Construction for Beginners: What is the Difference Between Mortar and Concrete?

Because we handle both tuckpointing and concrete construction at Bald Eagle, we often get asked about the difference between mortar and concrete.  Especially, can one be substituted for the other?

While it may seem like the only difference is how each is used, they each have their own very different properties; each specializing in its own area. Though both mortar and concrete are widely used building materials, they cannot be substituted for each other without compromising the integrity of a build.

So what is the difference between mortar and concrete?

Mortar

Mortar is used to hold building materials such as brick or stone together. It is composed of a thick mixture of water, sand, and cement. The water is used to hydrate the cement and hold the mix together. The water to cement ratio is higher in mortar than in concrete in order to form its bonding element. When mixed, it is a much thicker substance than concrete, making it ideal as a glue for building materials like brick. Because mortar must be replaced every 25-50 years, it isn’t practical for structural projects.

Concrete

Like mortar, concrete is a mixture of sand, cement, and water, but it also contains rock chippings or gravel which makes it much stronger and more durable than mortar. Because it needs a low water to cement ratio, it is much thinner when mixed, making it difficult to use as a bonding element. Concrete is used in structural projects and is often reinforced with steel rebar to maintain its structural integrity as the soil beneath it settles. It is best used for support, such as beams, walls, or other building foundations.

So essentially, what is the difference between mortar and concrete? While a hydrated cement mixture forms the base of both materials, the rock chipping in cement makes it much stronger for use in structural projects, and mortar is thicker, which makes it a better bonding element.

Before you begin, know which material will be best for your project. Using one material in place of the other can create new costs in the long run for repair or replacement.

If you have questions regarding the use of mortar or concrete, call Bald Eagle Construction –