What is Cement?
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What is Cement?

While the answer to the question ‘what is cement?’ might seem obvious to those in the construction industry, many people often confuse cement and concrete using the terms incorrectly and interchangeably. 

While both are undoubtedly fundamental building materials that are used in a whole host of applications, it’s essential to understand the differences between the two and the specific role they play.

In this article, the team here at Concrete Supply UK will take a deep dive into exactly what cement is, its components and how it can assist in a whole host of building tasks.

Read on to find out more. 



What Is Cement? 

While you may not always notice it, you almost certainly come into contact with cement on a daily basis. 

Without cement, our roads would not be usable, our houses would not exist and life would be a whole lot more primitive. 

Cement is a common building material that is primarily used as a binder that brings together a whole host of other materials. By binding such materials together, it can then set, harden and be used for a whole host of different tasks in the construction industry. It is able to hold a great deal of weight without changing shape and it is one of the most important components when creating concrete. 

People often confuse cement and concrete, mixing up the terms. But cement is a binding agent that is used to create concrete whereas concrete. An average concrete mix is made up of a variety of materials including water, sand, rock and cement. 

So, in future, try and keep in mind that cement is an ingredient of concrete. 

Cement is usually categorised into two main types – hydraulic cement and non-hydraulic cement. 

Hydraulic cement hardens when its powder comes into contact with water, and in contrast, non-hydraulic cement requires dry conditions to harden. The reaction of carbonation with carbon dioxide is enough for non-hydraulic cement to work, so people often choose which type is right for them based on their specific needs. 

Portland cement is a hydraulic cement that is one of the most popular in the industry due to its versatility which makes it a great choice for almost all construction projects. 


What Is Cement Made Of?

Cement is made from a variety of different materials which provide it with its durable and versatile qualities. 

The main ingredients of cement include limestone or chalk followed by clay or shale. Sometimes, minor ingredients are added to the cement to try and achieve the desired effect. Usually, these will be things such as sand, iron or bauxite. 

These additives may be used to slightly adjust the chemical make up of the cement and ensure it is effective for the task at hand. All of these materials will then be heated in a kiln at extremely high temperatures. 

From this, a hard, rock-like substance known as clinker is produced. 

Once the clinker has cooled and been removed from the kiln, it will be finely ground down into the powdery material that we know as cement. 


Properties Of Cement 

Once the cement has been produced, it will display a wide range of properties that help it to become an effective building material for the construction industry. 

This includes:

  • Fineness: The cement’s fineness refers to the size of the particles that make up the product. Different types of cement will have different fineness levels which can be modified by slightly tweaking the grinding of the clinker once it has been removed from the kiln.
  • Consistency: Consistency is one of the most important properties of cement, as it is this that will help it become an effective binding agent. The consistency is defined as the cement paste’s viscosity or how it manages to flow.   
  • Strength: Another important aspect, especially if the cement is being used to formulate concrete, the compressive strength of cement can be measured to check how durable it will be and whether this durability will decline over a period of time.
  • Soundness: The soundness of cement is the ability of the product to resist shrinking once it has hardened. If this happens then it could be damaging so a number of tests usually are conducted to determine the soundness of the product before it is used. 
  • Setting time: One of the advantages of using concrete is that it sets fairly quickly, which makes it such a beneficial binding agent. The setting time is the time it takes for the concrete to transform from its liquid state to its plastic state before it reaches its final solid state. 


Benefits Of Using Cement 

As we’ve previously mentioned, cement is a fundamental material in the construction industry that offers a range of benefits which make it such an indispensable choice for building infrastructure. Some of the key advantages include:

  • Durability and longevity: Cement-based structures, such as concrete, have a high compressive strength which makes them ideal for constructing bridges, buildings, roads and applications that need to bear heavy loads. It is also resistant to weathering, erosion and chemical attacks making such structures stand the test of time and ensure excellent longevity for structures. 
  • Versatility: Cement can be used in a wide range of applications, including concrete production, mortar, plaster and grout. It can be moulded into various shapes and sizes. It can also be mixed with different aggregates to create materials that have specific properties that have been tailored to different construction needs.
  • Cost-effective: Compared to other building materials, cement is relatively inexpensive which makes it widely accessible for large-scale projects. Cement structures require minimal maintenance which reduces long-term costs. 
  • Environmentally friendly: The production of cement and the use of concrete structures that cement helps to create have vastly improved over time. These days the process is much more environmentally friendly and modern cement plants use advanced technologies to reduce energy consumption and emissions. Concrete that is made from cement can be reused and recycled which reduces waste and the need for new raw materials. 

At Concrete Supply UK, whilst we do sell cement as a standalone, we regularly supply and deliver quality different types of concrete mixes, including those made from cement, to domestic and commercial customers across the UK. To find out more, contact our friendly and knowledgeable team today.

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