At first glance, both concrete and mortar seem to be similar materials. They seem identical from the surface. Cement, aggregate, and water make up both materials.

Why then are they used in such drastically different ways? It all depends on how the concrete and mortar are mixed, how much water is used, and what kind of aggregate is used.

There are several differences between concrete and mortar, including the fact that concrete has a lower water-to-cement ratio, and that it contains large and coarse aggregate, making it stronger. The mortar pastes bricks, blocks, or tiles together, and is weaker, has a higher water-to-cement ratio. Mortar contains finer aggregate.

Concrete is a composite material composed of coarse aggregate bonded together with a fluid cement that hardens over time. Mortar is a mixture of cement, lime, and sand that is used to bond masonry units such as bricks and stones.

concrete pouring
Pouring of concrete for the reinforced slab

Concrete vs mortar: which material is better for construction?

This is a difficult question to answer as it depends on the specific project requirements. Concrete is generally stronger and more durable than mortar, so it may be better for projects that require greater strength and durability.

However, mortar is often more flexible than concrete, meaning it can better withstand seismic activity or other external forces.
Ultimately, the best material to use for a construction project will depend on the specific needs of the project.

Just as there are different types of concrete, there are different types of mortar. They are not interchangeable. It is not possible to glue bricks together with concrete, and it is not possible to pour mortar into a building’s foundation or footings.

There are different types of mortar, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages.

There is a mortar specifically designed for masonry units, another for concrete, and yet another for plaster. Mortar designed for masonry units is stronger and more durable than other types of mortar, while mortar designed for concrete is more flexible. Plaster mortar is the weakest type of mortar, but it is also the most corrosion-resistant.

The Difference Between Concrete, Cement, and Mortar

Those unfamiliar with the composition and how they’re made frequently use these three terms interchangeably.
Masonry uses all three of them as bindings or building materials.

Each of them, however, has a different purpose and overall composition.

Cement, concrete, and mortar are all common construction materials. Cement is a powder that is mixed with water to form a paste.

Concrete is a mixture of cement, sand, gravel, or crushed stones. Mortar is a mixture of cement, and sand that is used to bond masonry units such as bricks and stones. (Sometimes mortar mixture is composed of cement, lime, and sand)

There are several key differences between these materials. Cement is the most basic ingredient in both concrete and mortar. Concrete also requires sand and gravel or crushed stones, while mortar does not. Mortar is typically used for bonding masonry units, while concrete can be used for both structural and non-structural applications.

The term “Portland Cement” refers to the white stone quarries on the island of Portland, England, which produced the cement.

Joseph Aspdin was an English mason who invented cement in the nineteenth century. The color of his cement matched the quarries, so he named it after them.

Portland Cement is made mostly of limestone with other combinations of chemicals like calcium, silicon, aluminum, and iron. It also contains shells, chalk combined with shale, clay, slate, slag from blast furnaces, sand, and iron ore.
Additionally, it contains shells, chalk combined with shale, clay, slate, blast furnace slag, sand, and iron ore.

The chemical mixture in it is “hydraulic,” which means that it will harden once water is added.
Most often, cement is added to concrete and mortar mixes as a supplementary binding agent.
Additionally, it can be added to materials such as stucco, grout, and adhesives.

It is a thicker and stronger material composed of Portland Cement, water, and coarse or fine aggregates such as sand, rocks, or gravel.

Concrete is a common building material throughout the world, used for constructing sidewalks, buildings, patios, and even skyscrapers.

Concrete dates back to the stone ages when ancient tribes in the Middle East used a type of concrete to build housing structures and cisterns.

Over the years, concrete knowledge has been lost and found but has never been as widely utilized as it is today.
Concrete can be formed into almost any size or shape today using an almost unlimited amount of ingenuity.

Concrete will continue to harden over time, making it extremely durable and possessing rock-like compressive strength.
Manufacturers package it in “ready-mix” bags that simply need water to be poured on any surface.

The following is a list of the different kinds of applications concrete is used for:

Footings, foundations, etc. of buildings
Floors and walls
Dams, spillways, culverts, etc.

