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Cement is crucial in bonding aggregates and reinforcing materials during a construction project. Different construction works have unique requirements that need different cement types.
Most construction applications use Portland cement, but other types may be more appropriate depending on the location and project. So, which cement variant best suits your project?
Portland cement is a popular cement type made from limestone, clay or shale, and small amounts of iron. The raw materials are heated at high temperatures to form a clinker. The cooled clinker is mixed with gypsum and ground until fine.
Portland cement is the go-to cement for construction applications, such as bridges, sidewalks, walls, reinforced concrete buildings, precast concrete products, and railway structures.
Portland cement comes in five broad types, each with different applications based on its properties.
- Type I Portland cement (Ordinary) – Suitable for general construction applications, especially in areas with no sulfates in the soil and underground water
- Type II Portland cement (Modified) – Used in areas with low sulfates in subterranean water and soil
- Type III Portland cement (High-early strength) – Suitable for projects with short-turnaround timelines
- Type IV Portland cement (Low-heat) – Suits mass concrete structures
- Type V Portland cement (Sulfate-resistant) – Suitable for use in areas with high sulfate concentrations in soil and groundwater
Blended cement combines Type I Ordinary Portland cement with slag, pozzolan, and limestone. Blended cement is stronger, has fewer water requirements, and is more resistant to sulfate and chloride damage.
The American Society for Testing and Materials groups blended cement into four categories depending on the materials used.
- Type IS (X) – Contains up to 70% slag cement and is used for general construction purposes
- Type IP (X) – Contains up to 50% pozzolan (usually Fly ash) and is used for general construction
- Type IL (X) – Has 5-15% interground limestone
- Type IT or ternary blended cement – Combines three complementary supplementary materials
Blended cement is used in domestic construction, precast concrete, mortars, grouts, renders, and other specialized formulations and stabilization.
Oil well cement is specialty cement for cementing oil wells. Oil well cement is slow-setting and can withstand high pressure and temperatures.
It comprises Portland or blended cement combined with additives. The production process for Oilwell cement begins with the collection of high-quality limestone and hard sandstone with high silica content.
The materials are crushed into smaller pieces and ground to reduce their size further. After crushing and grinding, the materials are calcined in a kiln at high temperatures to produce clinker, which is ground into cement.
You can use Oil well cement for the following projects.
- Protecting water supplies by preventing fluids and gasses from flowing into underground water tables
- Providing critical structural support for the casing and production pipes
- Increasing an oil well’s longevity
Colored cement is ordinary Portland cement combined with up to 10% colored pigment to produce decorative concrete.
Colored cement has white or gray cement as the base. Colored cement with white as the base can be in different colors, while those that use gray cement as the base are limited to red or brown.
The pigment used in the production of colored cement must:
- Be free of soluble salts
- Be capable of maintaining color after exposure to the elements
- Not affect the quality of the cement
- Not be affected by the cement’s chemical composition
The standard colors in colored cement are blue, green, black, brown, red, and yellow. Colored cement produces terrazzo, stucco, casting stones, and decorative works.
White cement is ordinary Portland cement but with lower amounts of iron, copper, nickel, manganese, chromium, vanadium, and titanium. As these elements reduce, the cement becomes whiter.
White cement is similar in strength and properties to gray Portland cement. Applications of this cement include:
- Interior and exterior decoration
- In road construction to aid the visibility of medians on highways
- The production of precast concrete elements
- Manufacturing white cement tiles
- Creating plaster for finishing walls and ceilings
- Creation of colored mortars
Rapid Hardening Cement
As the name suggests, rapid-hardening cement reaches high strength quickly. Rapid-hardening cement is made from limestone and shale, which are heated at high temperatures to form clinker. The clinker is mixed with gypsum and ground into a fine powder.
Its use cases include:
- Construction of roads, highways, and pavements
- Reducing damage by frost and freezing in constructions in cold countries
- For faster production of precast structures
- Repairing roads
Low Heat Cement
Low-heat cement is specialized cement designed to produce low heat during hydration. The low heat ensures uniform cooling of concrete mass without cracks in the outer layers.
