Asphalt Concrete

The term asphalt concrete actually is very confusing to most people. They tend to think that a surface will either be concrete or it will be constructed of asphalt but this belief comes from a misunderstanding as to what a concrete really is. By clearing up this confusion you will be better able to understand why using the term asphalt concretes make perfect sense.
Concrete, in engineering terms, is any material that is composed of a composite material that includes aggregate that is bonded together with a type of binder. Some of these definitions should be expanded in order to make this more understandable.
Most aggregates that are used are actually gravel which is rock that has been crushed into small pieces. Other forms of aggregates are such things as sand, slag from boilers, and recycled cement concrete and asphalt concrete. These pieces are what give the road way or surface its strength. Before the advent of cement binders for roads, most roadways were composed of layers of these aggregates which were compacted and gave a very hard, water proof surface. Many rural roads are still constructed of aggregates that are not bound together in any way.
The binder in a concrete surface is used to stick the larger aggregate pieces to each other in order to give an even more robust surface for traffic. Without a binder the rock will tend to be pushed out of the roadway under wet conditions and then pot holes form. The confusion with the term asphalt concretes comes from the fact that people don’t understand that this just means asphalt, a petroleum by product, is used to bind the gravel together in the roadway mixture.
Most people associate concrete with that product that is actually termed Portland cement concrete. In this roadway material the chunks of rock or other large materials are bound together with Portland cement. This cures to a very hard surface that is difficult to damage although it is not indestructible.
So the next time someone uses the term concrete the proper question from you would be what type of concrete do you mean? Are you talking about asphalt concrete with a petroleum binder or Portland cement concrete with a lime based binder?

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2 Comments for “Asphalt Concrete”

  1. Hi,

    Can I epoxy over an “asphalt” garage floor? I have been told my asphalt floor is a fire hazard.



  2. Hi Bill,
    You can not use an epoxy coat over an asphalt floor with good results because the epoxy will not adhere properly. The petroleum in the asphalt will act as a barrier between the epoxy polymer molecules and the aggregate which will cause problems.
    As far as the asphalt being a fire hazard I did some research on that and I could not find any reference to that problem. I have seen damaged asphalt surfaces at the scene of a car accident if the gasoline has caught on fire but I have never seen the asphalt itself catch on fire and sustain combustion. I will continue to look into this issue and report back to you if I find more information. I hope this helps.

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