Building Aggregates: Everything You Need to Know
You might not be aware of it, but aggregates play a vital role within our everyday lives. No matter where you go, chances are you’ll be surrounded by structures and items that are made up of different types of building aggregates. To put this into perspective, did you know that concrete - a material made up entirely of aggregates - is one of the most widely used substances on the planet, second only to water?
While it's clear to see that aggregates are integral to the world around us, what exactly do they do, and how can they benefit you? Whether you're a contractor overseeing a large-scale development or a homeowner embarking on a DIY project, let's take a look at the many types, benefits and uses of building aggregates.
Why Choose Building Aggregates?
The biggest advantage of building aggregates is their ability to enhance the strength and durability of construction materials. For example, when mixed with concrete and mortar, aggregates provide structural integrity, which in turn ensures that infrastructure can withstand weighty loads and environmental conditions. Naturally, this durability is vital to the long-term stability of any building or structure.
Building aggregates are surprisingly cost-effective materials when compared to alternative options. Because they are widely available and versatile enough to be used in a variety of different projects , they are a great choice for those working within a tight budget. Whether you’re building a driveway, garden wall or an entire building, using aggregates in the process can significantly reduce the overall cost of your project without compromising quality.
Opting for recycled aggregates - just one of the popular types of aggregates we’ll discuss below - is ideal for making your project more environmentally sustainable. Not only do they reduce the demand for natural resources, but they also help to minimise landfill waste. If you’re conscious of the impact your construction project is having on the environment, incorporating recycled materials is one great way to diminish the potential of this impact being harmful.
Certain aggregates, such as gravel, excel in their efficient drainage properties. Proper drainage is the key to preventing any water accumulation, erosion or potential structural damage to your project. In light of this, using aggregates
ensures that water is channelled away from foundations, roads and other critical areas.
Primary vs. Secondary Aggregates: What’s the Difference?
Aggregates fall into two main categories: primary and secondary. Understanding the differences between primary and secondary aggregates will allow you to make more informed decisions about which materials you should choose for your project. Here are the biggest areas in which the two differ.
One of the key differences between primary and secondary aggregates is where they derive from. Firstly, primary aggregates (sometimes referred to as virgin aggregates) are sourced directly from natural deposits, such as quarries, gravel pits and sand mines. Because of this, they naturally haven’t been previously used in other construction projects. On the other hand, secondary aggregates, otherwise known as recycled aggregates, are by-products taken from the processing of waste materials generated during construction, demolition or renovation projects.
Because they are naturally-occurring, primary aggregates are taken from the earth in their raw state. They undergo very minimal processing before being used in construction. By contrast, secondary aggregates go through a thorough process of cleaning, crushing and screening to remove impurities and ensure they meet specific quality standards. This processing transforms former waste materials into useful aggregates, reducing the environmental impact of construction activities.
The areas of construction and engineering in which the two forms of aggregate are used also tend to differ slightly. For example, primary aggregates are widely used in construction projects where high-quality materials are required. They are essential components in concrete, asphalt, road base layers and other structural applications due to their excellent durable properties and reliability.
Meanwhile, secondary aggregates are commonly used in non-structural applications such as road base, drainage and backfilling. While they might not be suitable for high-strength concrete or structural elements, they are valuable for sustainable and even decorative purposes.
Types of Aggregates
As its name suggests, crushed stone is often produced in quarries where machines, known as crushers, will break up large stones into smaller fragments to be used in construction applications. This process produces round-shaped aggregates, and are best used in long-term construction projects like roads and buildings due to their durability.
Gravel is a naturally-occurring loose aggregate that has been weathered by water or colliding rocks, which creates an angular-shaped stone. Available in various sizes, it’s a popular choice for landscaping and road surfacing. Gravel is especially notorious for its drainage properties, which make it great for placement in areas prone to water accumulation. It’s also a cost-effective option for filling in trenches and creating a stable foundation for paths and driveways.
Sand is an incredibly fine aggregate that can be both naturally-occurring and manufactured. There are two key types: sharp and building sand. Sharp sand, with its coarse particles, is ideal for mixing into materials like concrete, cement and asphalt to reinforce its strength. On the other hand, the finer grains of building sand provide a clean and even surface, meaning that it’s perfect for bricklaying and plastering.
Recycled aggregates are derived from the processing of construction and demolition waste. These materials, which include crushed concrete, asphalt and brick, are carefully processed to meet specific standards, and are suitable for a variety of applications. As we mentioned above, choosing recycled aggregates allows your project to adhere to sustainable practices.
Where are Aggregates Used?
You may be surprised to learn the sheer number of projects that building aggregates can be used in. Here are a few of the most popular structures where you might find some form of aggregate.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a building that hasn’t been constructed with the help of aggregates. One of the most valuable components of any construction project is concrete, which features large volumes of aggregates - such as sand - which gives it its strength and consistency. As a result, the construction industry is heavily reliant on aggregates to build houses, office blocks and many other types of residential and commercial properties.
Roads need to be able to withstand years of constant traffic and heavy loads, so ensuring their strength and durability are of utmost importance. This, of course, is where aggregates come in. They are implemented into road construction in many forms, but in particular crushed and uncrushed gravel are used as both foundation and surfacing materials.
Many engineering projects, like the construction of bridges and tunnels, rely heavily on aggregates. As structures like these are so integral to the transport system, any failure can result in complete chaos. As such, high-grade aggregates go a long way to provide them with the necessary stability to guarantee years of trouble-free use.
When you take a look at the railway line, you’ll notice gravel scattered between the tracks. This gravel is essential to holding the wooden cross ties in place, which ensures that the rails remain safe and secure. Aggregates most commonly used as a track ballast are crushed stone or gravel, which form a sub base for the tracks. It goes without saying that using high-quality aggregates is imperative for this application!
Aggregates are often found in landscaping projects in the form of decorative stone. This type of aggregate is typically made up of small pieces of gravel, chipping or pebbles, and are ideal for sprucing up gardens or driveways. With an array of shapes, sizes and colours to choose from, you can find a design to suit your preferences.
Mark Luck Ltd: Leading Aggregate Suppliers Throughout London
For all of your building aggregate needs in London, Mark Luck Ltd should be your one-stop shop. As leading aggregate suppliers, we take pride in the supply of high-grade building aggregates, including sharp sand, gravel and recycled materials in convenient bulk bags. Our commitment to quality and sustainability makes us the preferred choice for clients in the construction and engineering industries. If you’re ready to get started with building aggregates, get in touch with us today for more information.