What Is Concrete?

Man discovered that the earth contains valuable substances like iron, nickel and aluminum, but concrete had to be invented. Over time, man learned that if we mixed a certain type of rock and cement (a component of concrete), we have a substance that could be formed and molded to a rock hard consistency when dry.

The Difference between Concrete and Cement

Some people believe that concrete and cement are two words used to describe the same thing, but they are actually very different materials. Cement is an ingredient in concrete make from limestone, shales, and clays. Concrete is the final result after aggregate, cement and water have been combined. A concrete contractor chooses not to use pure cement to build structures because cement is a very expensive substance and is not as strong as concrete.

Contrary to popular belief, what is called a “cement mixer” is actually a “concrete mixer” because it is mixing the components of concrete, and cement is only one part of it.

What Is Cement?

Cement is very commonly believed to be concrete, so it is necessary to distinguish between these two materials. Cement is a substance that a foundation contractor can use to bind one element to another. This means that cement is just another word for “glue.” This also means that different combinations of substances can be considered to be cement, and they have different names based on how they are used.

For example, a paving contractor uses cement that is made of a petroleum byproduct to create “asphalt concrete.” Asphalt concrete (black top) binds rock to the other elements contractors use to make concrete for roads, and that is how they create the pavement that we drive on every day.

What Is Portland Cement?

Contractors use Portland cement in many important structures, including bridges, dams and roads. This particular cement is comprised of lime, silica, alumina and iron oxides, and these materials glue the rock substances also know as aggregate together after water is added. While it is in a liquid state, it can be molded into any structure or shape that the contractor needs. Once the substance hardens, it becomes the familiar material that we are used to seeing called concrete.

Creating a Stronger Version of Concrete

Engineers can determine how strong they need their finished products to be and create concrete that corresponds to this strength. It all depends on how much water and cement are used to mix the materials that create the concrete. For example, if an engineer needs the structure to be very strong, they will decide to have a very low water-to-cement ratio. This makes the concrete less pliable, but it is necessary to have the right kind of concrete for a particular building.

Making Concrete Even Stronger

If a contractor is creating a very large building, the concrete will have a tendency to crack. That is because a large concrete structure produces a great deal of energy, and this is the source of the cracking. To prevent cracks in very large structures, engineers use reinforced concrete in their buildings.

By reinforcing concrete, contractors can create metal buildings that are much stronger than if concrete alone was used. For example, contractors will add substances that can reinforce the structure, such as steel. If the material can bind to concrete well, it is an excellent choice as reinforcement.

The Many Uses for Concrete

Concrete is used to create numerous beneficial structures. The driveway at your home, the sidewalk where you take your dog for a walk and the roads you are driving on are all made of concrete. Concrete is also used to build walls, swimming pools, fences, buildings and much more.