What’s a concrete aggregate?

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Concrete aggregate is mixed with cement to create strong and durable concrete. Contractors choose between fine and coarse aggregates based on the type of work being performed. The aggregate must be strong, hard, and clean. Texture is also a consideration. Sand and crushed glass are examples of aggregate materials. Some contractors use exposed aggregate for decorative purposes.

Concrete aggregate is a material that is mixed with cement to create a hard, strong and durable concrete. There are several types of concrete aggregate, with contractors selecting their aggregate based on the type of work being performed. If you live in an area with concrete structures, you may be able to see some examples of aggregates in action.

Using aggregate makes concrete much stronger, with aggregate acting as a type of reinforcement. The aggregate increases the life of the concrete and makes it more durable. Contractors can choose between fine aggregates, made from small particles of material, and coarse aggregates, made from large pieces. Companies that produce concrete aggregates usually classify their products by size, allowing contractors to order from a range of sizes.

For the aggregate to be effective, it must be strong. Weak aggregate materials will weaken the resulting concrete, which is undesirable. The aggregate also needs to be hard, so it holds its shape without warping in the concrete. Finally, it must be clean, which in a constructional sense means that it is free of chemicals, clays, and various leached materials that could interact with the concrete and interfere with its setting.

The texture of the aggregate is also a consideration. Coarse, porous materials absorb water during the mixing process, requiring the addition of more water to compensate. This in turn eliminates the water to concrete ratio, requiring the contractor to add more cement to avoid weakening the mix. Smoother aggregates don’t require additional water and are less likely to cause cracks as the concrete hardens.

Sand is a common example of fine aggregate. Rocks and crushed glass can be used as large aggregates. Natural aggregate materials are quarried and crushed to size. Some companies use recycled materials, including metal, with the goal of keeping usable materials out of landfills, although concrete aggregate can be slightly more expensive because it must be thoroughly cleaned before use.

Some contractors like to use exposed concrete aggregate in their projects, making the aggregate visible with a variety of construction techniques. Exposed aggregate concrete is designed to be pleasing to the eye and can be made with aggregate that is decorative as well as functional. This technique is often used for concrete walkways and furniture to add more visual interest to what is otherwise a bland gray expanse.

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