Construction aggregate, or simply "aggregate", is a broad category of coarse particulate material used in construction, including sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag, recycled concrete and geosynthetic aggregates. Aggregates are a component of composite materials such as concrete and asphalt concrete; the aggregate serves as reinforcement to add strength to the overall composite material. Due to the relatively high hydraulic conductivity value as compared to most soils, aggregates are widely used in drainage applications such as foundation and french drains, septic drain fields, retaining wall drains, and road side edge drains. Aggregates are also used as base material under foundations, roads, and railroads. To put it another way, aggregates are used as a stable foundation or road/rail base with predictable, uniform properties (e.g. to help prevent differential settling under the road or building), or as a low-cost extender that binds with more expensive cement or asphalt to form concrete.
The American Society for Testing and Materials publishes an exhaustive listing of specifications for various construction aggregate products, which, by their individual design, are suitable for specific construction purposes. These products include specific types of coarse and fine aggregate designed for such uses as additives to asphalt and concrete mixes, as well as other construction uses. State transportation departments further refine aggregate material specifications in order to tailor aggregate use to the needs and available supply in their particular locations.
Sources for these basic materials can be grouped into three main areas: Mining of mineral aggregate deposits, including sand, gravel, and stone; use of waste slag from the manufacture of iron and steel; and recycling of concrete, which is itself chiefly manufactured from mineral aggregates. In addition, there are some (minor) materials that are used as specialty lightweight aggregates: clay, pumice, perlite, and vermiculite.