If you don’t know what the difference between concrete and cement is, don’t be alarmed. Most Americans hardly know the difference. It’s the experts that need to know and who can share their knowledge with you, without judging you.
That’s what we’re here to do. Before you know it, you’ll be that expert! You may be surprised to hear that you will be able to spot different types of concrete and cement you pass by without even thinking about it.
The Difference Between Concrete And Cement
If you don’t know whether something is concrete or cement, chances are, it’s concrete. Cement is made from calcium and silica. You can find limestone, sand, clay, and other natural materials in cement.
However, cement is found in concrete. When you also add other materials, like gravel, to make the cement more durable, it is then considered concrete. Cement isn’t used very often alone unless on small projects or repairs.
That said, cement can be used alone if need be. It’s thinner and not as strong, but it is smooth and may work for you. Here are the pros and cons of both cement and concrete to help you decide which one is right for you.
Cement Pros Vs. Cons
- Great for small projects
- Easy for repairs
- Smooth texture
- Can fill in gaps in cracked concrete
- Not good for large projects
- Doesn’t last as long as concrete
- Breaks easily
- More of an ingredient than a standalone material
Concrete Pros. Vs. Cons
- Works for any project
- Withstands the test of time
- Has cement in it
- Can be too rough for small projects
- When it’s set, it’s set, no going back
Types Of Concrete
The word “cement” is often overused, as most projects are done with concrete. However, there are many types of concrete that are used in buildings, sidewalks, and even small projects. After all, concrete is versatile.
These are some types of concrete you may hear about the most, you’ll recognize most of the terms. Knowing what each of them is will help you feel more secure when they are brought up in conversation.
Stamped concrete looks like concrete pavers (which are similar to tiles) but stamped concrete is one solid piece. With stamped concrete, designs are cut into the concrete before it dries to create unique patterns.
Usually, stencils or cutouts are used on the concrete after it dries a little yet before it hardens. This makes the designs clean and stable yet the concrete is still pliable enough to mark with tools. You can make your own designs or create faux tiles.
Quick Dry Concrete
As the name suggests, quick-dry concrete is concrete that dries quickly and is easy to mix. Despite what you may have heard, quick-dry concrete isn’t necessarily weaker than standard concrete. In fact, it can be stronger.
The reason that it isn’t always used is actually because it is more expensive due to the fact that it dries so fast. It is quite common but the price scales. You pay for convenience and that’s what quick-dry concrete is for. Convenience.
High Strength Concrete
Again, you pay for what you get. High-strength concrete is the strongest concrete you can buy at most home improvement stores. It can be used for any project and will last decades, only getting stronger as it ages.
A sister to high-strength concrete is high-performance concrete, which is also high-strength but is a better version. It is even more expensive than high-strength and for good reasons. Most high-end buildings will use high-performance concrete.
Concrete pavers can be considered precast concrete. In the construction of skyscrapers, precast concrete is often used so that trucks can bring in multiple slabs to speed up the process. This way, no one has to wait for the concrete to dry.
Precast concrete can be made in 6-in molds or up tens of feet. Though the large the cast, the harder they are to transport after they dry. Concrete is very heavy, weighing in at 150 pounds per cubic foot.
How To Make Your Own Concrete
If you’re feeling bold, you can actually make your own concrete. The only over-the-counter ingredient you need is cement, preferably Portland cement, the most common type of cement for large projects.
What You’ll Need:
- 1 Bucket of Portland Cement
- 1 1/2 Buckets Of Gravel
- About 1 Bucket Of Sand
- 1/2 Bucket Of Water
You can make this recipe in as small as one-cup measurements or as large as fifty-gallon measurements. This recipe is simply for ratios. Depending on where you live, you can find most of the ingredients for free.
Unfortunately, cement isn’t as easy to create on your own, so you will need it to make your cement. But when that’s the only ingredient you buy, it’s much cheaper than buying concrete as your other ingredients make the concrete go much further.
You may need to add more water or less water depending on your climate and project. Add the water slowly to make sure it’s the right texture for what you’re looking for. In general, it should look like thick oatmeal.
DIY Projects With Concrete
You probably won’t be doing many DIY projects with cement, but there are plenty of things you can do with concrete. Check out these DIY projects for ideas and inspiration. Or follow them step-by-step to recreate these masterpieces.
Modern Concrete Planter
- Four (4) equal-sized, straight-edged concrete pavers
- Landscape adhesive
- Ardex feather finish
- Concrete sealer
- Potting soil & plants
This planter is sleek, modern, and looks high-end. The process is quite easy and even a beginner can do it. All you’ll be doing is making a box with four pavers. The top and the bottom will be exposed, so you will only need four pavers as opposed to six.
When you glue them together, make sure you glue them in a staggered pattern. Meaning, glue the end of one to the side of the next one. This will give the most support and all seams will later be covered.
After the boxes have dried, you can mix up the feather finish and apply it evenly over the entire surface. Make sure you get at least half of the inside as the top of the inside will show when the plant is added.
All that’s left to do then is even it out with the spreader. After that dries, you can even sand it down to make it look even cleaner and then add a clear sealer for best results. For the full tutorial check out this article on the DIY concrete planter box.
Concrete Countertop Desk
- Ardex Feather Finish
- Putty knife
- Bucket (for mixing feather finish concrete)
- Old rags
- Concrete sealant
This just might be the most impressive DIY desk that you can make. All you need is an old desk that has a solid top to get started. Then you can mix together the feather finish and spread it evenly over the top of the desk, paying extra attention to the corners.
It may look difficult but it’s actually really easy. You only need one coat unless you want a marble effect. If that’s the case, you can follow the tutorial for the marble countertop we’ll talk about later. The layering method can be used for a desk as well.
After it dries, you will want to sand it down. How much you sand it is completely up to you. To make things shiny and safe, seal the concrete with a clear concrete sealer. That’s really all there is to it! Click here for the full concrete desktop tutorial.
Faux Marble Countertop With Concrete
- White Ardex feather finish
- Grey Ardex feather finish
- Disposable mixing cup, mixing bucket, wooden paint stirring stick
- Putty knife and trowel
- Coarse, medium, fine, and very fine sandpaper
- Gloves (optional but recommended)
- Wet/dry shop vacuum
- 511 Impregnator
- SafecoatAcrylacq in satin finish
This process is very similar to the concrete desktop process. It will be a little more difficult due to the curves and the fact that the countertop will be gotten wet every day. But other than that, the process is the same.
The majority of the process involves layering feather finishes. While you can choose any color you want, grey and white will give the most authentic marble effect. You will have white countertops with grey veins.
You can buy small packages of concrete if you like and test out different layering and sanding techniques on a piece of wood. Find out what you like and that use that on your countertop. When sealed, the concrete powder will stay good for quite a while.
When you’re pleased with the look, you can seal it with a thick sealer followed by a satin sealer. This will give it that shiny marble texture and you will be able to fool anyone. Find out more about the faux marble countertop here.
Deck Footing With Concrete
In general, concrete is actually more useful than it is cosmetic. So, you will see concrete used for things like deck footings as it offers optimum stability. In fact, most decks will use a similar method to this.
After digging your holes at least one foot deep, you can place either Quiktubes in them or buckets. You can either mix the concrete in the buckets or use a concrete mixer and then pour it into the buckets.
Keep the posts level and stabilize them as the concrete dries. Fill the holes and cover the concrete and those posts will not move for quite some time. For a full tutorial, check out how to install concrete deck footings here.