telephone: 250 442-4384
      Fax: 250 442-4317

    • Hi there J Dearden – we reached out to the project manager and they let us know that work on Hwy 97C was completed yesterday and Tunkwa Lake Road will be completed by this Friday. Hope that this helps – thanks for connecting with us here!