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Black Diamond Named an Industry “Top Contractor”

…And What That Really Means!

For the fifth time since 2013, Black Diamond Paving has been named an industry “Top Contractor” by Pavement Maintenance & Reconstruction, the paving industry’s leading trade publication. And this has us feeling like we’re on top of the world!

What Is the Top Contractor Award?

Each year Pavement Maintenance & Reconstruction conducts an industry-wide survey open to almost 20,000 paving and pavement maintenance contractors to determine the contractors with the highest sales in four categories for the previous fiscal year.

Information provided by contractors is verified, and the results form the basis of the magazine’s Top Contractor lists. This year Black Diamond was named Top Contractor in two categories, Paving and Sealcoating—and it’s great to be recognized by our peers for our primary businesses. You can read more about this honor in the 2021 Pavement Maintenance Top Contractors Overview | For Construction Pros.

What the Top Contractor Award Means

From our standpoint, being named a Top Contractor means the industry in which we work recognizes the quality of the work we do and the strength of the business we operate. What an honor!

It also means we have one of the top-notch teams in the business, and that extends from the in-office folks making sure everything runs smoothly to the crews in the field getting the jobs done as bid and on schedule as promised. That’s no small feat, and we take great pride in our people and the work they do.

But perhaps most importantly, being recognized as a Top Contractor means that our customers—you—are working with one of the best, most reputable, most reliable, and most successful contractors in the industry. It means we understand your pavement and your needs, and we know how to work within your budget. It means we’re a solutions-oriented contractor driven to provide cost-effective options to help extend pavement life…so you can get the most value out of your pavement investment. That’s something we don’t take lightly, and it’s the main reason we’re proud of our Top Contractor recognition.

Does Your Pavement Need Help?

Industry-wide recognition is a great honor, to be sure. But we received that recognition because of the work we do and the way we work. And we’d be honored to help you manage your pavement—whether you need paving, sealcoating, repair, or concrete work.

So, if your pavement needs help, or even if you aren’t sure, reach out to one of the nation’s Top Contractors for a free on-site evaluation.

Six Fun Facts About Asphalt

We’ve been in the paving business for 25 years. So, it’s no surprise that we know everything that there is to know about asphalt. We know asphalt’s favorite restaurant. We know asphalt’s maiden name. And we know the last four digits of asphalt’s social. We know it all because we’ve truly earned a doctorate in this stuff. And in case you needed a little proof, here are six fun facts that prove that we’ve done our homework.

There’s a naturally occurring asphalt lake in the middle of Los Angeles.

When you think about asphalt, you probably never think about firing up the boat and spending a day out on the lake. But did you know that there are actually several naturally occurring asphalt lakes? Bitumen, also known as tar, is one of the binding ingredients that holds asphalt together. And occasionally, it seeps up from the earth, starts to collect, and forms a small lake. You’ll find one such lake in the center of L.A., known as the La Brea Tar Pits, another in Venezuela called Lake Guanoco, and a third in Trinidad called Pitch Lake. 

Asphalt can save you money in surprising ways.

When most people are pricing out an asphalt job, they’re usually looking at direct costs. They’re wondering how big of a check that they’ll need to write. But you also want to think about the costs of leaving your parking lot in a state of disrepair. Are cars kicking up debris and damaging windshields? Are cars bottoming out and damaging their undercarriage? Are mud and grime building up and corroding vehicles? Those costs add up pretty quickly. And if you get to a point where it’s considered negligence, you might even be taking on some legal liability. So, a nice little pave job can end up being your wallet’s best friend.    

Asphalt was probably used in the mummification process.

Another piece of asphalt trivia is that bitumen—the naturally occurring asphalt that you just read about above—was used in Ancient Egypt’s burial rituals. Somewhere along the line, historians started to notice a dark residue on their mummified discoveries. And while there are a few competing theories, a lot of scientists think that asphalt was used as a sort of embalming material. (Black Diamond actually stopped making mummies in 1997.) But if asphalt was good enough for King Tut, you can see how it’s a great choice for your HOA’s next paving project.  