Concrete is manufactured in about 7.5 billion cubic meters every year.

Concrete manufacturers design concrete to have compressive strengths between 2,000 psi and 6,000 psi. for structures like sidewalks. For structures like sidewalks, 4,000 psi is the minimum strength.

On the other hand, mortar is weaker and has a completely different purpose than concrete.
Unlike concrete, it uses Portland Cement, a higher amount of water, and very fine sand as aggregate. Mortar is a weak form of concrete.

Technically, it’s thicker than concrete, so it’s excellent for adhering to certain objects.
The mortar has been compared to grout, which has almost the same ingredients as mortar, without the lime.

Grout differs from mortar in that, in the case of floor or wall tiles, mortar binds the tile to the surface, while grout fills in the spaces between the tiles.

Those gaps are referred to as joints.

Mortar manufacturers design mortars with compression strengths ranging from 1,000 to 3,500 psi. It is not large enough to be used on bigger constructions like driveways.

Whether it’s for adhesion or repair, mortar can be used in the following materials:

cement mortar use in plastering
Using mortar for plastering of wall

Different types of mortar

There are five different types of mortar that can be used for different projects.

  • Type M
    Type M mortars are the strongest and have a psi strength of at least 2,500. Despite being the strongest type of mortar, it is not strong enough to replace concrete.
    It is primarily used when dealing with hard stones. As a result of its strength, Type M is not as workable as other types of mortar and is not the easiest to work with.
    Among the uses are:
    Below Ground level (or, “below grade”)
    Heavy loads
    A few foundation applications
    Driveway applications
  • Type S
    According to its compressive strength, it is the second best mortar. It has a minimum value of 1,800 psi and a higher tensile strength than other types of mortar.
    It can sustain both wind and seismic forces and is well suited to underground applications.
    The following are some uses:
    Exterior structures below grade
    Applications of some foundations
    Mortar for stones
  • Type N
    Typically, the first type of mortar is used on outside or inside walls as well as on walls raised above the ground level (or, “above grade”). This is the generally use type of mortar.
    These types of mortar can be used on walls that are exposed to heat and weathering. A mortar of this type only has a medium strength of at least 750 psi.
    Among the uses are:
    Medium loads
    Uses above grade level
    Interior and exterior applications
    Stone masonry made of soft stones
  • Type O
    In contrast, Type O mortar has a minimum psi of 350 and is a weaker mix used mostly for interior work. As a result, this type isn’t recommended for use in new constructions or to repair units that aren’t structurally sound. In addition, it is not resistant to high winds or earthquakes.
    Uses include:
    Touching up (or repointing) existing mortar joints. When repointing, it is important not to use mortar that is harder than the existing mortar, as this may result in spalling or cracking of the existing brick.
  • Type K
    With a minimum psi of 75, this type is the weakest and rarest of all mortar types. Since this type of mortar has no bearing capacity, most people will not be concerned about it.
    On the other hand, it is used to preserve historical sites or anything fragile that may be damaged by stronger mortar.

Listed below are the different types of mortar, their strengths, and how many parts Portland Cement, sand, and lime each require.

Mortar Types Portland Cement Sand Lime

Durability and Strength

Utilization explains why there is such a difference between concrete and mortar. Larger, heavier structures are built with concrete, while smaller, lighter ones are built with This is a great question.

While concrete is stronger than mortar, it would not be suitable for some brick or block walls due to some reasons. The concrete would be too strong. Another reason also is the use of mortar instead of concrete especially horizontal block laying due to the ease in placement and aligning of block elements.

blocklaying using mortar
Mortar used in block laying

Concrete can be used to build a brick wall, for example. Concrete is made to be very hard. Whenever a brick wall shifts, the concrete will break along with it, and you will need to build a new wall.

A wall built with mortar, on the other hand, will only break at mortar joints, which are weaker than bricks. All you need to do is add more mortar. It’s easy and affordable.

This is one of the main reasons why concrete and mortar are used in masonry.