Concrete vs cement: What is the difference?

Concrete vs cement: What is the difference?

Concrete is one of the most commonly used materials in the construction industry, so putting together the right mix for a particular purpose is a skill that requires considerable experience and knowledge.

When talking on the subject, many people use the terms ‘concrete’ and ‘cement’ almost interchangeably, which is incorrect. If you’re not familiar with the terminology or the make-up of concrete, then that’s a perfectly understandable mistake to make. However, it’s worth knowing the difference if you need to order concrete – otherwise it might lead to some confusion!

If you’re not sure of the difference between concrete and cement, then the team at Stewart Brothers Concrete is on hand to give you all the information you need.

cement vs concrete in a wheelbarrow

What is the difference between concrete and cement?

The difference between concrete and cement is that standard concrete is a combination of mixing cement, aggregates (such as sand and gravel) and water together. Cement is the ingredient that is used to bind all the other ingredients in concrete together. The hydration of cement produces calcium silicate which causes the ingredients in the mix to bind and harden. 

Confusion between the two possibly arises because it’s the cement that sets and hardens when combined with water. However, it’s the addition of the aggregates that gives concrete its real strength and durability and makes it such a common and useful feature in construction.

So, if cement is only one element in the overall make-up of concrete, what is it and what is it made of? 

Cement is a fine powder comprising elements that include silicon, calcium, iron, magnesium and gypsum. It is usually derived from materials such as limestone, clay, chalk and more. These are ground together to make the powder used in the manufacture of concrete.

Is concrete just cement and sand?

Sand is an aggregate commonly found in concrete, but you will also need gravel and crushed stone. Whatever the combination of aggregates you are using, they need to be mixed with cement and water to make your finished concrete. 

Different combinations of aggregates give concrete different qualities, attributes, strengths and effects that make it suitable for a wide range of applications.

For example, concrete made predominantly of fine aggregates, such as sand, is likely to give you a smoother finish than concrete with more coarse aggregates. It’s also easier to work with if you want to precisely form it into a shape and there will be fewer voids in the concrete as it sets and hardens.

On the other hand, using coarser aggregates in the mix will increase the compressive strength. You can also reinforce the mix with additives such as fibres to add tensile strength. This makes it more suitable for large construction jobs where strength and durability are so important.

Being able to finely adjust the ingredients of concrete to obtain different qualities and make it so useful in such a wide variety of applications is just one of the many reasons why it is the second most used resource in the world after water.

Can cement just be used on its own?

Cement can be used on its own when combined with water, but you won’t be able to use it for anything other than filling in cracks, surface repairs or other minor jobs. This is because it doesn’t have the necessary strength for larger projects, plus it can also be prone to cracking and general structural failure.

To understand the nature and role of cement, try to think of it as construction’s flour. You wouldn’t often use it on its own as it has very few uses – even when mixed with water – but add other ingredients with the right qualities and you can use it to make bread, cakes, pastry and biscuits.

Whatever the nature of your project, you can count on the team at Stewart Brothers Concrete to provide the perfect concrete mix, delivered at the right time and at the right price every time. 

With over 35 years of experience in the concrete business, we’re your local experts in and around Ashford in Kent offering high-quality concrete delivered with exceptional service.

Call us now to order the ready-mix concrete you need for your next project.

Call us today on 0123 321 5753 for more information or assistance

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