Asphalt is green.

Okay, fine. Asphalt is technically black. But it’s green in the sense that it can be pretty good for the environment. According to The Pavement Association of Oregon, “The asphalt industry reclaims about 100 million tons of its own product every year.” And they go on to explain that up to 95 million of those tons are reused or recycled. Asphalt is also a great way to reuse plastic that’s otherwise bad for the earth. Plastic can be used as a binding agent, and when it’s mixed into the asphalt, that’s one less piece of plastic that’s sitting in a landfill.       

Asphalt was first used in road construction as early as 625 BC.

The only thing that’s been in the paving business for longer than Black Diamond is probably the asphalt itself. As early as 625 B.C., the Babylonians were using asphalt in road construction. And while those Babylonian roads weren’t exactly great for rollerblading, asphalt has been creeping into “the roadscape” for several millennia. Over the years, people would use asphalt for everything from boat repair, to a patching material for broken stones. Until finally, we saw the emergence of the modern-day asphalt road in 1870 New Jersey.  

The asphalt roads in the U.S. could circle the earth 96 times.

The National Asphalt Pavement Association explains that there are about “2.6 million miles of paved roads in The United States. And over 94% are surfaced with asphalt.” That means that in The United States alone, there’s enough asphalt to circle the entire world almost a hundred times. We can’t imagine why you’d ever need to do that, but if anyone’s up for the job, it’s definitely Black Diamond.  

In conclusion…

When we say we know everything there is to know about asphalt, we mean that literally. It’s a knowledge that shows in every job, every customer interaction, and in our Diamond Standard of Service. So, if you’re looking for a paving company that knows asphalt just a little bit better, reach out to Black Diamond, and let’s talk paving.

The Warmest Mix on the Market

Warm Mix Asphalt and How it’s Revolutionizing the Industry

When you’re hot, you’re hot, and when you’re not, you’re likely to have quite a few advantages…when it comes to asphalt, that is.

The industry standard of hot mix asphalt (HMA) has had a good run, providing a mix that has enjoyed proven strength, workability, and longevity for decades. But as the industry continues to advance technologically—and with an eye on sustainability and environmental friendliness—warm mix asphalt (WMA) continues to show up strongly in testing and innovation.

What’s the scoop with WMA?

WMA has been around for quite some time. The concept was first introduced by Professor Csanyi at Iowa State University in 1956. It was then further studied in Europe and was first used in the US in 2004. As the desire to minimize energy usage grows, so does the popularity and innovation of the mix.

So what’s the difference between HMA and WMA?

The most obvious factor is temperature. Traditional HMA is mixed at around 275-350°F. WMA is approximately 100° lower, and with that temperature drop comes a trio of benefits:

  1. The energy savings of producing the lower temp mix is about 30%, which translates well both economically and environmentally.
  2. The health benefits to the workers and those in surrounding areas are notable due to the lower emissions produced when the asphalt is laid. The enhanced workability also makes the job easier, and let’s face it, a 100° drop in temperature is certainly welcome.
  3. A warm mix has proven to be more compatible with the integration of recycled materials. The most popular recycled material in asphalt is old asphalt that has been milled to a specific coarseness and is then added to the new mix. Traditional hot mix has a restricted threshold due to stiffness of the materials. In this way, a road can live many lives and, in fact, is the most recycled material in the country. Warm mix, however, plays well with a higher percentage of recycled asphalt material. Another growing use for recycled materials in asphalt is plastics. Discarded plastics, many of which are not typically easy to reclaim for other uses, are able to be melted down into polymer pellets which are added to the mix.

An added bonus is that WMA isn’t as weather sensitive. This is important, as the temperature differential between cold air and hot asphalt is often prohibitive in the winter in many parts of the country. The shorter cooling time also means traffic can return to the surface more quickly.

