Cinder Blocks vs Concrete Blocks: What’s the Difference?

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When embarking on a new construction process, it is essential to pick the right products. But when it comes to cinder blocks versus concrete blocks, people are often confused about which is the best for their project. Many still use the terms “cinder block” and “concrete block” interchangeably, confusing each other. Although the two share some cardinal elements, there are some vital differences between cinder blocks vs. concrete blocks. To help you out, Civil Query takes a closer look at those distinctions. Read on!

The Difference between Cinder Blocks and Concrete Blocks

When we talk about cinder blocks vs. concrete blocks, there are some distinct features between them to recognize:

  1. Fly ash
  2. Manufacturing raw materials
  3. Weight
  4. Strength
  5. Structure
  6. Application
  7. Usability
  8. Affordability

1. Fly Ash

Mix 10-15% cement and 15-20% water to make a paste. Then, throw in 65-75% of aggregates such as gravel, sand, or finely crushed stone. Wait for a chemical reaction to happen, and the end result is an impenetrable rock-like mass or – concrete! Now, both concrete blocks and cinder blocks are created from concrete. Only cinder blocks contain fly ash as the ‘aggregate’ rather than fine gravel or sand that is used to produce actual concrete, whereas when we talk about concrete blocks, fly ash is used during the construction of any building for masonry units.

An image of cinder blocks.
One of the main differences between cinder blocks and concrete blocks is that cinder blocks contain fly ash as the aggregate.

2. Manufacturing Raw Materials

These two structural elements also differ in terms of manufacturing raw materials. For making concrete blocks, steel, wood, gravel stones, or cement are mixed, and, if properly cured, these ingredients bond into solid, strong substances.

On the other hand, the manufacturing process is not that different when we talk about cinder blocks. However, they have raw materials, including concrete and coal cinders. Consequently, they are much lighter in weight than their concrete counterparts.

3. Weight and Strength

Due to the proportion of the aggregate components, a cinder block is typically much lighter than a concrete block.

This mixture of marvels and gravel stones in a concrete block makes it not only a lot more cumbersome but also a lot more durable and much longer lasting. Therefore, they are typically used in more substantial construction projects. What is more, there are several building codes explicitly prohibiting the use of cinder blocks in construction and building projects.

On the flip side, when it comes to shipping construction goods, bulky items usually require specialized transportation, special arrangements, and possibly permits, especially when shipped overseas. So, it is wise to be aware of and know the requirements if you are preparing for a project.

4. Structure

In their features, cinder blocks display hollow rectangular-shaped structures, whereas a concrete block is typically a flattened construct and can be either hollow or solid. Being a prefabricated material, a concrete block can have so many models that it would be almost impossible to list each one.

5. Application and Usability

As we have already mentioned, cinder blocks are more lightweight and inflexible. For this reason, they are prohibited in construction by some building codes. People tend to use them more frequently in small projects. For instance, they’re great for building grills, outer fireplaces, birdhouses, garden walls, firewood storage, et cetera.

An image of a fireplace
Cinder blocks are an excellent option for smaller projects, whereas concrete blocks are best for larger projects.

Concrete blocks, on the other hand, are much stronger and more durable, which makes them suitable for almost any structure. Due to their harder structure and ability to withstand adverse weather conditions, people generally use them in more substantial and important projects. Nevertheless, they are also great for many non-load-bearing projects and smaller landscaping tasks, such as:

  • outdoor furniture,
  • decorative screens,
  • patios,
  • outdoor bars,
  • flower beds.

Arranging them is relatively easy and does not require much-skilled labor.

Also, cinder blocks are frequently depicted as old-fashioned building elements because they have not been massively produced for nearly 50 years. However, their concrete counterpart is much in use, mainly due to its hardiness and advantages over the former.

6. Affordability

When it comes to cinder blocks vs. concrete blocks, affordability is yet another factor we must consider. Cinder blocks tend to be more on the pricey side. Their overall cost is higher because they do not withstand the forces of nature very well, meaning they need a lot of repairs.

The concrete block, by contrast, is easy for the contractor to afford. It’s a lot less costly because of its ability to withstand the elements and forces of nature better, meaning it requires less maintenance and repair.

Cinder Blocks vs. Concrete Blocks: Which Masonry Block Is Right for My Next Project?

As you can see, cinder blocks and concrete blocks are not the same. They have different properties, usages, advantages, and disadvantages. But, hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the differences between these two types of building elements.

A photo of a scale
The choice of your masonry block will mainly depend on what you are building.

When choosing cinder blocks vs. concrete blocks, it is essential to consider what you are building and your desired outcome. For instance, if you are making a backyard grill, you can go with cinder blocks! But if you have a larger and more structural project on hand, then concrete blocks are the obvious choice. Finally, discussing the materials for your next project with a consultant and a construction manager is always a good idea. As someone with plenty of knowledge and experience, they can guide you best. Best of luck!

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