By Kelly Combot, Commercial Estimator, Marketing Manager
Most people probably don’t give the difference between asphalt, cement, and concrete a second thought — they’re all the same, right? That being said, you may have certain associations with each word: asphalt may conjure up images of highways; concrete may make you think of parking garages; and cement might mean sidewalks to you.
The manufacturing process and applications for each are quite different, and the type of pavement Superior uses for your driveway, walkway, or patio may change depending on location, size, and many other factors. If you’ve ever pondered the scientific intricacies of everyday pavement, this blog’s for you!
Let’s start off with our paving namesake: asphalt. Known as “bitumen” in some part of the world, asphalt is a complex organic material made from petroleum. It’s black, super sticky, and can be found in natural deposits or as a refined product (the stuff we use). Sometimes, asphalt is even made using recycled automotive engine oil.
Asphalt is most commonly used for roads because it’s flexible, cost-effective, and quick to use — you can drive on it the same day it’s laid! You’ll either see it in liquid form (used for sealing road joints) or as a semi-solid (most roads).
Did you know?
Though asphalt is usually seen in its black form, it can be stamped and coloured, with gorgeous patterns and eye-catching hues.
Cement isn’t often used on its own, since it acts more as a binder than a finishing material. It can be used with fine aggregate (sand and gravel) to make mortar for masonry, or it’s more commonly used with sand and gravel to produce concrete.
The cement used in construction is usually inorganic and made from lime or calcium silicate and comes as either hydraulic or non-hydraulic, which indicates whether or not it can set when wet. Non-hydraulic cement must be kept dry for it to set, and after it has, it’s resistant to chemical spills.
Hydraulic cement, as if by magic, can actually set under water, since it’s activated by a chemical reaction between the dry ingredients and water. This type of cement is also chemical-resistant.
Fun fact #1: Cement is the most widely used material in existence and is second only to water as the most-consumed resource on Earth!
Fun fact #2: The chemical process for hydraulic cement was actually found by ancient Romans who used volcanic ash with lime added to the mixture.
Concrete is a mixture of cement, sand, pebbles, or crushed rock and water, and is the primary material used to construct buildings. It has a very high “compressive strength,” which means it can stand up to excessive weight and pressure.
Though mainly used for large structures, concrete is also used to build roads, since it’s actually more fuel-efficient to drive on, more reflective, and more durable, lasting much longer than other paving materials. Since raw concrete surfaces are usually pretty porous — making them susceptible to chemicals like oil and dyes — different finishes can be applied to protect them and improve their appearance.
How Superior can help with your paving project
Our wide range of services allows us the flexibility of working on a multitude of projects, from minor pothole repair to full parking lots and roadways. We work with asphalt (laying and repairs), seal coating, stamped and coloured asphalt, various concrete applications, excavation, and much, much more.