As with any advancements in technology and process, but especially in a material that is expected to stand the test of time, there is a lot of research, development, and testing that goes on to ensure WMA is able to withstand the rigors of use and adds value. The industry as a whole continues to explore, refine, and improve the materials with a strong dedication to being environmentally friendly and efficient. We are happy to be a part of the latest in all that is great about asphalt and continue to study and implement best practices for our customers.

Game. Set. Pave.

I’ll bet you didn’t know the folks at Black Diamond play a wicked game of tennis. That’s right, when it comes to tennis courts, we are simply ACE. Tennis courts are an important and valued amenity enjoyed by many of our clients’ residents, and when it comes to desiring a smooth, well-maintained surface, tennis players call the shots. There is nothing worse than having a stray crack or fissure throw off the perfect trajectory (unless, of course, you can blame the poor court for your loss).

Maintaining a quality playing surface is much like maintaining the other paved surfaces around your property…with a bit more fussiness added in, due to the nature of its use. There are several things you can do to ensure your tennis courts stay inviting and pristine for anyone from the most casual to the most serious player. Here are just a few:

  • Grab your Sherlock hat and magnifying glass. Begin by doing a careful yearly inspection. Look for signs of wear such as fissures and cracking across the surface. If you see those lines emerging, the time to seal them is now to avoid costly repairs later.
  • Dry it up. Examine the surface for areas where water may collect. Those areas, commonly referred to as birdbaths, tend to be magnets for stray gravel and debris that are then tracked across the court, contributing to wear and tear. If you can, eliminate the source of the water. Checking drains to ensure they are working properly is a good place to start.
  • Get out the broom. Engage in monthly or even weekly maintenance, blowing or sweeping off debris that accumulates on the surface due to nearby vegetation and foot traffic.
  • Rock and roll…somewhere else. Consider eliminating non-tennis activities on your court such as biking, rollerblading, and skateboarding. A smooth surface may be great fun for all sorts of wheeled activities, but all that zipping back and forth will take its toll on the life of the court.
  • Pickleball, perhaps? If your courts seem to stand empty much of the time it may be that your residents will be well served by a simple conversion to Pickleball. This rapidly growing trend has gained a cult following and is played on a badminton sized court with a lowered net. Rather than a tennis ball and racket, it is played with a perforated plastic ball and smaller wooden paddles.
  • Go with an expert. Choose an experienced contractor who specializes in tennis court maintenance and repairs. Resurfacing a court requires some very specialized procedures and an experienced crew—it’s not a project for just anyone.
  • Plan to play. Include the tennis court area into your short-term and long-term budgeting and plans. We can help in assessing and adding this component to your overall portfolio of needs and goals.

When it comes to a well-rounded knowledge base and skill set for all your surface needs, we are a SMASH. Call us today to talk about how your tennis court game can improve and add value to your property. Game. Set. PAVE.

Achieve Visibly Younger Looking Pavement with Asphalt Rejuvenation!

You might hear the word “rejuvenation” and immediately think of the pursuit of reversing aging skin…and you would be right on the money. The principles of asphalt rejuvenation really don’t differ all that much from the beauty industry. The intent in both fields is to acknowledge the signs of aging and apply science to reverse it.

While the balms of the beauty industry aim at smoothing out the wrinkles of the human face, the potions of the pavement trade are aimed at restoring the chemical properties in asphalt that naturally degrade over time due to oxidation. This treatment typically consists of incorporating oils and resins which can be used in two ways.

Way One:

The first is to mix these magic elixirs into the recycled bits and pieces that go into creating the “new to you” asphalt. These agents soften the mix and increase plasticity and durability, as well as reduce the high temperatures needed to make all those raw ingredients bind together. The addition of an asphalt rejuvenator makes a critical difference in how much recycled material can be incorporated while maintaining peak life and performance. The more recycled material the better, for the end user and the environment. The cost benefit to increasing the amount of recycled material is an additional win for asset owners.

