Concrete, and terms associated with it such as asphalt and cement, get mixed up quite often. Cement refers to a solution of water and an extremely fine powder, usually composed primarily of crushed limestone, that becomes an extremely strong bonding material when it dries. Concrete is the combination of that solution, cement, and rock aggregate or gravel, which makes it look chunky in comparison. Now think of driving down a paved city street. The roads surface also contains the same kind of rock aggregate, but instead of cement, it's held together by a thick tar-like substance made from petroleum, which is called asphalt. While asphalt is used pretty much exclusively to make roads and shingles, concrete and cement are used extensively in many kinds of building projects. Why concrete is a great building material Due to the fact that concrete is very dense, it has a few significant benefits as a building material. First, because it basically just a mixture of rocks and sand, its fireproof. It also has excellent insulative properties, so a home with concrete walls will hold its temperature better than many other materials. Concrete is a great way to contribute to a plan for an energy efficient home, and the owner of such a home will enjoy the government rebates and lower utility costs associated with it. Concrete also has interesting properties with regards to how well it carries sound. If, for example, you were to drop a billiard ball on a bare concrete floor, that type of direct, forceful contact will reverberate through it quite easily, which could cause annoyance to anybody sitting in the room below. If you were to cover that same floor with some kind of dampening material, like carpet, it becomes much more difficult for sound waves to transmit through the concrete. In an apartment building with concrete floors, you might hear the upstairs neighbor blasting their stereo if the speakers are sitting directly on the floor. If that hypothetical neighbor were to put some pieces of foam under those speakers, the sound in the unit below would lessen significantly and likely be unable to be heard altogether. Concrete in modern homes When you're at your next party and the subject of concrete inevitably arises, the conversation will likely highlight its impressive utility as a building material. After all, you can't help but see concrete almost everywhere you go. Aside from its use in roads, sidewalks, steps, driveways, skyscrapers, and the foundations of almost every modern structure, concrete is also used to make some of the most beautiful ultra-modern homes you'll ever lay eyes on. Due to the fact that it can be molded into any shape (within reason) and reinforced, the design potential of concrete is enormous. It's used quite commonly for simple and elegant outdoor features like fountains and seating areas, but its also finding its way into homes as things like countertops and bars, tables, bathtubs and sinks. On its own, a concrete room can seem cold and bare, but once that stark grey is offset by say, a hardwood floor and maybe a nice rug, some sleek furniture, and a bit of color in the form of plants, artwork, and other decor, concrete starts to lose that icy feel and becomes stylish, even futuristic.