A no-nonsense guide on the difference between two building materials

While people often use the terms concrete and cement interchangeably, they’re actually quite different from one another. In fact, the two materials don’t have much in common when it comes to how they’re used. In this article, we’ll explain what these two materials are, what makes them different, and how they’re used.

Things You Should Know

  • Cement is an adhesive that binds extremely strongly, but doesn’t make a suitable building material on its own.
  • Concrete is a combination of cement, water, and small stones. It’s a key building material you’ll find almost everywhere.
  • Concrete is much stronger and more durable than cement—cement on its own won’t last long.
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What is concrete?

  1. Construction aggregate refers to coarse and medium-grained materials. In the case of concrete, that means crushed stone, sand, or gravel. All of those materials are tossed and mixed together, and you end up with concrete.[2]
    • There are three main types of cement:
      • Portland cement: This is “traditional” cement. It dries quickly, is adhesive, and can be mixed to make concrete.
      • Portland cement blends: Portland blends may be made with fly ash, pozzolan, or gypsum. It tends to be easier to use on its own than regular Portland cement.
      • Hydraulic cement: Made with alite, belite, celite, and brownmillerite, this stuff hardens super fast and is mostly waterproof.
Section 3 of 5:

Key Differences

  1. Cement is a key ingredient in concrete, and the average batch of concrete is typically 15% cement. Cement on its own doesn’t really have many applications. It dries too quickly, and while it’s a great adhesive, it isn’t nearly as strong as concrete.[3]
    • When you look at a bridge, patio, sidewalk, or dam, you’re looking at concrete.
    • You might occasionally see handymen use cement for smaller jobs where they need to seal or glue something, but it’s never used for larger projects.
    • A building made entirely of cement would crumble to pieces quickly. Concrete buildings can last hundreds of years, though!
    • Picture the difference between milk and ice cream. Ice cream can’t exist without milk, but you’d never put whipped cream on some 2% and serve it as dessert!
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Concrete Uses

  1. Due to its extreme durability and cheap cost, concrete is the penultimate construction material around. Foundations, bridges, fences, driveways, sidewalks, buildings, and more—all of it is often made exclusively with concrete. It’s versatile, sturdy, and very easy to work with, so it’s hard imagining anything else taking its crown any time soon.[5]
    • There are 16 different variations of concrete, but normal concrete, plain concrete, and lightweight concrete are the most common. Basically, it boils down to the ratio of cement, water, and stone.
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Community Q&A

  • Question
    When is primer before paint necessary?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    Primer's role in wall painting is multifaceted, promoting adhesion, sealing surfaces, blocking stains, and enhancing paint durability.
  • Question
    What are some tips for interior painting services?
    Birla White Cement
    Birla White Cement
    Community Answer
    When considering interior painting services, remember the importance of using a primer. Primers play a crucial role in ensuring a successful paint job. They enhance adhesion, cover imperfections, and improve paint durability. For optimal results, assess your walls' condition – if you notice flakiness, peeling, cracks, or uneven textures, investing in a high-quality primer can create a smooth surface, enhancing both appearance and longevity.

Expert Interview

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About This Article

Sina Kamran
Co-authored by:
Hardscape Specialist
This article was co-authored by Sina Kamran and by wikiHow staff writer, Eric McClure. Sina Kamran is a Hardscaping Specialist and the Owner of Design Scapes, Inc. in Santa Monica, California. With over 15 years of experience, he specializes in customized, site-specific hardscaping and landscaping design/build projects. He's a certified National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) designer, a certified installer with the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI), and a Rain Bird Certified Irrigation Professional. Additionally, Design Scapes, Inc. has many 5-star rated reviews. This article has been viewed 8,839 times.
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Co-authors: 5
Updated: July 21, 2023
Views: 8,839
Categories: Home and Garden