Way Two:

The second way to use a rejuvenator is to apply it to existing asphalt to bring it back to a near-new condition. Unlike a traditional sealer, which sits on the surface of the pavement, the special oil and resin mix has the added advantage of being able to penetrate through the layers of asphalt. This allows it to rework the chemical bonds, bringing them back to a state of strong pliability and revitalizing the binder.

Nine lives? Pfft. Felines have nothing on the asphalt industry. That glossy black surface that surrounds us is king of the recycled world. In fact, over 81% of asphalt that’s past its prime is recycled into the new asphalt you walk and drive on every day. Asphalt rejuvenation helps make that happen—just one more way the pavement industry is evolving to go green!

The rejuvenator also fills in any cracks and gaps, keeping water from seeping in, and provides protection from UV rays. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that for each $1 spent on rejuvenation a resulting $6-10 is saved over the life of the surface. When was the last time your skin cream saved you so much dough?

Just like a spa treatment for your skin, the benefits of this application can be seen immediately while the science under the surface continues to work its magic. A rejuvenation treatment will restore that flawless, radiant, like-new appearance while protecting your pavement from further effects of aging. It’s a win/win proposition.

Are you interested in learning more about asphalt rejuvenation? Give us a call to see if it’s the right solution for your property!

Factoring in ADA Compliance

Let’s sit down and have a friendly chat about ADA compliance. To many, it can seem like a tangled web of standards and guidelines that seem nearly impossible to translate, much less keep up with. “How many parking spaces do you need?” “How many have to be van accessible?” “Am I or am I not ADA compliant?” These are all questions that take most property managers down a spiral of Google searches, leading to answers that may not even apply to them.

The Human Factor

While there are a lot of questions to consider, the most important question of all is this: how can you not only comply but genuinely make things easier and more accessible for your residents, guests, and clients? Behind every directive and specification is an actual human who will benefit from the attention to accommodations you make—someone whose day-to-day existence will be made exponentially easier when you take the time to give them the tools they need to navigate your property safely.

From a human standpoint we are dedicated to making sure the ADA compliance efforts you employ work well for the people they’re meant to help. This includes providing ample space for van parking and aisle access, as well as clearly marking areas and curb ramps to allow individuals to easily access their vehicles. We also reach beyond the legalities and into the practical aspects to ensure the accommodations you provide are right for your unique situation. Some properties may only need to consider the baseline ADA standards, while some—due to the demographics of their visitors/residents—may benefit from a more expanded offering of compliant spaces and features.

The Legal Factor

There’s a lot to contemplate and evaluate when it comes to assessing your properties, and if that doesn’t seem like enough on your plate, feel free to toss on the very real legal and financial ramifications of noncompliance. The 2010 ADA Guidelines are designed to assist all Americans with disabilities and their friends, families, and caregivers. Who do the guidelines apply to? Chances are, you’re on the list:

  • Private employers with 15 or more employees
  • Businesses operating for the benefit of the public
  • All state and local government agencies

In addition to the 2010 ADA guidelines, each state and municipality has the option to assign requirements above and beyond the federal recommendations. The state of California has an especially robust set of add-on requirements, and it takes a keen attention to detail to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. While ensuring your property is up to ADA standards may seem like a hassle, it is well worth the time and money. Fees for noncompliance are steep, sometimes just as much, if not more than the actual cost for the work to be performed. That doesn’t even include the legal fees that tend to coincide with those cases.

The Black Diamond Factor

All this information is a lot to take in, and it’s probably not doing much to set your mind at ease. But lest we begin to sound like we’re lecturing you from the backseat, allow us to share these three little words:

We’ve got this.

We have done hundreds of ADA projects and are very well versed in the ins and outs of ADA compliance requirements and how you can best meet them while still keeping your project on budget. We partner and work with several ADA compliance companies and are very familiar with translating their reports into reasonably priced proposals that encompass everything that is required to bring the exterior of your property, business, or homes to compliance.

