Concrete, Cement, and Asphalt: What’s the Difference?

From residential and commercial driveways, building columns, foundations, walls, decks, sidewalks, roadways and more, concrete, cement, and asphalt serve many purposes. Due to its durability and unyielding strength, concrete tends to have a longer lifespan than most building products and materials. Not to mention, with its thermal properties, homes, and buildings that are built with concrete walls tend to be more energy efficient. Even though concrete is widely known and commonly used, there tends to be a discrepancy between it and another material: cement. It’s a common occurrence for people to interchangeably use the words concrete and cement. Despite popular opinion, cement is actually a component of concrete. On the other hand, asphalt—while used in construction—is a completely different material than cement and concrete. Let’s take a look at the differences between these three popular construction materials.

Defining Concrete and Cement

Despite what people often assume, cement is actually an ingredient that helps to form concrete; not a synonym for it. In all, concrete is created through a combination of aggregates and paste materials. The aggregates are normally composed of sand, gravel, and crushed stone, while the paste is formed through the fusion of water and portland cement. As you can see, the cement plays a small role in the creation of concrete–typically having a 10-15% composition level. On its own, cement isn’t even half as durable as concrete and after a short period of time, it would start to crack and fissure. The incredible thing about concrete is that it can last for hundreds of years, however, cement has nowhere near that same lifespan. The reason that concrete tends to last for a very long time has to do with the hydration process it goes through when its first being mixed. During this process, both the cement and water components begin to bind together and harden into a solid, heavy-duty mass. However, this process doesn’t stop once the concrete becomes a solid. The hardening process continues for years and years–the main reason why concrete has such a long lifespan is because, as it gets older, it will continuously grow stronger.

Cement, on the other hand, is usually a fine powder that is made from materials such as limestone, calcium, iron, silicon, aluminum, as well as a few other minerals. Normally, cement will be placed in a kiln that is heated to a fiery temperature of 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it is heated, the cement it will take on a marble-like appearance. From there, it will ground up very, very finely where gypsum will later be added. After that is completed, it will be ready to be added to the mixture that will form cement. Once the cement is mixed with water, it becomes one of the binding agents that form its counterpart–concrete. Although cement only comprises 10-15% of concrete, that ratio between the two is very important.

What is Asphalt

Unlike cement and concrete, asphalt is a petroleum-based organic material that’s commonly used in laying roads, and parking lots. The two basic ingredients in asphalt are aggregates—crushed stone, gravel, sand—and petroleum (also referred to as bitumen). Additionally, asphalt contains levels of carbon, hydrogen, sulfur, nitrogen, nickel, iron, and vanadium. Since asphalt is gravel-based like concrete, it can also be used for driveways. While it’s cheaper than concrete, there are plenty of maintenance needs that accompany asphalt.

Although cement, concrete, and asphalt are separate components, they all play an extremely important role in the building and construction of numerous facilities and roadway functions.

Cement, Concrete and Asphalt Nashville, TN

For cement, concrete and asphalt in Nashville, TN contact Lone Star Paving. Lone Star offers turnkey new installs as well as overlays, or resurfacing, of existing asphalt surfaces, asphalt repairs and a full line of concrete services – from concrete repair to new installs of concrete slabs, sidewalks, and curbs. We provide seal coating, striping, signs and more. Call today!