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Cost Effectiveness in Locally Sourced Aggregates and Why Desert Sand is Useless

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Great Lakes region, which includes Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio, is an area rich in quality natural aggregates. Indiana is home to some of the best limestone yields in the country. Southern Michigan has plenty of quality sand, and Northern Michigan as well as Northern Wisconsin produce the finest granite. In Ohio, one can find beautiful silicon sand for dressing golf course bunkers to a tee. We’re fortunate in the road construction industry that solid, quality construction aggregates are readily available in close proximity. This saves money and time when it comes to cartage and logistics.

Photo of a small limestone quarry located in Indiana
Photo of a small limestone quarry located in Indiana
Granite Quarry Northern Wisconsin
Granite Quarry Northern Wisconsin

While traveling, I find it interesting to examine various other construction material aggregates used in particular areas. Sometimes it’s as simple as looking at the colors of stones used in the top layer of asphalt. Here you generally find the smaller more finer screened aggregates. One can get general ideas about the aggregates used in road construction. If the stones tend to be white or gray, limestone most likely is available at a reasonable cost to cart in that area. On a recent rip to Utah, I noticed the road and asphalt with red dust and red stones. After a bit of research, I learned that they do have limestone available near the Wasatch Mountain range, but they also use a lot of red granite because it is readily available at lower altitudes.

Red granite used in top layer of asphalt- Utah desert | Red Granite Deliveries
Red granite used in top layer of asphalt- Utah desert

To those in the Great Lakes region, where red granite is also available, it would not be cost effective to use it in asphalt as it isn’t as plentiful as limestone. The cost of cartage to truck the material around in the Great Lakes would be too great, making red granite a poor choice for construction material in general usage such as asphalt for parking lots and roads.

Sand quality can also vary by geographic location. As mentioned, the state of Michigan, situated in the center of the Great Lakes, is a huge deposit of fantastic quality sand that can be used in a multitude of applications from concrete production to top dressing sports fields and golf courses.

Typical Michigan Sand Pit- also produces Pea Gravel and River Rock that have decorative landscape applications
Typical Michigan Sand Pit- also produces Pea Gravel and River Rock that have decorative landscape applications

The quality of Michigan sand is unparalleled because it was deposited by water when the Great Lakes region thawed after the last ice age. The ice and water receded leaving coarse river rock, pea gravel that have various applications from decorative landscape design to filter packs for dewatering. This process of melt and recede also left behind a beautiful coarse sand that provide the strength necessary to bind concrete for sidewalks, drives ways, home and building foundations. This sand can be screened for finer sands used in masonry.

Given that the desert is full of sand, one would think that Utah would be able to truck plenty of it cost effectively. That’s not the case. Desert sand is not suitable for concrete mixtures; it is wind swept across rugged terrain and broken down. It is not coarse enough to bind together cement and water in way that would provide durability. In desert areas, such as Utah, sand mixes that contain broken down granites are used. The red color of the granite sand is not easily visible in a solidified concrete mix.

Purchase Aggregate for Your Construction Project

Shoreline Aggregate has the state approved crushed limestone you need for your next construction project. Every product we sell adheres to the highest industry standards and will help make your project a success. We have a wide variety of limestone products that can be used for a variety of purposes. Purchase crushed limestone for your next project today. With our excellent products, you also get convenient delivery, competitive pricing and superior customer service. Contact us for a free sample or quote. Shoreline—building things that matter.

Wasatch Mountain Range in Eastern Utah.

Photo is of red granite that has been broken down by water flow over thousands of years. Here it trapped other pieces of aggregates as it ran down and dried quickly in the arid climate. This material is used in concrete mixes as it is coarser than desert sand.