This may have you wondering if your property has all it needs in place when it comes to ADA. Staying compliant is important to your business and important to the people who frequent your property. Give us a call, and we will be happy to assess your ADA needs and help map out a plan to ensure you keep compliant, now and for years to come.

Commercial Pain Points

How We Mitigate Project Management Migraines for Commercial Property Managers

Last month, we tackled the pain points that plague our HOA property manager friends and showed just how great we are at alleviating those paving project headaches. Commercial property managers, don’t fret—this month is all yours! While many of the pain points may seem similar at face value, we are very aware that the particular challenges of dealing with commercial tenants, business owners, and their customers can bring on a migraine all their own.

No need to reach for the aspirin bottle just yet. The cure can often be found by employing good practices in education, communication, and budgeting well before the major project is underway. Our Diamond Standard process was created with commercial properties and all their paving-related peculiarities in mind. It was designed, in fact, to keep the pressure off of YOU…a beautiful thing, indeed.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

Estimates Are the Bane of a Property Manager’s Existence.

The last time you put out a request for quotes on your paving project, did it feel like you somehow solicited a handful of wildly different documents? Did you end up looking at vastly different numbers and scopes of work? If you set them side by side and saw an orange, a grapefruit, and a kumquat, you are not alone.

Our Diamond Standard process cuts through all the citrus to give you one blessedly simple, standard pavement rating system. Designed by engineers, this system—called PASER—defines best practices based on pavement condition to ensure you get the right solution for your properties today, tomorrow, next year…even 20 years down the road. We even provide you with a copy of our findings, which allows you to verify the assessment and ratings for yourself. So take that citrus and make lemonade…you’ve earned it.

Knowledge Pays Dividends.

Forecasting Pavement Maintenance

About those estimates…. Pavement is an investment that invites all sorts of differing opinions—a fact which becomes even more obvious when you solicit quotes for your yearly budgeting purposes. Those wildly different documents we mentioned above are a very common issue—one which is definitely not much help when it comes to setting a realistic budget.

Our Diamond Standard process looks at each one of your properties and builds a forecast based on their pavement ratings and rate of deterioration. The result is an accurate projection of costs for 20+ years. We know from decades of experience that the march of pavement deterioration will keep on keeping on at a pretty predictable rate, and we deliver that information in a nice, neat package—basically a crystal ball showing you the critical information you need now and through 2040.

Bar chart showing the pavement life cycle; excellent at 0-5 years, Very Good at 5-7 years, Good at 7-15 years, Poor at 15-25 years, and Failed at 25-35 years
Setting up a Long Term Plan

Once you have the forecast in hand you can effectively advocate for a proactive approach with regards to your pavement maintenance. But what do you do if the property owners are content with basic patching and sealcoating while your tenants are becoming disgruntled with the unsightly surface? All those discolored and uneven patch jobs sure don’t help leasing potential, either.

Enter: more information and education. We provide objective data to owners and managers on the pavement lifecycle and how proactive maintenance can save an average of 35% over reactive maintenance. Who doesn’t like to save some big dollars while keeping things looking neat and welcoming? Best practice maintenance provides you, your tenants, and the property owners with a win/win scenario for years to come.

Chart showing the deterioration of pavement condition (y-axis) over time (x-axis) and how regular basic maintenance and repair keeps pavement in the good-to-fair range for up to 28 years; chart indicates each $2 of renovation cost while in the good-to-fair range will end up costing $6-$8 if delayed until pavement reaches poor condition

Money Makes the World Go ’Round.

Sigh. We know. It often comes right down to dollars and cents. And when you get estimates that ALL exceed your budget, it can lead to ALL sorts of headaches. Our cure is to build solutions for now that stay within your budget and get you on track for long-term savings. Even the tightest of budgets still have room for us to squeeze in and give you a plan that will make you smile. We also provide you with an accurate multi-year forecast that can be used for building funding into future reserves. Budget-induced headaches are a thing of the past.

