To answer this question right from the start, it depends on how you plan which material to use for which project. Concrete and mortar can be similar in composition; However, each serves a very different purpose. Concrete's job is to ensure structural integrity. Mortar plays its role as a joint – a very sturdy, reliable joint – that holds blocks of brick, stone or concrete together. One should never be exchanged for the other, as each one only performs best in the role they were supposed to play. We learned a lot with a Fremont concrete contractor.

Choice between concrete and mortar

Sugar sweetens coffee; Milk jug dilutes the bitterness. Shampoo cleans the hair; Conditioner restores moisture. Concrete forms structures, mortar holds the parts together. But let's take a closer look at these latter two substances and learn more about why they are so suitable for one and not the other. A deeper understanding puts you on the right track to a perfect project.


Concrete is made up of sand, cement, water and various rocks that add strength and durability overall. It's thinner than mortar – and here's the part that makes it a bad binder. When building with concrete, steel support bars or rebars are often required to maintain integrity once the ground begins to settle underneath. Even so, concrete can perform a wide variety of household chores. Use it for projects like:

  • walls
  • stairway
  • Floors
  • Countertops
  • Support beams

We could probably make a list that goes as far as the moon. But instead of picking up the phone to make an 911 call to Houston, we're just repeating that concrete is best used as a structural tool. If properly installed / poured, it can take decades. Not only that, it's easy to dress it up for success, as decorative tricks like dyeing and stamping have become hugely popular over the years. With a little skill, concrete can even be made to mimic more expensive material like brick or natural stone.

Grenade launcher

Elementary school art teachers are constantly reminding parents to buy glue for their kids – glue to hold paper and wood together long enough (hopefully) to get home an A on that semester report. And while Bob Villa is unlikely to come over to evaluate your particular project, grout serves a similar purpose to the glue mentioned above. It holds a structure together.

Brick and stone are the most common addicts, but concrete also helps. These aforementioned rebars are usually bonded to concrete with mortar. Like concrete, mortar consists of water, sand and cement. However, the lack of other aggregates makes it less durable. And because the ratio of water to cement is higher, we are left with a thicker substance that is much better suited as a binding agent. The mortar can be trusted to last around twenty-five to thirty years. After that, a replacement will likely be required. It's also great for on-the-fly repairs. Here are some common places where the grout is of great help:

  • Brick tiles
  • Cobblestones
  • Brick walls that can contain
    • Tuckpointing
    • Concave connection
    • Flush connection
  • Stone walls
  • Brick chimneys

More of a mortar challenge may not be what it is for, but what type of mortar is best to use? As mentioned earlier, brick and stone mortars are probably the most commonly used, but there are many others and depending on the project, you may deserve more thought.

Type M mortar

Type M mortar is the strongest and does a great job with materials of similar strength, such as stone. Type S is medium strong; It works well for low-lying brick retaining walls or paving stones laid horizontally. Type O mortar is considered low-strength, but remains an effective choice for repairs and non-impact projects. Additives and polymers are commonly mixed with mortar to increase muscle strength or to make it waterproof.

Always remember to wear eye protection and waterproof gloves when mixing grout. Once mixed, the mortar will last for about ninety minutes. In addition, it begins to lose its adhesive properties. Should the mortar begin to dry out during application, it's okay to add more water. Just don't do this after the substance has fully cured.

We hope this clears the air around what concrete and mortar actually does, what is best for what purpose, and why. Build with concrete, connect with mortar. The correct use of each material will greatly increase the likelihood of your home project having a longer life, as well as the safety for those who use it.