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Concrete and Cement and Asphalt- Oh My!

Updated on January 10, 2014

Grape vine inspired pressed and tinted concrete

Perhaps you remember watching the Beverly Hillbillies and hearing them refer to the in-ground swimming pool as a Cee-ment pond? And maybe, you have heard some say they poured some concrete. And, of course, most of us recognize that the black substance that we drive on is asphalt. But, did you know that these words are not synonyms? Despite the fact that they are often interchanged by writers and speakers, in the world of floor or ground coverings, these are each different items.

Not only are these words not synonyms, but each product serves a specific purpose thus making one product or the other more suited to one’s specific needs in the world of decorative versus “common”. But what exactly is the difference between concrete, cement and asphalt? Here is the simple explanation:

Cement is the fine powder typically combined with water and used as the binding agent when mixing up concrete. It is made from limestone, calcium, silicon, iron and aluminum, as well as several other items. In fact, cement makes up from 10% to 15% of the total mass of concrete. There is also a specific type of cement referred to as Portland Cement, which was discovered in the 1700s by Joseph Aspdin of Britain. The Portland cement is a referred to as a hydraulic cement because when added to water begins a chemical reaction that is not dependent on how much water is actually being used.

Concrete is a masonry material using cement to bind together crushed stone, rock and aggregate (also known as sand!) that, when mixed with water will begin to harden and set. The rate at which it begins to harden is congruent to the amount of gypsum that is in the mix. Also of note, especially if one lives in a cold weather region, is that there are chemicals that can be added to the mixture to prevent the concrete from cracking during freezing/thawing conditions.

Asphalt, like concrete, is comprised of stone and sand. However, in asphalt the binding agent is tar, which is why asphalt is a dark black color. In regards to appearance, it is truly a personal thing, but when it comes to cost and maintenance there are several significant differences. Typically, asphalt cost less and spaces that have asphalt poured can be used much more quickly than those with concrete can. However, asphalt does not allow for decorative finishes while concrete allows for tinting, textures and pressed designs. In regards to maintenance, asphalt surfaces must be sealed and then resealed every 5 to 6 years, while concrete does not require sealing unless one chooses to have a pattern or stamped element, but it will need to be cleaned with a degreaser if used as a driveway covering. Also, asphalt can be resurfaced fairly inexpensively leaving a brand new top coat if the old layer falls into disrepair, while resurfacing is impossible for concrete.

Regardless of whether you opt for concrete (Remember, it’s not cement!) or asphalt, having a place to park your vehicles or even host an outdoor event is a great thing! It all comes down to what you want to spend and what activities you have in mind for the space. If you are unsure as to which product will best suit your needs, talk to a concrete and asphalt specialist as they will be happy to help.

Many websites provide additional information on the topic of asphalt, cement and concrete. One such site worth visiting is

Janet Slagell independently authors articles for, Inc. for search engine marketing. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those solely of the author, and not of any other person, company or organization. No guarantee or warranty, express or implied, is made regarding the accuracy, fitness, or use of the content herein.


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