It’s Time to Ditch the Soup Cans.

Sometimes, despite the advanced technological era we live in, it seems like communication hasn’t really evolved past a couple of tin cans and a string. When it comes to undertaking a paving project, this lack of connection can lead to all sorts of inconveniences, such as delays, poor traffic control, towed vehicles, irate tenants, and general chaos.

When you sign on for a paving project with Black Diamond, you’ll be pleased to find we communicate with excellence and style throughout the length of your project. From door hangers to detailed work plans and solid deadlines, we keep the lines of communication wide open and responsive. You will also have access to your project managers’ mobile numbers for any in-the-moment questions that might arise. Settle in, and be ready for your phone to NOT ring. It’s a beautiful thing, courtesy of our seamless project management and incredible, dedicated team.

Ready. Set. GO!

Throughout the nooks, crannies, cracks, and occasional puddles you face, we look forward to being your asphalt and concrete partner. Our team is dedicated and experienced in providing resources and support to you in ways big and small. We will go step by step with you through your pavement’s life cycle…and beyond!

HOA Pain Points

How We Relieve Paving Project Headaches for HOA Property Managers

Managing the property of a Homeowners Association comes with its fair share of responsibility and, occasionally, its share of frustration. Ensuring residents and board members are happy is often a balancing act between education, communication, and budgeting. When it comes time to undertake a major project, like asphalt or concrete maintenance, that balance can get tricky.

We’ve taken on many, many paving projects over the years and have worked with many, many HOA property managers. Not all of them came to us first (we understand—there’s a lot of competition out there), and the ones who have worked with other contractors tend to bring up the same major issues. We came to call these “pain points,” and used each conversation as a learning opportunity to devise a Diamond Standard process that takes as much of that pressure off of you as possible.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

Knowledge is Power.

Understanding the Pavement Life Cycle

Consider this situation: You’re getting complaints from community members that certain sections of pavement are failing, but half your board thinks it can wait another few years. Or perhaps they think the wrong maintenance solution has been used and are wary of spending more money. Perhaps you’ve received estimates from other paving contractors with wildly different suggestions about what’s wrong and how to fix it. Sound familiar?

Whether your surfaces are pristine or in disrepair, the pavement life cycle keeps on with its steady march. That’s why knowing what happens in the next stage is critical for good decision making. Our team can help you and your board members understand this cycle, so you can better anticipate the needs of your property and cut down on confusion and costly surprises.

Forecasting Pavement Maintenance

Another pain point we hear a lot? “My residents don’t understand why we have to budget so many dollars to a reserve fund when the roads look just fine.”

Understanding the pavement life cycle can help head off this concern, as well. Through our Diamond Standard process, we educate everyone on the rate of deterioration and the cost to maintain the roadways and parking areas. When they see clearly how much you stand to gain from proper maintenance (and, more importantly, how much you stand to LOSE without it), they’ll realize the importance of preventive versus reactive maintenance. Best-practice maintenance plans, presented with a healthy dose of experience and our unique ability to educate, mean you and your board will be well-positioned to make decisions for today and years to come.

Money Does Grow on Trees.

Okay, maybe that’s a stretch. But we HAVE learned there’s usually a solution to even the tightest of budgets. If you’ve ever solicited estimates for pavement maintenance just to find that your reserve funds are insufficient for the recommended repairs, you are definitely not alone. We hear this a lot—so much so, that we’ve not only devised a solution to help meet your available funds, but we also provide the data you need to replenish those funds for the future.

Oranges Aren’t Apples.

Speaking of soliciting estimates, taking bids for major projects like paving often results in a dazzling and confusing mix of information. Three proposals from three paving contractors could contain such wildly different approaches and scopes of work, you might wonder if they were even looking at the same property. It’s difficult to know how to proceed when you’re not sure everyone’s even speaking the same language.

