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Cement Calculator

Table of contents

What is cement?Different applications of cementHow to calculate cementHow much cement do I need? - Sample calculationHow to use our cement calculatorFAQs

Planning to use cement for your next DIY project? Are you planning to renovate your home and need to mix some concrete? Or do you want to try molding cement mix to make ornaments for your home? Cement is a versatile construction material you can use to make almost any shape you want as long as you have a mold for it.

However, we don’t want to just carelessly mix cement with sand and gravel to make concrete and end up having lots of waste after. According to the Portland Cement Association’s Carbon Footprint article, cement production is one of the industrial processes that emit large amounts of CO2. In the U.S. alone, up to 1.5% of all human-generated CO2 comes from the production of cement. When the cement hardens, it also stores CO2 within it that can readily escape when it breaks. So we want to be precise about how much cement to use for our projects. That way, we also minimize our CO2 footprint when dealing with cement.

This cement calculator is a handy tool that can help you with all your cement-related needs! Use it to figure out how much cement you'd need when mixing mortar or concrete, or even cement and water only! Use it to find out how much sand and gravel to use when mixing mortar and concrete, respectively, together with how much water is recommended for a mix. Keep on reading to start learning more about this versatile construction material. Let's get mixing!

In this calculator, you will learn what cement is and what the difference between concrete and cement is. You will also learn how to calculate cement in terms of bags or any units of volume. As an added feature, you will also be able to calculate the amount of sand and gravel for any concrete mix. Keep on reading to start learning!

What is cement?

Cement is a reactive powder component that binds fine and coarse aggregates together with water. Water and cement react together and harden to form a durable yet brittle material. Cement is made out of pulverized and crush stones mixed with chemicals such as lime and calcium silicate.

Cement can be categorized into two main types depending on how it reacts with water. Hydraulic cement sets and hardens in the presence of water and remains durable and tough after hardening. On the other hand, non-hydraulic cement sets in a dry environment in the presence of carbon dioxide and tends to expand and deteriorate after setting, especially when exposed to water. Because of that, non-hydraulic cement is usually used for indoor purposes only.

In our modern construction industry, we now mostly use hydraulic cement for indoor and outdoor uses. Portland cement, particularly, is the most common hydraulic cement around the world, so, in this calculator, we focus mainly on Portland cement and its different uses.

Different applications of cement

When talking about cement, the word concrete usually also comes into play. And though they might seem the same, they are indeed two different things. Concrete is produced by mixing cement with water, fine aggregates like sand, and coarse aggregates like gravel. Cement binds everything together to form concrete.

On the other hand, by mixing just cement, sand, and water, we create mortar. Mortar is used for joining together concrete blocks or bricks. Adding more water to a mortar mix makes it suitable for plastering concrete block walls or for using as a thinset for adhering tiles. By adding water, we can make a thinner and smoother mix that can be troweled to finish a surface. You can learn more about mortar and thinset in our mortar calculator and our thinset calculator, respectively.

Cement is also used in making grout mixtures. We use grout to fill in the gaps between tiles and even between bricks. However, nowadays, we can already buy pre-mixed cementitious dry grout in bags for convenience. If you want to learn more about grout and would also love to know how to calculate the volume of grout needed for a tiling project, you can check our grout calculator.

How to calculate cement

Since we usually use cement with other construction materials like sand and gravel, we calculate its volume using a mix ratio. With mix ratios, we can tell how many components a concrete mix or mortar mix will need in terms of parts.

Mix ratios not only help determine the amount of cement, sand, and gravel needed, but it also tells us something about the strength and durability of the final product. The more cement we have in the mix, the stronger the product will be. Here are some of the common mix ratios of concrete and their corresponding compressive strengths and uses in construction:

Concrete mix ratio (cement : sand : gravel)

Compressive strength

Common uses

1 : 5 : 10

5.0 MPa or 725 psi

Mass concrete works

1 : 4 : 8

7.5 MPa or 1085 psi

Mass concrete for foundations, footings, and heavy walls

1 : 3 : 6

10.0 MPa or 1450 psi

1 : 2 : 4

15.0 MPa or 2175 psi

General reinforced concrete columns, beams, and slabs

1 : 1.5 : 3

20.0 MPa or 2900 psi

Precast and dense concrete works, water-retaining structures, and piles

1 : 1 : 2

25.0 MPa or 3625 psi

Heavily-loaded reinforced concrete column and long-span beams

Nowadays, we typically use a 1:2:4 mix ratio when building a reinforced concrete single-story house. As a nickname, we can call this mix M15 grade, which comes from its corresponding 15 MPa compressive strength. If we want to build a 2-story house, we would need a stronger mix like the M20 grade mix, which follows a 1:1.5:3 mix ratio.

When calculating the amount of cement in a mix, it is worth knowing that the dry mix volume shrinks after adding water, decreasing its volume. Adding water to the dry mix makes the fine particles of cement glide into the sand and gravel mixture's void spaces.

The wet volume of concrete is what we usually get when obtaining the volume inside of a formwork. However, we need the concrete mix's dry volume to determine how much cement, sand, and gravel we need. We can approximate the concrete mix's dry volume by multiplying the wet volume by a value that engineers use, which ranges from 1.52 to 1.57.

After determining the dry volume of the concrete we need, we can then use our preferred mix ratio to find how much cement we need for our project. In the next section of this text, we'll consider an example to understand further how to calculate cement.

