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Concrete blocks | Cement blocks

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Concrete and cement blocks are a widely used construction material with multiple advantages.

In this article, we will share useful information about cement and concrete blocks, their advantages and disadvantages, types of masonry blocks and we will help solve any doubts that may arise regarding this material.

What are concrete blocks?

Concrete blocks are a commonly used masonry for building walls, which is made from vibro-compressed concrete.

Concrete blocks may have the appearance of being a stagnant material with many limitations, but nowadays it has once again started to be a very commonly used material for basic construction and which presents a very good lifespan.

Building with concrete blocks greatly facilitates construction. It is a system that offers great constructive and architectural diversity, going much further than the basic industrial architecture and small auxiliary buildings.

Building with concrete blocks

As it is an easy material to manufacture, concrete blocks can usually be purchased from a nearby factory, which helps when using local labour.

Concrete blocks also offer design flexibility, including its aesthetics for those projects that whish to leave it exposed.

Differences between concrete and cement block

Both are used interchangeably and use a cement base with aggregates of between 65% and 75%.

The difference between cement blocks and concrete blocks lies in some of the materials used to fabricate them. Cement blocks use fly ash aggregates, whereas concrete blocks use stone aggregates or fine crushed sand.

Whilst cement blocks are lighter, concrete blocks are stronger. So, for example, for the construction of structural building walls, professionals often prefer to use of concrete blocks.

Origin and introduction to the concrete block

At first, concrete blocks were manufactured by small factories and with poor quality control, which resulted in a very cheap but low-quality product.

Nowadays, manufacturers have evolved and, have created associations or larger groups that ensure the quality and resistance of concrete blocks.

This improvement in the quality of concrete blocks has increased its versatility, allowing additives such as colorants to obtain a different colored finish; or to decide according to its use, what aggregates to use or the desired compaction. Furthermore, the temperature and moisture of these can be controlled in curing chambers in order to offer the appropriate functional, resistant, and aesthetic quality according to each project.

Renowned architects such as Frank Ghery, Mario Botta or Lloyd Wright have all used concrete masonry blocks in some of their projects.

Types of concrete blocks

Dense aggregate blocks

Blocks with densities between 1,700kg / m3 and 24 kg / m3.

  • Hollow concrete block, the most common being 40 × 20 cm.
  • Hollow concrete block. They have several chambers that are 39 cm long, with a width between 19, 24 or 29 cm.
Multi-chamber block of dense aggregates
Source: andece.org

Lightweight aggregate blocks – Aerated autoclaved 

Blocks with densities less than 1,700 kg / m3. Regarding the composition, 40% of its volume corresponds to light aggregates.

  • Solid aerated autoclaved blocks. Thermal insulating qualities and waterproof finish.
  • Hollow aerated autoclaved blocks. Thermal insulating qualities and waterproof finish, but with larger chambers that increase its lightness and insulating capacity.
Multi-chamber arlibloc concrete block
Source: andece.org

Concrete brick

Similar to the typical ceramic brick but with improved acoustic properties.

  • Normal.
  • Elongated.
  • Lightweight, composed with light aggregates.
Elongated hollow concrete brick
Source: andece.org

The advantages of using concrete blocks

  • Less construction time, due to its size, fewer units per m2 are required.
  • Increased labor performance: two professionals can lift 12m2 per day.
  • Less material expense, less mixing is required to glue the blocks.
  • No need to plaster: it can be used as an excellent thick plaster.
  • It allows modular construction since the measurements of the concrete blocks are exact and uniform.
  • Certainty in the quantity of material needed: thanks to the fact that the units are exact, it is easier not to make a mistake in the quantity needed for the project.
  • Minimum maintenance, resulting in cost savings.
  • Less quantity use of mortar.
  • Flood and fire resistance.
  • Good acoustic insulation, thanks to its mass and buffering qualities.

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