Have you ever tackled a big DIY home project? Maybe you’ve poured a foundation for a shop, installed new countertops, or set posts for a new fence. If so, chances are that along the way, your project led you to your local big-box store to grab supplies. As you stared at the bags of paper-wrapped building materials, you may have wondered whether you needed concrete or cement to complete your project. Is there a difference between the two materials or are they interchangeable?
It’s not surprising that most people use the terms “concrete” and “cement” interchangeably. While both materials are widely used in the construction and DIY industries, they are quite different from one another.
Concrete is typically referred to as a composite material because it consists of water, aggregate, and cement. Sand, crushed stone, and rock make up the aggregate substance.
You’ll find concrete just about everywhere, as it can last for hundreds of years under the right conditions. Today, we frequently use it for larger projects such as building bridges, laying sidewalks, and pouring foundations for a home. Contractors can create molds that form concrete into the desired shape, like a new walkway or a set of steps. It can be used in a variety of weather conditions ranging from extreme cold to consistently heavy rain. Special binding agents can also be added to the mixture to give it extra strength and durability. Some variations of concrete will cure or harden in mere hours as opposed to days, which comes in handy when time is of the essence.
Cement, on the other hand, is an adhesive or binding agent that contains limestone, silicone, clay, and iron. These ingredients are superheated to a temperature of about 2,700° in large, industrial kilns. When the material is removed from the kiln, it is broken up into a powder and gypsum is added, giving cement its familiar grayish color. Once water is added, it creates a paste that hardens fairly quickly.
Portland cement is the most common and widely used form of cement. As it is a hydraulic cement, it can even harden underwater and provide strength in the wettest of conditions. It’s common to see cement in blends of concrete, stuccos, and mortar. Cement is generally the go-to material for smaller-sized projects such as grout or repairing cracks in concrete surfaces.
The next time you find yourself faced with a home improvement or repair project that requires concrete or cement, you’ll know which is appropriate for the job. If you need help, or have questions, contact G-CAT Construction. We’ll help you choose the best product for your specific needs.