Cement is the binding material used in construction projects. It adheres to building units such as tiles, bricks, rocks, and stones to secure the infrastructure. Broadly speaking, it is a fine powdery substance that includes essential elements such as limestone, shale, clay, chalk, marl, bauxite, sand, and iron ore. Since the advent of human civilization, it has been used in different forms. We will look at some of those as we analyze the advantages and disadvantages of cement.
Today we have cement that has undergone centuries of experimentation to become suitable for modern needs. You can easily find applications of cement right from plastering surfaces to the construction of massive structures such as dams, bridges, and lighthouses. But the question arises, is it eco-friendly? That brings us to the pros and cons of cement.
Advantages of cement
By combining cement with plaster and water, we can apply it to masonry surfaces to create a smooth surface. The following are the other remarkable benefits of cement.
1. It is versatile
Be it residential or commercial projects, cement is a widely used material in construction. It is highly flexible to use and that’s why it has been used for centuries. It has applications in almost every construction work. Furthermore, it is used for manufacturing precast members such as floor slabs, staircases, and columns. Moreover, you can use cement to enhance architectural designs. This is to say, you can give smooth finishing to structures by plastering them with cement.
Also, a coloring agent can be incorporated into the cement in the manufacturing process to create a colorful version. For instance, cobalt is used to give blue color and iron oxide is utilized for red or brown colors. This eliminates the need for painting structures as colored cement does the job of making them look beautiful. Mostly, the colored cement is used for floor finishing. Therefore, we can say that the versatility of cement makes it a practical and desirable material in construction.
2. Cement is readily available
The primary reason for the wide acceptance of cement in the construction industry is its easy availability. Construction firms seek local resources to use on the sites for improving the building process. Cement is a binding material that is easily available in local markets. In other words, the material is manufactured through chemical combinations including several ingredients available in nature in abundance. Also, the raw materials are extracted, crushed, dried, ground, and sintered to easily produce cement. All this makes it a valuable construction resource.
3. It has high binding strength
Cement has heightened strength and water-resisting properties, making it a good binding material to use in constructions. In masonry, it is used to create tough bonds between bricks and stones. Not only this, there are various types of cement. One such type is Portland cement, introduced by Jason Aspdin, the English manufacturer, in the 19th century. This is a form of hydraulic cement that has excellent waterproofing capabilities. So much that it can be used even in wet conditions. Moreover, some kinds of cement provide resistance to frost, making them adequate for building structures in snow regions.
4. Cement is fire-resistant
Structures are prone to accidents, including those related to fire. For this reason, several measures are taken into account while building them. One such measure is using fire-resistant materials to improve safety. Cement is a good fire-resistant material to use in construction, especially for structures in high-temperature regions. Additionally, there are acid-resistant types. It has applications in the construction of structures in the chemical industries, too. Various types of chemicals are stored in these structures, hence requiring absolute resistance for damage prevention.
5. It is cost-effective
One of the reasons cement is widely used in construction is because it is cost-effective. Firstly, the cement is easily available in markets at cheap rates. It is then combined with water and aggregates for construction purposes. Secondly, the use of cement lowers production costs and increases profits. Lastly, it is a feasible option compared to other construction materials such as polymers and steel as it is low maintenance. This significantly reduces the operating costs of the structures built from it. Therefore, builders choose cement as a one-time investment that continues to pay off for years.
Disadvantages of cement
Despite being used widely in construction projects, cement has its set of drawbacks. The following are several downsides of using cement.
1. It is not environmentally friendly
Cement is one of the most highly consumed products. But sadly, it also releases a massive amount of carbon dioxide each year. This creates pollution, causing harm to our environment. What happens here is that cement contains limestone, clay, chalk, and other materials extracted from nature. Then, these materials are burned to produce cement. The process of burning for the cement production requires energy that emits carbon dioxide. Also, considering cement is a widely used material in construction, the amount of carbon dioxide released from cement industries continues to grow, thereby harming the environment.
2. Cement is less durable than concrete
Only using cement for building structures can put them at high risk. This is because cement is prone to cracking, making it unsuitable for construction projects. These structures are constantly under stress and must be built with stronger materials. In these cases, concrete is a more suitable choice. It is more durable than cement and can withstand extreme pressure. Additionally, you can expect concrete to last for years—that’s how durable it is. In other words, concrete has a more elevated compressive strength, making it more appropriate in many applications.
3. It cannot be used for large structures
Cement is not an ideal material choice when you are working on large projects. Surely, cement is part of it, but concrete is used to build massive strong structures. To clarify, concrete includes cement blended with water and combined with aggregates. These aggregates can be sand or gravel. This is to say you cannot use cement directly for building large projects as they are at risk of damage. However, you can use cement for smaller projects such as grouting. It can also be used for repairing the cracked concrete.