How to Tell the Difference Between Cement and Concrete

December 13, 2021 5:10 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

There are many people who mistakenly use the terms cement and concrete interchangeably; however, these are actually two different types of materials.

If you’ve ever wondered how to tell the difference between cement and concrete, here’s the short version: Concrete is a mixture of pastes and aggregates, and cement is one of the ingredients used to make concrete.

Here’s a more in-depth look at cement vs. concrete to help you better understand the differences between these two materials. These details should help you determine what you need to buy for your particular project.

What to know about concrete

The basic definition of concrete is a mixture of paste and aggregates (sand and rock). The paste features cement and water and is used to cover the surface of these aggregates and bind them together in a single hard mass that is strong and versatile.

Concrete can be molded or formed into any shape desired while it is newly mixed. Once it hardens, it becomes strong and durable, capable of lasting for many years. It’s widely used in both buildings and infrastructure for this very reason.

For concrete to achieve maximum strength and durability, the ingredients must be properly proportioned and mixed. Concrete that does not have enough cement-water paste to cover the aggregates and fill all the voids between them will be difficult to lay down and will result in a rough, porous surface that is susceptible to moisture and damage. However, if there is too much cement paste in the concrete, the concrete will be more likely to crack and will need more maintenance and repair work over its lifespan.

In general, concrete mixtures will need about 10 to 15 percent cement, 60 to 75 percent aggregates and 15 to 20 percent water, though air bubbles will likely take up some portion of the mixture as well.

Portland cement, when mixed with water, creates the binding agent that holds the concrete together. The chemical process of hydration causes the paste to harden and gain strength. The strength of that paste is primarily influenced by the ratio of water to cement. The highest quality concrete usually results from lowering the ratio of water to cement as much as possible while still giving the concrete sufficient workability. When there is less water in place, the concrete will be stronger and of higher quality, so long as it is able to be properly placed and cured.

When talking about cement vs. concrete, remember that cement is actually a component of concrete—they’re not the same thing, and they’re not alternatives to accomplish the same thing. You may need to purchase cement if you intend to mix your own concrete for a small paving job, but when you’re standing on top of a sidewalk or patio, you’re standing on top of concrete.

Need some more instruction about these differences and what you should know about how to tell the difference between cement and concrete? Contact us today at Kwiatkowski Construction Co., Inc. with any questions you have for us.

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