What is Portland Cement?

You’ve probably heard of it. You might even have worked with it. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have questions. For many people, Portland cement remains a bit of a mystery. If you’ve ever wondered exactly what the substance is, you’re in luck! General Chipping can explain.

Despite the product’s city-specific name, Portland cement is extremely versatile, and the most commonly-used cement today. Cement.org credits the product’s invention to Joseph Aspdin, a bricklayer who, in the 19th century, first created Portland cement by burning powdered limestone and clay inside his kitchen.

Most Portland cement is created using a dry method, which Cement.org describes in simple terms:

  • Workers quarry ingredients such as limestone and clay
  • The quarried materials are crushed, then crushed again until they measure 3 inches or smaller
  • Workers combine the crushed material with things such as iron ore and fly ash
  • The mixture is heated to approximately 2,700 degrees inside a cement kiln
  • Gasses burn off inside the kiln, leaving behind a substance called clinker
  • Clinker emerges from the kiln as marble-sized gray balls
  • Once cooled, workers grind the clinker and mix it with gypsum and limestone
  • The finished product is ready to distribute

Although it begins as a powdery substance, Portland cement forms a sticky paste when combined with water. Thanks in large part to its low-cost ingredients, the product is a strong, cost-effective material perfect for a wide range of projects, from sidewalks, to grout and even stucco.


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