Cement vs Concrete: The Difference Between These Materials
The first time I ever worked with concrete was when I was about 13 years old. My Dad was in the process of building his much needed workshop in the back of our property. It was a 36×48 pole building, which needed a concrete floor.
For me it was a crash course in learning how to work with concrete. My dad figured since the concrete truck was going to be at the house, we might as well pour some new sidewalks while we’re at it.
So that’s what we did. My job was to frame and pour a new sidewalk that led up to our front entry way. Fortunately, I was paired up with someone that knew what they were doing, which made it a great learning opportunity.
The one thing that always stuck with me about that day though was being corrected when referring to concrete as cement.
Did you even know there was a difference? I sure didn’t. I used the two terms, concrete and cement, interchangeably all the time. And to be totally honest, even as an adult all these years later, I still find myself using them interchangeably.
But I’m here to tell you…they’re not the same thing! As a matter of fact, they’re about the same as milk and whipped cream.
Sound crazy? Keep reading and I’ll explain exactly what that difference is between concrete and cement.
How Concrete and Cement Are Used
Concrete in one of the most versatile building materials available. It’s used in all different types of ways imaginable. It’s used to build driveways, foundations, streets, fire pits, decorative walkways and even concrete countertops.
But aren’t all of these things I just listed made out of cement? Isn’t cement just as versatile? What’s the difference between cement and concrete?
Are Concrete And Cement The Same Thing?
I mentioned earlier that concrete and cement are similar to each other in the same kind of way that milk and whipped cream are. So, what do I mean by that?
Well, whipped cream contains milk, but whipped cream is not milk. And just because whipped cream contains milk does not mean that milk is whipped cream! See where I’m going with this?
Concrete is like the whipped cream. No, it’s not delicious and good to eat…but concrete is a material that contains cement. Just like our whipped cream contains milk. But concrete is not cement…it only contains cement. Cement is the major ingredient in concrete. It’s the glue that holds everything together.
Concrete Vs Cement
So if concrete is made out of cement, then what is cement? Here’s how the two different materials are defined in the English dictionary.
Concrete is a heavy, rough building material made from a mixture of broken stone or gravel, sand, cement, and water that can be spread or poured into molds and that forms a stone-like mass on hardening.
Cement is a powdery substance made with calcined lime and clay. It is mixed with water to form mortar or mixed with sand, gravel, and water to make concrete.
Which Is Stronger Concrete Or Cement?
Concrete is made of approximately 10 to 15 percent of the cement paste (lime and clay). The rest of the concrete mix is made up of gravel, sand and small stones. The cement “paste” is what holds all of the aggregate materials together making it incredibly strong and long lasting.
Now if we take a look at the definitions of concrete vs cement, we can see that concrete is stronger than cement alone. But why is concrete stronger than cement? Because cement is simply the paste, or glue that holds the concrete together.
Can You Use Cement Alone?
But what if we were to use just cement all by itself? Would it be strong enough for what we need it for? Would it last? The answer is simply, no. If you were to use only cement, it would be prone to cracking and breaking. Cement alone does not provide the strength on its own to hold together under stress.
This is why the concrete aggregates are added to the cement mixture. It’s the combination of all these other aggregates being “glued” together through a process called hydration with cement that creates the incredibly strong and versatile material we know as concrete.
Now next time you’re drilling into concrete, you’ll understand why it’s so stinking hard!
So next time you’re pouring a new driveway or slab for a shed, you know to refer to your project as pouring a concrete driveway, or pouring a concrete slab.
Even though many of our friends and neighbors use concrete and cement interchangeably, you can be a confident and clever homeowner now that you know there is in deed a major difference!
I’m interested in your thoughts about this topic of using concrete vs cement. Have you been corrected? Or are you the one out there correcting others? Leave a comment below and tell us about it.