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Technically, cement is the major ingredient (along with sand, gravel, water, and other possible additives) used to make concrete mix. So when you refer to the finished product, "concrete" is the proper term, though people often say "cement" to mean the same thing. Different types of cement mixes are used to form different types of concrete, which can be used in different construction applications.

Concrete Mix for Mortar: Mortar can be made using only water, cement, and sand (the basic proportion to follow is one part water, two parts cement, and three parts sand). This concrete mix can be used successfully to create any number of brick or stone structures that, if properly constructed, will last an extremely long time. To increase the workability of this kind of concrete mix and make it more moisture resistant, you may also want to add some hydrated lime.

Cement Mix for Sidewalks: When mixing concrete for a walkway or driveway, gravel is often added to the sand, water, and cement mixture. Here, the basic concrete mix is one part cement, two parts sand, and three parts gravel. Water is the determining factor in making a good cement mix for this kind of application, as too much of it will produce a weak slab, while too little creates a concrete mixture that is difficult to impossible to pour, and can reduce workability. Getting the right proportions for this application can be difficult, but using a dry concrete mix that is already labeled with the exact amount of water to be used per bag can be very helpful for beginners.

Other Kinds of Cement Mixes: In certain proportions, and combined with different ingredients, a cement mix is used to make some products you are probably familiar with. When mixed with sand and cellulose fiber, cement can be formed into a substance used for siding, known as fiber-cement board (often sold under the brand name Hardie Board). Cement can also be mixed with plaster to be used on masonry to create a smooth surface.

Concrete Mix Additives and Decorative Concrete: Standard gray concrete can be finished in a variety of ways, including broom-brushed (the most common), smooth-troweled, and salt-finished (leaving holes in the concrete where rock salt was applied). Exposed aggregate, which leaves a top layer of multi-colored rocks, is often available in several different colors. They can also mix colors into the concrete and/or apply colored stain and/or glazes over the top after it is poured. Concrete can also be "etched" with acid or stamped and colored to look like other materials such as tile, granite, brick, or cobblestone.

One of the newest trends in kitchens is the concrete countertop. These pieces are extremely hard and durable, but they look nothing like the kind of concrete you're used to seeing in commercial or industrial settings. Generally constructed one at a time by individual artisans, concrete counters are some of the most unique and interesting kitchen fixtures available. Take note, however, that these beauties often cost just as much, or even more than other popular counter options such as granite.


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