The Case for Chip Sealing

The Case for Chip Sealing

In Eco-Pave®, Soil Stabilization, Unpaved Roads by Frank Elswick

When the maintenance of dirt and gravel country roads becomes a nuisance, chip sealing offers a better, cheaper alternative to paving.

In areas with low-to-mid-level traffic volume that lack properly paved roads, road maintenance creates a year-round issue. With the changing of the seasons come different problems for the roads, from excess levels of dust in the summer and fall to mud and unstable surfaces in the winter and spring. As these areas become increasingly populated and the roads are used more and more, something has to be done to ensure that they’re in suitable driving condition throughout all seasons.

While many assume that paving a road is the only way to stabilize it, there is a better and, most importantly for many citizens’ budgetary concerns, cheaper way to go about the stabilization process. This alternative is known as chip sealing.

The Chip Sealing Process

Chip sealing is a process that can be used both as a complement to asphalt paving to extend its shelf life, and as a cost-saving alternative to asphalt that retains elements of the natural state of the road.

After a road is graded, it is stabilized. There are several ways to do this, but the most common one is through the application of hot asphalt. Immediately following the application of asphalt—ideally, within a minute—rock is applied with a chip spreader, so that the rock is embedded by the displacement of the asphalt. After that, a rubber tire-roller takes several passes over the surface to set the rock within the asphalt, and several rounds of sweeping over the next few hours and days removes excess rock from the road surface.

Alternatives to Asphalt

However, the application of hot asphalt is not the only way to chip seal a road. In fact, there are ways to stabilize and chip seal a road that are both more cost effective and environmentally friendly.

Midwest’s SF2® Stabilization system stabilizes roads without asphalt: the system uses a synthetic fluid that contains a special surface soil binder in conjunction with high-tensile synthetic fibers, which fill in discrete voids in the soil matrix to achieve the same results as the asphalt method. The road is stabilized without the pouring of hot asphalt, and all of the products used are certified as safe by the EPA.

Another cost effective and environmentally friendly option for stabilizing roads is Midwest’s GreenPave® system. Like the SF2 system, GreenPave utilizes the natural surface of the road in conjunction with Midwest’s EcoPave Base, a proprietary polymer-enhanced, resin-based organic emulsion. This process actually creates a longer lasting road surface than asphalt does, and one that has a similar California Bearing Ratio and loading strength.

Midwest’s GreenPave

Both of these systems can be used on their own to stabilize a road, but they become even stronger and more stable with the addition of a chip seal. A chip seal using asphalt could be applied to the road, which can certainly strengthen the stabilized base. However, after avoiding the cost and environmental damage of an asphalt seal thus far, applying it at this point wouldn’t make sense. For the chip seal, Midwest also provides the best solution.

Midwest’s GreenPave system uses our EcoPave Chip product to deliver the strength and stability of an asphalt chip seal without the laborious multi-step process. The EcoPave Chip is a powerful binder covered with an aggregate that does not require the heating or sweeping process necessary for installing an asphalt chip seal. Not only does the EcoPave Chip shorten the lengthy paving process, but it also creates a better running surface that will resist the damaging heat that black asphalt surfaces absorb. And, as always, the EcoPave Chip is safe for the environment.

The Choice Is Easy

When the time comes to stabilize an out-of-the-way road, chip sealing is typically the best option. Due to their superior value, performance, and low environmental impact, the products and solutions available from Midwest are far and away the best means of chip sealing available. In short, the choice is easy.


Frank is the sales unit manager of Midwest's road construction and natural paving markets.