What Is The Difference Between Mortar, Cement, And Concrete?

The terms cement, concrete, and mortar can confuse many people, who may lump them all together as messy substances used in masonry that harden to form a flat surface or bind one object to another. 

The terms are often used interchangeably and incorrectly. Though the terms are usually used synonymously, concrete, cement, and mortar are three different materials.

  • Concrete is a hard structural building material composed of cement, sand, and larger aggregate.
  • Cement is a binding powder that is never used alone but is a component of concrete and mortar, stucco, and tile grout.
  • Mortar comprises cement, fine sands, and lime. It is usually used as a binding material when building with brick, stone, and block.

Let’s dive deep into understanding the differences between them.

Difference Between Cement, Concrete, and Mortar


Cement is an essential part of the urban infrastructure. It binds in both concrete and mortar, and it is used to secure structures by binding building blocks.

How to make cement?

Cement is made of limestone, clay or sand, bauxite, and iron ore. It clings to building units such as bricks, stones, or tiles. The raw components are finely pulverized and heated to form a rock-hard substance which is then crushed again and prepared to be activated with water.

Types of cement

There are different uses in construction works for different types of cement. For instance, high alumina cement is suitable for making concrete for structures in high-temperature areas, hydrophobic cement has a better resistance against frost conditions, and acid-resistant cement is used in chemical-proof structures.

Sulfate resisting cement is used when the structure is prone to sulfate attacks. White Cement is used in architectural designs to fill gaps in wall tiles. Ordinary Portland Cement(OPC), which is the most commonly used type of cement, is suitable for diverse applications, from small jobs to large projects.

Cement is usually interchanged as a term with concrete, but they are not the same. Cement is an integral component in concrete, essential to selecting the right one for your projects.


Concrete is a whole building material used for concrete slabs, patios, foundation walls, and masonry structures. It is uniquely versatile because it starts as a simple, dry mixture and becomes a flexible, semi-liquid material that can form into any mold or shape. It dries into the hard-as-rock material we know as concrete. Metal reinforcement such as rebar is added to many concrete structures for strength and to minimize the cracking in solid concrete.

Concrete is composed of cement, sand, gravel, or another fine and coarse aggregate. The addition of water into the concrete activates cement, which is responsible for binding the mix together to form a solid.

You can purchase readymade concrete mixes in loads that combine sand, gravel, and cement so that all you have to do is add water. 

It is usually suggested for small projects, such as anchoring fence posts or building small pads. For big projects, you can either buy bags of cement and blend them with sand and gravel yourself using a wheelbarrow or purchase premixed concrete delivered by a truck.

How to mix concrete?

There are different ways of mixing the components, depending on the strength you want to gain. A usual guide for a standard concrete mix would be 1 part cement, two parts sand, and four parts aggregates.

Concrete is typically used in building and trade, but there’s no concrete without cement. It’s a strong binding and hardening element.

Concrete can be purchased readymade or mixed by preference to be suitable for specific jobs.


Mortar is another prominent building material composed of cement mixed with fine sands and water, with lime added to enhance durability. Adding water to the mix activates the cement and hardens, just like concrete. Mortar is not as robust as concrete and typically is not used as an exclusive building material. Instead, the adhesive holds together concrete blocks, bricks, stone, and other masonry materials.

Mortar is generally sold in bags in a dry premixed form that you can blend with water. It can also be mixed on a construction site, using a cement mixer, or simply with a shovel in a mixing tub or wheelbarrow.

There are numerous types of mortar developed for different applications. When working with brick and other masonry units, it is vital to use the proper type of mortar for the masonry, as some mortars are too harsh for some types of masonry and can break if misused.

Grout is another product that can be seen as a form of mortar but developed without the lime additive. Mortar has more water content, allowing it to flow and fill gaps between ceramic and stone tiles. Because of its excess water content, grout is not a binding material but suits solely to fill gaps.

Thin-set is a related product made of cement, sands, and a water-retaining agent such as an alkyl derivative of cellulose. It is used to connect ceramic and stone tiles to a substrate, such as a cement board. Some thin sets have latex and polymer additives to boost the bonding strength. Thin-set has the superior adhesive quality and is occasionally referred to as thin-set adhesive.

How to mix mortar?

There are different types of mortar with different purposes. For example, some may be more suitable for masonry than others and less prone to cracking. Mortar is usually premixed and sold in bags, such as the Hanson General Purpose Mortar Mix or K Mix General Purpose Mortar.

One can also make their mortar mix. While recommendations vary, a standard ratio of 3 or 4 parts building sand to 1 part cement keeps the mixture not too wet and not too dry.

It’s a Wrap!

Cement, concrete, and mortar have different components, and each serves a different function. Choosing the suitable material for a project will prolong longevity and durability. Get in touch with Permutrade for high-quality cement and cementitious products such as special mortars, granulated blast furnace slag, gray cement, white cement, and clinker