Though you may have used the two words interchangeably, cement and concrete are not the same. But they are related. Cement is one of the ingredients used to make concrete. This drastically affects the two substances’ durability, manufacturing process, and what you call what you’re pouring onto your driveway from the mixer.
Cement is a binder that sets and hardens. It binds other materials together and is an effective construction material.
Cement has a long history; the earliest forms of cement can be seen as early as 6500 BC. Before the fall of the Roman Empire, cement technology was making great strides. But it wasn’t until 1824 that cement started looking more like what we know today.
Created by Joseph Aspdin in England and refined by his son William in 1843, the original Portland cement is a far cry from today’s brew of chemicals and stone. Aspdin initially used burnt clay and chalk. Nowadays, manufacturers make cement to precise standards, with limestone and silica heated in a kiln. The resulting clinker is pounded into a fine powder and mixed with gypsum or limestone.
Asphalt cement is most commonly used for roads and airport runways. Unlike Portland cement, asphalt is a crude petroleum byproduct, giving it the black color. It is generally more durable than Portland cement. You can also recycle 100% of asphalt.
Concrete, also called a cement mix, contains three ingredients: water, an aggregate, and Portland cement. The most common aggregates used in concrete are sand, gravel, or stone. Aggregate mix manufacturers go to great lengths to assess aggregate. Even the shape of the aggregate can affect the concrete’s durability, skid resistance, and moisture.
The cement, which is in powder form, binds the aggregate together when you mix it with water. A concrete finisher then pours the mix, and it hardens fully within 28 days — although it mostly sets within a few days of the pour.
Compared to cement, concrete is a much stronger material due to the aggregate. It is also incredibly cheap. Because it is strong and inexpensive, it is used widely in construction projects, from simple stepping stones to foundations, to skyscrapers.
Final Verdict: Cement and Concrete are Not the Same Things
Now you know the difference between cement and concrete and can correct all your friends as you drive through highway construction. And if you have a hard time remembering what the difference is, cement the facts in your mind, and your knowledge shall be concrete.