What’s the Difference Between Cement and Concrete?

There are many people who use the words “cement” and “concrete” interchangeably. However, these are two different materials, so when you’re talking to a contractor about a project, it’s important to understand the difference so you don’t cause a mix-up that leads to an unsatisfactory result.

The primary difference between cement and concrete is that cement is a binding agent, while concrete is a building material (that actually features cement as one of its main components). Here’s a quick look at what you should know about these materials before taking on a project that includes cement and/or concrete.

All about cement

Cement is a type of binding material used as an adhesive to connect certain types of building materials. The most common types of cement are asphalt and Portland cement.

Portland cement is a crucial ingredient in concrete, and is what most people think of when they use the term “cement.” It comes in a couple forms: either a dry powder that needs water to be added, or a mortar that hardens when applied to other materials.

Components of Portland cement include limestone, iron ore, clay or sand and bauxite, and may also include slate, shells, chalk, shale or other materials. All of these parts get thoroughly mixed and then heated in a plant to form clinker, which then gets crushed into powder that gets mixed with water to create a paste.

All about concrete

Concrete is a long-lasting, tough building material used in a wide range of applications. Cement is one of four primary concrete components, the others being water, sand and stone.

The amount of water used in a concrete mixture helps determine its strength—less water means greater strength. This is because the water put into concrete activates the cement, which then serves as the binding agent. All of the aggregates found in concrete mix are held together by cement, and the greater presence of larger aggregates indicates a higher strength.

As you might guess, not all concrete is created equal. The various qualities of the mix will give the resulting concrete installation different qualities.

While you might be tempted to minimize the water to create a stronger resulting concrete, you also have to be careful not to create a concrete that’s so dry that it’s simply unworkable.

Depending on the application, you may also need concrete that achieves certain standards or specifications once it’s fully hardened. Concrete is a common element of paving and building projects because it is so durable, thanks to its resistance to the elements and its general ability to withstand regular wear and tear. It can only achieve these properties, however, if properly mixed, so contractors must pay close attention during the process to the mix design they’re using.

Need to know more about the differences between concrete and cement for an upcoming project? We encourage you to contact our team at Bri-Mic Construction, Inc. with any questions you have about the services we offer our clients. We look forward to working with you!