Concrete and Cement

The terms “cement” and “concrete” get thrown around so much that most people do not know the difference between the two materials.

The Difference

The difference between concrete and cement is simple—concrete is a paving or masonry material, and cement is an ingredient in concrete. Think of concrete as a loaf of bread, and cement as the flour. You wouldn’t look at a loaf of bread and call it “flour.” Similarly, it is incorrect to look at a concrete sidewalk and call it cement. Another commonly mislabeled object is a “cement” truck. The trucks with those giant rolling barrels are actually full of concrete. If the truck was full of cement, it would be full of powder, as cement takes powder form before it is mixed with water and used to bind materials together.

Makeup

Concrete has two general ingredients—aggregate and cement. Water is used to activate the cement and glue the aggregates together. Aggregates refer to whatever the concrete is made of, whether it is sand or gravel.

Cement can be made in a variety of ways depending on the usage. Generally it is made by grinding together limestone and clay and heating it to above 1000 degree temperatures. The result is a fine powder. The powder sometimes has additives mixed in such as calcium sulfate, which controls the time it takes for the cement to set.

Uses

Concrete has a multitude of different construction applications. The list includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Foundations for buildings, pools, porches, etc.
Sidewalks
Driveways
Basement walls (cinder blocks)
Counter tops
Flooring
Roads
Bridges
Tunnels and pipes

Cement has a few other uses besides concrete. Cement is the binding agent used in
Stucco
Mortar
Grout

Safety Concerns

Since cement takes powder form, it should not be inhaled. The powder can result in eye or respiratory irritation. Wet cement can be harmful if not washed off of skin promptly after contact. Its caustic properties when wet will result in skin burns if not handled properly.