Our Diamond Standard process uses a pavement rating system (PASER), developed by engineers, that clearly defines the condition of your pavement and suggests best-practice solutions, accordingly. It takes the oranges off the table entirely, so you have the information you need to make the best decisions for your property. Additionally, we provide you with a copy of our assessment that will allow you to verify the ratings yourself.

Communication is Priceless.

Think back to the last time your property had pavement maintenance done. Were the residents notified about when and where the work was to be done? Did cars have to be towed away? How many angry calls did you get from residents who were completely inconvenienced by the whole process?

You shouldn’t be put on the spot because the contractor you hired failed to consider residents’ daily routines or inform them of what to expect. It’s our job to take the biggest headache off your plate and deliver to you the smoothest project imaginable. When it comes to communication, we are a dream come true.

Our Diamond Standard process includes a comprehensive project plan that details work phases and completion dates and is easily accessed through an online portal. Not only that, but we make sure every home in the community gets an informative door hanger, and we also provide residents with the mobile contacts for project team members in case they have any on-the-spot questions or concerns. Our project management is seamless, time tested, and greatly valued by residents and decision makers, alike.

Ready. Set. GO!

Throughout the nooks, crannies, cracks, and occasional puddles you face, we look forward to being your asphalt and concrete partner. Our team is dedicated and experienced in providing resources and support to you in ways big and small. We will go step by step with you through your pavement’s life cycle…and beyond!

How to Win Friends and Influence People with Concrete Trivia

If you are an avid reader of our Love2Pave blog (and who isn’t?) you will have gathered that we tend to geek out when it comes to all things asphalt and concrete. It’s a fascinating field to be in, filled with new discoveries encompassing what is, essentially, very old and quite humble materials. We could talk about the story of concrete, for example, for days on end…but we will spare you and settle for the 25 cent tour.

The History of Concrete in a Nutshell

In its most basic form, concrete was used as far back as 1300 BC, when a crude slurry of burned limestone was applied to the outside walls of structures for fortifying and protection purposes. The methods became more sophisticated in the regions of Syria and Jordan around 700 BC when they discovered hydraulic lime (cement that hardens under water) could be used for housing, flooring, and waterproof cisterns. By 200 BC the ancient Romans were rocking the material in all sorts of ways with a mixture that included volcanic ash, lime, and seawater. 

But all good things must come to an end…which it did when the recipe was lost during the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD. Gone was our tragic hero concrete—not forever, but for a very long time (almost 1,000 years) until it was rediscovered in 1414. The rediscovery of the process for creating the material ushered in a new concrete boom, which took off with renewed vigor in 1793. This is when a guy named John Smeaton discovered an improved method for producing lime. Thanks, John! 

Now we skip ahead about 30 years to when Joseph Aspdin invented a substance you may have heard of: Portland cement. Portland cement is the powder produced by burning finely ground chalk and clay until all the carbon dioxide is removed. Heading into the 19th century, concrete was primarily used for industrial buildings before becoming more popular as a building material in homes. And it’s been smooth sailing from there, as concrete became central to the world around us with its integration into buildings, roads, bridges, dams…you name it. 

Concrete’s Key Ingredients

Concrete is made up of the simplest of ingredients, including about 10% cement, 20% air and water, 30% sand, and 40% gravel. All natural, baby. Mostly recycled. 100% good, clean, fun.

Tomato/Tamato. Concrete/Cement.

Speaking of ingredients…it’s pretty standard to hear the terms concrete and cement used interchangeably, but if you want to get technical about it (and we do), it should be noted that cement is just one part of the finished product that is concrete. Think of cement as the glue that holds it all together—a glue made from combining water with Portland cement.

Fun Concrete Vacation Destinations

Okay, we know concrete is quite captivating, but it may not be what the average fam plans a vacation around. Until, of course, you consider that you could go see these incredible tributes to our beloved building material: 

Pantheon, Rome

Built ca. 125 AD, this is the grandaddy of concrete structures and a testament to the material’s longevity…you do the math. See what happens with proper maintenance?

