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Surface Profiling Benefits

What is the benefit of surface profiling prior to installing any new coating, marking or overlay material?

Smooth, non-porous surfaces prevent new coatings, overlay or repair materials to mechanically bond to the underlying substrate surface. Surface profiling opens the substrate pore structure to allow more of the new materials to be absorbed into the surface, promoting a lasting physical bond.surface profiling

Surface profiling is an intensive process, and will NOT be accomplished without clearly written specifications that detail the acceptable “surface profiling” to a specific SP range. Just writing “surface preparation” will only result in a simple surface cleaning of dirt and debris by broom, pressure washer, or blower.

Surface profiling is defined as the creation of a specific surface profile pattern, confirmed by profile number (1-10), using select abrasive equipment outfitted with the proper cutter tools, dependent upon the surface type and the coating, overlay or repair material to be applied. Confirmation that the desired profile has been achieved is done by visually comparing the surface to the profiles depicted by a profile chart, replica profile tiles, replica putty, replica tape, or SP photos.

surface profiling

The profile chart is a visual representation of the desired surface textures, roughness, and general appearance created on concrete and asphalt surfaces. The texture and appearance of the profile will vary, depending upon the concrete/asphalt strength, composition, aggregate and finish. It can be confirmed by profile number, ranging from SP1 (nearly flat) smooth surface, to SP10 (extremely rough) with amplitude greater than 1/4”. On sound surfaces, the range of variation can be controlled to represent these standards, however, as removal depth increases, the profile of the prepared substrate will be increasingly dominant by the type and size of the coarse aggregate.

This video demonstrates the proper selection of the right cutter assembly, array and rotation to achieve the desired SP1 to SP10 surface profile; best for erasing, grooving or prepping concrete or asphalt surfaces. Proper surface preparation modifies the surface by opening up of the pore structure to establish the right profile, suitable for getting any new pavement markings, repair materials or overlays to physically bond with the surface.
Now unless surface preparation is properly defined in the work you do, it will not be performed, and all that should be expected on the job will be surface cleaning with a broom, blower, brush or water.
Using the right orbital or drum-rotating equipment will produce different surface patterns. An orbital rotation offers less surface depth penetration, ideal for removing markings without surface marks or grooving patterns. A drum style provides sharp-edge grooving and deeper surface penetration, ideal for prepping or grooving applications.


Depending upon the conditions of the surface and/or the selection of the new overlay material, one or more surface profiling steps may be required, since one style of machine with one cutter style cannot accomplish every job, material type and surface profile pattern. Selection of the right removal equipment should NOT be required by contract, but by the installer’s ability to correctly prepare the surface and/or remove the existing coating overlay, while leaving the required SP1 – SP10 surface profile range necessary for the new material.

When removing and relocating markings to a new location, the profiling process must permanently remove the prior marking material. That means no pavement scars or traces of removed markings that may conflict with the new markings, regardless of weather and light conditions, for its entire service life.

surface profiling composite

The equipment selection and use must take into consideration any impact loads that may weaken or fracture the substrate, called “micro-cracking,” which makes surfaces unstable and unsound. Unsound surfaces shall be immediately repaired prior to the the next step. After the sound, profiled surface is confirmed, the surface should be dry and cleaned prior to installing the new coating or overlay material.

Please contact your SMITH Representative for details on:

  1. How the “surface profile” specification portion should be written
  2. How to select and use the “right” profiling equipment to get the “right” surface profile number
  3. How to assure surface preparation compliance in your contracts

Call SMITH first to make your surfaces last.

© 2017 SMITH Surface-Prep Solutions - 1610 S. Dixie Highway, Pompano Beach, FL 33060-8913
Toll Free: 1-800-653-9311 | Ph: 954-941-9744 | Fax: 954-545-0348
Specifications and data are subject to change without notice.