What Is Concrete Made Of?

While many people believe that concrete and cement are the same thing, they’re actually quite different. Cement is one of the parts of concrete. Concrete components include water, aggregate (e.g., rock, sand or gravel) and Portland cement. This cement usually comes in the form of a powder and plays the role of binding agent when it’s mixed with aggregate and water. This mix is then poured and hardened into durable concrete.

If you’re considering a concrete project, like a patio, driveway or walkway, then read on to find out about this material.

Concrete components

As mentioned, concrete includes Portland cement, aggregates and water. When the cement is combined with water, it forms a paste; this coats the aggregate and sand included in the mix. Water is necessary to create a chemical reaction with the cement and make the concrete workable.

Establishing the right water to cement ratio is necessary to determine how strong and how permeable the final product will be. The lower the ratio of water to cement, the stronger the concrete will be. In most mixes, sand is used as a fine aggregate, while crushed stone or gravel are used as coarse aggregates.

Concrete properties

It’s critical that the concrete is workable; in other words, it must be able to be placed and consolidated properly. Concrete should also be resistant to freezing and thawing. The last thing you want is for your new concrete surface to be susceptible to cracks or other damage.

Reducing the amount of water in the concrete will lower the overall cost. That’s why contractors use the stiffest mix possible and try to obtain the ideal ratio of fine to coarse aggregate. They also attempt to use the largest size aggregate that’s practical for the project. You should always discuss your goals with the concrete contractor so that the mix is right.

Concrete admixtures

These are added to the concrete mix to accomplish various goals. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones:

  • Fly ash: This is a byproduct of a coal-burning plant and can replace up to 30 percent of the cement in a mix. Fly ash is used to lower costs while providing better workability and reducing the heat the concrete generates.
  • Accelerating admixtures: These are used to limit the concrete’s setting time and improve its early strength. Calcium chloride is a common, low-cost accelerator; however, non-chloride accelerators may be necessary to guard against corrosion.
  • Retarding admixtures: These are typically used in hot-weather conditions in an effort to slow down setting time. They may also be used in more difficult jobs to accommodate special finishing while also acting as a water reducer.

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