What is the difference between cement and concrete?

Although the terms cement and concrete often are used interchangeably, cement is actually an ingredient of concrete. Concrete is basically a mixture of aggregates and paste. The aggregates are sand and gravel or crushed stone; the paste is water and portland cement. Portland cement is not a brand name, but the generic term for the type of cement used in virtually all concrete, just as stainless is a type of steel and sterling a type of silver. Cement comprises from 10-15 percent of the concrete mix, by volume. Through a process called hydration, the cement and water harden and bind the aggregates into a rock-like mass. This hardening process continues for years meaning that concrete gets stronger as it gets older.

So, there is no such thing as a cement sidewalk, or a cement mixer; the proper terms are concrete sidewalk and concrete mixer.

Why does concrete crack?

Concrete, like all other materials, will slightly change in volume when it dries out. In typical concrete this change amounts to about 500 millionths. Translated into dimensions – this is about 1/16 of an inch in 10 feet (.4 cm in 3 meters). The reason that contractors put joints in concrete pavements and floors is to allow the concrete to crack in a neat, straight line at the joint when the volume of the concrete changes due to shrinkage.

Why do concrete surfaces flake and spall?

In areas of the country that are subjected to freezing and thawing the concrete should be air-entrained to resist flaking and scaling of the surface. If air-entrained concrete is not used, there will be subsequent damage to the surface.

The water/cement ratio should be as low as possible to improve durability of the surface. Too much water in the mix will produce a weaker, less durable concrete that will contribute to early flaking and spalling of the surface.

The finishing operations should not begin until the water sheen on the surface is gone and excess bleed water on the surface has had a chance to evaporate. If this excess water is worked into the concrete because the finishing operations are begun to soon, the concrete on the surface will have too high a water content and will be weaker and less durable.


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