Hoover Dam

Tipping the scales at 6,600,000 tons, we’d say this is a lot of concrete to see. A whole lot of concrete.

Panama Canal

What’s not to love about 50+ miles of meandering concrete?

Willis Tower, Chicago

Built in 1973, Willis Tower held the record for the tallest building in the world until the late 90s. It may be heavy, but concrete sure can soar to great heights.

More Concrete Miscellany

  • The first concrete road was built in 1909 in Detroit and was one mile long.
  • When heated to 1000℉, concrete decomposes into molten lava. Pro Tip: Do NOT try this at home.
  • Thomas Edison wasn’t just about the lightbulb; he also had 49 concrete patents.
  • Concrete is the #1 man-made material on earth.

There you have it! You never know when a casual social situation is going to demand a few concrete fun facts. We have you covered, and you may now consider yourself the life of the party. When the concrete talk starts, people flock. Let us know if we can answer any more questions about this marvelously versatile and strong material—we love to talk concrete! 

The Benefits of Concrete Reach New Depths

Can Concrete Save Our Coral Reefs?

The life cycle of concrete is a spectacular one. From its humble beginnings as mere gravel, sand, and cement it is transformed into expanses of surface area as far as the eye can see and looming skyscrapers as high as the eye can see. Inevitably, however, what goes up, must come down. And what is laid down, must come up. Sometimes that means going way down…even below the surface of the sea.

As concrete reaches the end of its life as a building or surface material, it is routinely recycled. There are many mundane, but quite worthy, reuses. Often, used concrete is ground down and sorted to be reused in new projects, permeable foundations, and similarly practical applications. It’s all very predictable and responsible and goes a long way toward reducing waste in landfills.

However—as is typical in the world of concrete—there exists a more exciting and innovative way to reuse concrete. And it involves schools of tropical fish, colorful crustaceans, and sprawling coral.

As the ocean faces various crises waged against its often fragile ecosystem, the marine community has made various attempts to aid the coral reefs. This has included the sinking of huge masses of that which can be sunk, including decommissioned ships, thousands of tires, old cars, pvc pipe, and even train cars. Some of these endeavors have been successful; for instance, the steel ships tend to acclimate well to their new ocean life, providing a safe harbor for all sorts of oceanic life. Others have been abject failures, such as the tires which proved not only to release toxins, but were also too lightweight to stay put.

You may not be surprised to learn that recycled concrete has emerged as a clear winner in supporting ocean life. Thanks to its simple, clean ingredients it nicely mimics the natural limestone qualities of coral and allows and encourages regrowth on its craggy surfaces. The weight of the concrete means it settles in and stays secure despite the constant movement that surrounds it. And the varying sizes and shapes of concrete chunks deposited on the ocean floor provide new dwellings for a multitude of ocean life. Flora and fauna that prefer to nestle down in tiny spaces and those who live more freely, closer to the surface, all find a comfy spot.

Constructing an artificial reef with concrete is a big undertaking, involving careful screening and cleaning of the material and much research on optimal placement of each chunk. When those details align, the pieces are loaded upon a barge that includes machinery for getting the heavy pieces offloaded and dropped into place. Once gravity has its way and the pieces have settled in, they are checked periodically by marine scientists to ensure the new habitat thrives.

A huge bonus to these concrete reefs is this: Small seedlings of coral can be grown on concrete in labs and then transferred to the underwater concrete landscape. This helps repopulate the coral and could help regrow our lost coral reefs. This is great news for our oceans—where coral lives and grows, so does rich, biodiverse marine life.

At Black Diamond Paving & Concrete, we prefer to do our concrete work without a wetsuit and diving tank. But we do love working with such fascinating materials that serve to enhance and better our environment for years to come. When solid materials meet innovation, the sky (or the ocean floor) is the limit.