Recently, we went over the process of making cement, and we also mentioned that the terms “cement” and “concrete” are often incorrectly used interchangeably. It is important to remember that cement is only one of the ingredients of concrete. Those other ingredients typically include water and aggregates (like sand, gravel, or pebbles), along with smaller amounts of certain elements. Just as with cooking, the amount of each ingredient determines the nature of the finished product. Therefore, the proper adjustment of these amounts results in concrete that is more resistant to weather or temperature. It can also affect how the concrete pours, how long it takes for the concrete to set, and the overall strength and durability of the concrete.
A Closer Look at Concrete
Let’s discuss the three main ingredients in concrete:
- Aggregates — Typically a measure of gravel or crushed stone, aggregates give concrete its strength and durability. Using a variety of shapes and sizes, they connect to the other components. If the aggregates are mixed improperly, the concrete is prone to crack, making an unstable foundation for heavy objects. Usually, concrete needs to consist of 60-75% aggregates.
- Portland cement — This is a generic term for the powdery substance we discussed in an earlier post. The name Portland was a marketing tool coined by its first manufacturer, Joseph Aspdin, who wanted to distinguish it from Roman cement (made of ash, lime, seawater and volcanic rocks). Since his new discovery resembled a high-value building stone from the nearby Isle of Portland, he named it after the island. Virtually all cement mixtures today use a variation of Portland cement in their concrete. A good concrete mixture contains 7-15% Portland cement.
- Water — It might seem counterintuitive, but water helps concrete become the sturdy material that builders aim to install. As water mixes with elements in the cement, it creates silicate hydrate. This gel-like substance keeps all the components of concrete together, like glue or other types of cement. But the amount of water is important — too much water weakens the concrete, and too little lets it dry too quickly, resulting in an unmanageable rock-like mass. Depending on things like temperature and desired time to set, concrete has 14-21% water in its mix.
With the proper measure of aggregates, Portland cement and water, concrete is strong and reliable. When poured into predetermined molds, it forms blocks, dams, skyscrapers, garage floors, driveways, and a seemingly endless array of other creations. Of course, the larger the project, the more important it is to get the mixture right —lives can depend on concrete’s strength!
Whether or not your concrete project is critical to health and welfare, even a backyard patio with perfect concrete could still use a little security from stains and deterioration. And adding color really makes an area more enjoyable. West Coast Epoxy can help secure and improve your concrete with color staining, concrete sealants, or even weather-resistant epoxy coating with anti-slip textures for extra safety.
Feel free to give West Coast Epoxy a call for more information, or you can schedule a free consultation here on our website. Concrete is truly a foundation of modern living. We can help yours last a lifetime and look great while doing it!