Many people mistakenly refer to concrete steps or slabs as cement, but they are not the same thing. Using cement when the project calls for concrete can leave you wondering where you went wrong. Before you begin a DIY project for your home or yard, make sure you understand the difference between the two and how to use them properly.
What is cement?
Cement is a fine powder made up of a mixture of minerals including limestone, shale, shells, calcium, and silicon. It is made by combining these ingredients and exposing them to high heat to form solid balls called clinker. Once cooled, the balls of clinker are ground to a fine powder known as cement. According to the Portland Cement Association (PCA) cement is ground so finely that one pound of cement powder contains 150 billion particles.
What do you use cement for?
When mixed with water, cement becomes a binding agent that is used in concrete and other products. It can also be used to make hypertufa pots and troughs for container or rock gardens. It may be used as mortar in brick or stone projects or in decorative art for the home or garden. Cement does not produce a durable product able to support weight or withstand weather on its own. It can be purchased in bags at home improvement centers or in hardware stores.
What is concrete?
When cement is mixed with water and aggregates, such as sand, gravel and stones, it hardens to a durable product called concrete. Concrete is considered the backbone of many construction and engineering projects.
What are the advantages of concrete?
Concrete is able to support weight and does not break or crack under pressure like cement does. Concrete does require supports, such as rebar or mesh, to give it its superior strength.
Where is concrete used?
Concrete is used in nearly all building and construction projects. Your home's foundation is likely made of concrete. It is also used to build patios and decks, create walkways and driveways, and to create sidewalks. Concrete floors are common in garages and workshops. It may also be used to create walls, such as basement walls.
Can you make your own concrete?
Yes. If you are completing a small project and need concrete, you can purchase a bag of cement and mix it in a wheelbarrow to make your own concrete. According to the University of Illinois' Department of Materials Science and Engineering, there are several ratios used to mix concrete, but a rule of thumb is one-part cement, two-parts sand and three-parts gravel mixed with enough water to make the concrete workable. You can also buy bags of pre-mixed concrete that only need water to make concrete. Follow the instructions on the bag for adding the correct amount of water for you project. If you intend to complete a small project, such as a few stepping stones, making your own concrete from either cement and sand and gravel, or from pre-mixed concrete, is any easy solution.
What do you do if you need large amounts of concrete?
If you are putting in a foundation or redoing your driveway or patio, mixing your own cement may not be practical. Hiring a professional contractor to pour or pump the cement into the foundation may be necessary. These professionals have the experience and expertise to lay your foundation or floor and know how to get the job done without the hassles of concrete that dries to quickly or too slowly. This method is also the most economical way to get the job done.
Knowing the difference between cement and concrete and how they are used will save your headaches when you attempt DIY projects around the home. If you need concrete for a project, contact a company like Masterlink Concrete Pumping.