How much cement do I need? - Sample calculation

Let's say we want to make a 5.0 MPa (725 psi) 20 cm x 20 cm x 20 cm concrete block using a steel mold we made in our steel plate weight. By multiplying the dimensions of the concrete block steel mold, we obtain the wet volume of the concrete needed:

wet volume=20 cm×20 cm×20 cm=0.2 m×0.2 m×0.2 m=0.008 m3\small \begin{align*} \text{wet volume} &= 20\ \text{cm} \times 20\ \text{cm} \times 20\ \text{cm}\\ &= 0.2\ \text{m} \times 0.2\ \text{m} \times 0.2\ \text{m}\\ &= 0.008\ \text{m}^3 \end{align*}

Let's say we want to use a dry volume-to-wet volume ratio of 1.54:1. We can then find the dry volume by multiplying our calculated wet volume by 1.54, as shown below:

dry volume=wet volume×1.54=0.008 m3×1.54=0.01232 m3\small \begin{align*} \text{dry volume} &= \text{wet volume}\times 1.54\\ &= 0.008\ \text{m}^3\times 1.54\\ &= 0.01232\ \text{m}^3 \end{align*}

From the table in the previous section of this text, we need a mix ratio of 1:5:10 to make a 5.0 MPa (725 psi) concrete block. By adding the ratio's parts together, we obtain the total parts to be 1 + 5 + 10 = 16. Among these 16 parts, cement is one part of it, sand is another 5 parts of it, and gravel is the remaining 10 parts. We can also express this in the pie chart shown below:

A pie chart of concrete mix ratio of 1 part cement, 5 parts sand, and 10 parts gravel.

To get each component's volume, VcomponentV_\text{component}, we can multiply how many parts each of them makes up by the total part of the dry mix:

Vcomponent=dry volume×parts from totaltotal number of parts,\small V_\text{component} =\text{dry volume}\times \frac{\text{parts from total}}{\text{total number of parts}},

which for each component:

Vcement=0.01232m3×116=0.00077 m3Vsand=0.01232m3×516=0.00385 m3Vgravel=0.01232m3×1016=0.00770 m3\begin{align*} V_\text{cement} &= 0.01232\text{m}^3\times \frac{1}{16}\\[1.0em] &= 0.00077\ \text{m}^3\\[1.5em] V_\text{sand} &= 0.01232\text{m}^3\times \frac{5}{16}\\[1.0em] &= 0.00385\ \text{m}^3\\[1.5em] V_\text{gravel} &= 0.01232\text{m}^3\times \frac{10}{16}\\[1.0em] &= 0.00770\ \text{m}^3 \end{align*}

From our calculation above, we can now say that for us to make a small 5.0 MPa 20-cm cube of concrete block, we would need 0.00077 m³ of cement, 0.00385 m³ of sand, and 0.00770 m³ of gravel.

Please take note that calculating the cement in a mortar mix follows the same procedure as above. The only difference is that there won't be any gravel in the mix.

How to use our cement calculator

Using our cement calculator is quite easy. The first thing you have to do is select which mix you want to make. After that, input the wet volume of the mix you need. We have already pre-entered a value for the dry volume to wet volume ratio, but you can still change it. Instantly, the calculated dry volume will be displayed. As usual, you can input the percentage of assumed wastage you might need depending on the worker's handling of the materials. After that, you will be given the total dry volume.

Next, select your preferred mix ratio to get the volumes of cement and sand for a mortar mix and cement, sand, and gravel for a concrete mix. The weight of cement is also automatically calculated using a cement density of 1440 kg/m³ (90 lb/ft³) but you can change this value by entering a new one in the Cement density field of our cement calculator.

Since you can get cement in bags, we have also added that feature to our cement calculator. Enter the weight of a bag of cement available in your area to calculate the number of bags to fit the cement's calculated weight.

With our cement calculator, you can also estimate the material cost for the volume of mix you wish to make.


What is cement made of?

The basic ingredients of cement are a mixture of lime (calcium oxide, CaO), silica, and clay, which are carbonized and then ground. Other oxides of aluminum, iron, and magnesium are often used as cement additives, as well as gypsum, which is used to regulate the setting rate of cement.

How can I make cement?

Below are the steps on how to make the cement yourself:

  1. Find the limestone near the riverbed or at a landscaping supply store or garden center.
  2. Crush the limestone into small pieces using a shovel.
  3. Burn the limestone at a high temperature in a kiln or outdoor oven.
  4. Wait until the limestone cools completely.
  5. Crush the pieces of dried limestone. You have obtained cement in powder form.

Are concrete and cement the same thing?

No, cement and concrete are not the same thing. Cement is rarely used alone and is usually a component of concrete. Conversely, concrete is made from a mixture of cement, gravel, sand, and other ingredients. Typically, the concrete mixture contains 10 to 15% cement in its volume.

How long does it take for cement to dry?

It usually takes 24 to 48 hours for concrete to dry enough to walk on. It can take up to a week to dry before you can drive on it, and the entire curing process can take up to 28 days. Note that the drying time for cement and concrete is the same. This is because cement is a component of concrete.

What is portland cement?

Portland cement is a type of cement in the form of a finely ground powder that consists mainly of lime, silica, and alumina. When mixed with water, it forms a paste that sets and hardens at room temperature. It is called "hydraulic cement" because it hardens when mixed with water, or "grey cement" because of its color.

What do you want to mix?

Mix quantity

Cement needed

Other materials needed for the mix

If you are planning to build concrete columns and prefer to use pre-mixed concrete, you can also check our concrete column calculator to learn more. 🙂

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