What Is The Difference Between Cement vs Concrete?

Cement and concrete are not the same. Conversations on what is the difference between cement vs. concrete are gaining renewed interest. If you don’t know why they are not the same, we’re here to help.

cement vs concrete

Experts can teach you about cement and concrete. You may not know it, but a cement sidewalk or cement mixer are incorrect terms. A sidewalk is concrete, and so is a mixer.

You see many types of concrete daily, but you’re not aware of their differences. And that’s why we’re here.

The Difference Between Cement vs Concrete

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Concreations

Most of what you see every day is concrete. Cement is made from calcium and silica. Limestone, sand, clay, and other natural materials are also found in cement.

Cement is needed to make concrete. Gravel is added to make cement more durable. Afterward, it’s considered concrete.

Small projects and repair jobs use cement. It’s thinner and weaker than concrete. The appeal is due to its smoothness.

Here are the pros and cons of cement vs. concrete:

Cement Pros Vs. Cons

Pros: 

  • Small projects.
  • Repairs easy.
  • Smooth texture.
  • Can fill cracked concrete.

Cons:

  • Not good for large projects.
  • Doesn’t last like concrete.
  • More of an ingredient than a material.

Concrete Pros Vs. Cons

Pros:

  • Works for any project.
  • Long-lasting.

Cons:

  • Can be too rough for small projects.
  • Once it’s set, there’s no turning back.

Types Of Concrete

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Famous Japanese architect and Prtizker Prize winner Tadao Ando works with silky smooth concrete. The concrete is Ando’s signature material. The finish on his buildings are the most difficult to achieve.

Ando is an exception. For everyone else, there are other options. Concrete is used for buildings, sidewalks, and small projects.

Concrete is the top choice for buildings. You might be familiar with a few concrete types. However, knowing more about each one will help you.

Stamped Concrete 

Stamped concrete looks like concrete pavers or tiles. The concrete is one solid piece. With stamped concrete, designs are cut into it before it dries to make patterns. 

Stencils or cutouts are made after it dries but before it hardens. The designs are clean and solid. It’s soft enough to mark with tools.

Faux tiles are made from stamped concrete. One problem is how it’s not durable and cracks easy. Stamped concrete needs to be re-sealed every three to four years.

For many, the added expense isn’t worth the trouble. Stamped concrete is also slippery, and more so than normal concrete. Its brushed finish creates a rough texture that makes it easy to fall when its surface is wet.

Quick Dry Concrete

Quick-dry concrete dries fast and is easy to mix. The material isn’t weaker than standard concrete.

The concrete is a favorite because it dries fast. Due to demand, it’s pricey. The concrete is easy to use because it dries quick, which makes construction projects move faster.

Builders worldwide use quick-dry concrete.

High Strength Concrete 

High-strength concrete is the strongest over-the-counter materials you’ll find at home improvement stores. You can use it for anything, and it will last for decades. With age, the concrete becomes stronger.

A sister to high-strength concrete is high-performance concrete. It’s stronger and costs more. Most premier buildings use this type of concrete.

Precast Concrete

Concrete pavers are precast concrete. Skyscrapers use precast concrete. The concrete style makes building construction faster.

Trucks haul multiple slabs that are ready for use. The concrete is already dry, so there’s no waiting period before it can be used.

The concrete can be made in 6-in molds or ten-foot slabs. Larger casts are heavier and harder to move. Concrete weighs 150 pounds per cubic foot. 

Precast concrete is used for home foundations and walls. Commercial buildings use it for their floors. The concrete is also popular with home basements because it is energy-efficient and helps reduce moisture.

The concrete is made in a controlled environment. As a consumer, you can have it made according to your needs. Precast modules offer maximum strength or lighter options.

With precast concrete, you don’t need to worry about applying an extra finish. Granite, quartz, and marble can be mixed in, and will produce stunning results.

How To Make Your Own Concrete

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Image by GWC Concrete Designs

You can make concrete at home. First, you need cement. Portland cement is the top choice among DIY concrete makers.

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:

  • Portland cement.
  • Gravel
  • Sand.
  • Water. 

It’s up to you how much you want to make. One cup or 50-gallons, but it depends on your home DIY concrete project. Depending on your region, most concrete ingredients are free.