Manufacturers make this cement with a higher percentage of silica and a lower percentage of aluminate. The result is cement with about 20% less hydration than ordinary Portland cement.
Low-heat cement is ideal for massive concrete projects such as dam construction, foundations for high-rise buildings, and underwater works. It offers extended durability than ordinary Portland cement and is economical for larger construction projects. However, it is not suitable for use in low-temperature areas due to the risk of freezing.
High Alumina Cement
High alumina cement comes from calcium aluminates, unlike ordinary Portland cement, which uses calcium silicates.
Manufacturers make high alumina cement by grinding bauxite and limestone, then passing the mixture through a kiln at high temperatures. Finally, they grind the cooled-down substance into cement.
High alumina cement is used in marine construction, boilers, chimneys, kilns, and sewer infrastructure.
Sulfate-resistant cement has less than 5% tricalcium aluminate and less than 25% of tricalcium aluminate and calcium aluminoferrite.
Due to its composition, the cement has lower chances of being damaged by sulfates in underground water and soil. It is also less prone to chloride damage.
High alumina cement comes in handy when constructing:
- Sewage treatment plants
- Piling work
- Foundation work
- Underground structures
- Chemical factories
- construction projects near coasts
- Petrochemical and food processing industries
High-early-strength cement is a variant of Portland cement that gains most of its 28-day strength in a few hours to several days due to its faster reactions.
High-early-strength cement consists of type III Portland cement, low water content, admixtures, and complementary cementitious materials. Manufacturers subject these materials to high heat before steam curing to improve sulfate resistance and eliminate effloresce.
This cement suits projects with a short turnaround time, such as the repair of pavements, cold weather construction, high-speed cast-in-place construction, and fast production of precast concrete.
Air-entraining cement is specialized Portland cement designed to trap microscopic air bubbles in concrete. The air bubbles are introduced into the cement using air-entraining materials in the clinker. Some air-entraining materials include:
- Using aluminum or zinc powder or hydrogen peroxide to generate air
- Using agents that reduce surface tension
- Cement dispersing agents
Air-entraining cement is easy to work with and requires less water and sand. This type of cement is ideal for use in cold areas that experience freezing as the air bubbles in the concrete provide sufficient room for expansion and contraction without the concrete cracking.
Anti-corrosion cement is ideal for prolonging the life of concrete structures and reinforced concrete construction. This cement is high in tricalcium aluminates and protects structures against physical and chemical elements
Manufacturers make anti-corrosion cement by adding mineral admixtures such as silica fume and fly ash into ordinary Portland cement.
Anti-corrosion cement suits high-acidity environments such as sewage treatment plants, fuel-burning plants, and constructions near salt water.
Fiber-reinforced cement is made with long fibers in addition to hydraulic cement. The fibers used in its production include steel, glass, synthetic, and natural fibers.
The presence of these fibers increases the strength and load-bearing capacity of structures made with cement. It also reduces cracking and water permeability in concrete.
Concrete made with fiber-reinforced cement is used to construct walls, dams, flooring, runways, concrete pipes, bridges, tunnels, pavement, roads, and utility holes.
Self-consolidating cement sets under its weight without relying on being vibrated. It’s part of a self-consolidating concrete mix for industrial applications such as dams, parking facilities, and tunnels.
The concrete mix has better workability, flows better, and is less labor-intensive. It can also have increased mechanical performance and durability than traditional concrete.
It is used in the construction of drilled shafts and columns, retrofitting, and repair of construction work.
Expansive cement considerably increases in volume when mixed with water. This type of cement is produced by heating limestone and clay together at temperatures of about 2600°F to form clinkers.
The next step is heating limestone, bauxite, and calcium sulfate at 2300°F to form sulfoaluminate clinkers. When you grind the two clinker types together, you create expansive cement.
You can use expansive cement in the following projects.
- In continuous floor slaps that lack joints
- Filling holes in the foundation
- Creating pre-stressed concrete for bridge and building construction
- Grouting anchor bolts
So, Which Cement Type Should You Use?
The type of cement used in a construction project can affect its longevity and structural integrity. You can choose the right cement for your construction project by assessing the intended use, the environment, and the elements your structure will be exposed to during its lifetime, or consult a construction expert to help you choose.