Cinder Block vs Concrete Block: Explaining the Difference

When considering construction materials, cinder block vs concrete block are both viable options. Yet while they have many similarities, some key differences set them apart such as weight, strength, appearance, and thermal insulation. It is a good idea to consider these differences or consult a building professional before choosing the ideal building block for your project.

Cinder Block vs Concrete Block

Key Differences in Cinder Block vs Concrete Block

Cinder blocks and concrete blocks both fall under the broader category of concrete masonry units (CMU), but they have vital differences that mean they are best fitted for certain tasks and not others.


  • Primary Composition Materials – Both cinder blocks and concrete blocks contain ordinary Portland cement and water as two primary ingredients.
  • General Construction Use – Builders regularly utilize cinder blocks and concrete blocks in construction projects of all kinds, though the specific applications for these blocks are different.
  • Availability – You can easily find both cinder blocks and concrete blocks in many sizes and shapes, both solid and hollow.
  • Cost – Cinder blocks and concrete blocks are both cost-effective construction materials.
  • Size – Cinder blocks and concrete blocks both feature standard nominal sizes that are the same, though each have unique sizes for specific applications.


  • Secondary Composition Materials – One of the key differences between cinder blocks and concrete blocks is the aggregates that manufacturers use in each block. Manufacturers use cinders from burned coal or volcanic pumice in cinder blocks. In standard concrete blocks, manufacturers use sand or gravel as the aggregate.
  • Weight – Because of the nature of the aggregates, cinder blocks are lighter and less dense than standard concrete blocks.
  • Strength – Concrete blocks are stronger and more durable than cinder blocks, so concrete blocks are suitable for load-bearing functions, but cinder blocks are not.
  • Specific Use – Concrete blocks are denser and heavier than cinder blocks, so builders can use them in more load-bearing applications.
  • Thermal Insulation – The low density of cinder blocks makes them more efficient at heat insulation than standard concrete blocks, though this poor insulation quality can be mitigated with the use of different aggregates.
  • Aesthetics – Concrete blocks offer more aesthetic options in terms of color, finish, and surface patterns, so they are more versatile for decorative designs than cinder blocks.

Cinder Block and Concrete Block Types

As with any building block unit, manufacturers have developed numerous types to fit builder needs.

Cinder Block Types:

  • Standard Cinder Blocks – These are the most popular cinder block type, featuring a rectangular shape with two large core holes. Builders use this type of cinder block in walls, partitions, and retaining walls.
  • Split-Face Cinder Blocks – Split-face cinder blocks have a rough textured facing side that builders use in decorative applications like exposed walls.
  • Corner Cinder Blocks – Manufacturers design corner blocks to provide a clean and stable corner in masonry walls. These blocks have a modified shape with two interlocking edges which create a solid corner connection.
  • Bullnose Cinder Blocks – Bullnose blocks have a rounded corner side. Builders use these to create curved walls, planters, or other applications that require a smooth, rounded appearance.
  • Bond Beam Blocks – Bond beam blocks have a recessed area along the top or bottom of the block. These recesses allow builders to insert a steel rod and concrete into the beam block for extra reinforcement.
  • U-Shaped Blocks – U-shaped blocks, also called utility blocks or open-ended blocks, have a U shape. Builders use them to create openings in walls for doors or windows.

Concrete Block Types:

  • Standard Concrete Blocks – Standard concrete blocks have a rectangular shape with a hollow core that is created with two large through holes.
  • Solid Concrete Blocks – Solid concrete blocks do not have a hollow core. These are denser and provide more strength and insulation than standard concrete blocks.
  • Lightweight Concrete Blocks – Manufacturers create lightweight concrete blocks with the addition of lightweight aggregates like expanded shale, clay, or pumice. These are lighter in weight than cinder blocks.
  • Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) Blocks – Concrete manufacturers create AAC blocks by incorporating air bubbles into a mixture of cement, lime, sand, and water. These are lightweight and provide excellent thermal insulation.
  • Decorative Concrete Blocks – Decorative concrete blocks come in a variety of colors, shapes, and textures. Builders use these to create intricate designs, textures, and geometric patterns.
  • Concrete Retaining Wall Blocks – Manufacturers specifically design this concrete block for retaining wall systems, so they interlock to allow for a stable, gravity-based wall design.

Uses of Cinder Blocks and Concrete Blocks

Cinder blocks and concrete blocks feature different weights and densities, so they are not always suitable for the same types of applications. In general, cinder blocks are useful for walls that are not load-bearing, like residential partition walls and retaining walls, and walls for small structures like sheds. Homeowners will often apply a decorative finish like stucco or veneer to cinder block walls to make them more aesthetically pleasing.

Concrete blocks have a wider application range because of their load-bearing capacity. Builders use concrete blocks for load-bearing walls like foundation walls. Concrete blocks are used in the creation of both commercial and residential buildings including homes, warehouses, office complexes, and factories. Because of their aesthetic versatility, builders use them to create decorative walls and facade elements.