Cement isn’t easy to make. It’s one of the few ingredients you’ll need to buy.

The amount of water you need depends on the project and climate. Be careful when adding water. You don’t want to put too much in your mix. When the mix is done, it should look like thick oatmeal. 

DIY Projects With Concrete

In the concrete vs. cement debate, you won’t find many DIY projects with cement. However, there are plenty of things you can make with concrete. Check out these DIY projects for ideas and inspiration.

Follow them step-by-step to recreate these masterpieces. 

Modern Concrete Planter

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Materials Needed:

  • Four (4) equal-sized, straight-edged concrete pavers.
  • Landscape adhesive.
  • Ardex feather finish.
  • Concrete sealer.
  • Potting soil & plants.

The concrete planter is sleek, modern, and looks high-end. The process is easy enough for a beginner. You’ll make a box with four pavers, and that’s it.

The top and bottom will be exposed, so you will need four pavers. When you glue them together, stagger them in a pattern. Glue the end to the side of the next one. This will support and cover the seams.

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After the boxes have dried, you can mix the feather finish and apply it over the surface. Cover half of the inside. You can see the inside top after setting the plant in the planter.

All that’s left to do is even it with the spreader. After that dries, sand it down to make it look cleaner. For best results, add a clear sealer. For the full tutorial check out this article on the DIY concrete planter box

Concrete Countertop Desk

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Materials Needed:

  • Ardex Feather Finish.
  • Putty knife.
  • Old rags.
  • Concrete sealant.

This might be the best DIY office desk you can make. All you need is an old desk with a solid top. You can mix the feather finish and spread it over the desk’s top, paying extra attention to the corners.

It may look hard, but it isn’t. You need one coat unless you want a marble effect. You can follow the tutorial for the marble countertop later.

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Layering will work well for a desk. After it dries, sand it down. To make things shiny and safe, seal the concrete with a clear concrete sealer. That’s all there is to it.

Click here for the full concrete desktop tutorial

Faux Marble Countertop With Concrete

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Materials Needed:

  • White Ardex feather finish.
  • Grey Ardex feather finish.
  • Disposable mixing cup, 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
  • Safecoat Acrylacq in satin finish.

The process is the same as making a concrete desktop. It’s harder, due to its shape and not easy to keep dry.

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Most of it involves layering feather finishes. You can choose any color, but grey and white offer a fresh marble feel. You will have white countertops with grey veins. 

You’ll need small concrete mix packages. Test the concrete with layering and sanding methods on a piece of wood. Find out what you like and use that for your countertop.

Seal the concrete mix so it will last. First, apply a thick sealer. Repeat the process with a satin sealer. This will give it a shiny marble texture, without anyone aware of the difference.

Learn more about the faux marble countertop here.

Deck Footing With Concrete

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Concrete isn’t about appearance but rather how it functions. It’s used for deck footings and offers stability. Most decks will use a similar method to this.

After digging your holes one foot deep, you can place either Quiktubes or buckets in them. You can mix the concrete in the buckets or use a concrete mixer and then pour it into the buckets. 

Keep the posts level and balanced while the concrete dries. Fill the holes and cover the concrete, and the posts will not move.

For a full tutorial, check out how to install concrete deck footings here.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

How much does it cost to finish concrete?

A standard concrete slab costs $4 to $8 per square foot. The cost will depend on thickness and project location.

Is concrete stronger than pure cement?

Pure cement is weaker than concrete. Cement contains sand, water, and other materials. By itself, cement will shrink and lose its support abilities.

What are some good DIY concrete home décor ideas?

When creating concrete décor items, think small. A concrete planter for your favorite indoor house plant could be a good start. Other ideas include candle holders, food trays, or bookends for your home library.

For outdoor and backyard projects, stepping-stones are easy to make for beginners. Before you begin, make sure you have the right tools. And remember, do not put leftover concrete mix in your kitchen sink.

Cement Vs. Concrete Conclusion

Now that you know the difference between cement vs. concrete, find a fun DIY project. Concrete serves many purposes. Do not be afraid to use it yourself.

Cement is also fun to work with, but you’ll need to add things to it for support. For DIY home projects, concrete is a cheap option. The material is long-lasting and durable.

If you make something with concrete, you won’t have to replace it for a long time.