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How is Cement Made?2

Cement is everywhere – and we hardly notice it.

Sorta like dog doo, we don’t think about the cement under our feet, until we’ve stepped in a fresh pile.  

But what, exactly, is cement?

Well, basically cement is a very fine powder made from a mixture of natural elements such as clay, limestone, sand and/or shale.  These elements provide the chemicals (Aluminum, Calcium, Iron, and Silicon) needed to form a binding compound when mixed with water.

Other ingredients added to the compound change what happens to the cement.   For example, if you mix cement with water, gravel, and sand, you get concrete; with simply sand and water, cement becomes plaster; and mortar is formed when cement is mixed with water, lime, and sand.

So how does this versatile substance get from the ground and into a bag in your local building supply store?

The process usually starts in a limestone quarry.  Boulders of limestone are run through a crusher, reducing them into stones about the size of marbles.  The small stones are then blended with other materials (such as sand and clay) to create the proper proportion of elements needed to create cement.  The final mixture is then ground into a very fine powder.

The cement powder is then dumped into an insanely hot rotating furnace –  so hot that it converts the powder into a partially molten state—around 2700° F!  The high heat causes the powder to turn into a glass-like substance called “clinker.”

The clinker is cooled, and after adding a small amount of gypsum, the mixture is ground again.  The gypsum is added to help prevent flash setting of the cement during the cooling process.

Some of this finished product is bagged and shipped in bulk to distributors, who then supply the local building supply stores.

Next time you’re fixing a crack in your concrete driveway or laying bricks along a garden path, you’ll know a little more about the cement between your toes. 

by John Barker

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Comments / Discussion

  1. Diana Ismond
    So how do I fix an interior wall crack, under the plaster and paint, that is about 1/16 inch wide, off center from the above portion by about the same, and narrows to disappearing? Any suggestions REALLY appreciated.
    January 28, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink
  2. editor
    HI Diana, Check back tomorrow for a post to help you out!
    January 31, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink
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