9 Types of Popular Concrete Mixes (and What to Know About Them)

Deane Biermeier
Written by Deane Biermeier
Updated July 18, 2022
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Whether you’re making a flower-lined walkway or landscape edging for your lawn, it’s helpful to understand the differences between various types of concrete. Learn all about pre-mixed concrete options and how to use them in one of your next home improvement projects.

1. All-Purpose Concrete

The most common type of pre-mixed concrete that homeowners use is the all-purpose or ready-to-use type. The measure of concrete’s strength is its psi rating. Concrete with a higher psi rating is stronger, can carry more weight, and is less prone to cracking than concrete with a lower psi rating. 

All-purpose is generally available in 50, 60, or 80-pound bags of dry material. And when you mix concrete with water, it creates concrete with a psi rating of between 2,500 and 4,000.  

All-purpose concrete is good for everything from sidewalk or patio slabs to deck footings and interior floors. It’s likely that when someone says they’re going to the store to purchase concrete, all-purpose concrete mix is what they mean. 

2. High-Strength Concrete

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Construction standards define high-strength concrete as having a psi rating at or above 6,000. The definition gets blurry in stores where pre-mixed bags of dry concrete are readily available. Concrete with 6,000 psi or higher is typically a product that a local concrete contractor might use for special applications. 

A common term you may need to know is high-early-strength concrete, which features strengths up to 5,000 psi, but its main objective is to be ready for use quickly. It’s readily available in a pre-mixed form and is excellent for use in foundations, driveways, and slabs that will hold heavy machinery.

3. Fast-Setting Concrete

Fast-setting concrete is excellent for setting fence posts, mailbox posts, or any other time you need instant concrete. Just pour the mix into a hole, add water, mix, and wait for 10 minutes—that’s all there is to this stuff. 

Fast-setting concrete mix sets up so quickly that it’s impractical for most uses beyond setting posts or repairing existing concrete. Typically, the product has a compressive strength rating of around 4,000 psi. 

4. Crack-Resistant Concrete

Modern concrete patio with pergola and outdoor kitchen
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Consider crack-resistant concrete mix for sidewalks, patios, floors, steps, or anywhere else where a long-term, crack-free finish is crucial. As the name implies, using crack-resistant concrete reduces the chances of cracking due to ground movement or inadequate reinforcement. 

The product is simply all-purpose concrete with added fibers that increase its binding properties and give it a strength of around 4,000 psi. 

5. Sand Mix

Technically, sand mix isn’t a true concrete mix. Sand mix, also known as topping mix, is a mixture of cement and, you guessed it, sand. It’s the go-to option for patching holes or cracks in existing concrete or for using as a top coat to achieve a smooth finish or fine details in concrete features. 

It can also be great for leveling concrete under a finished floor. Sand mix is a close relative to mortar mix but isn’t for use when laying block or brick. 

6. Countertop Mix

Kitchen countertop and sink made out of concrete
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Countertop mix concrete is a specialty product that mixes cement with fine aggregates and extra additives to increase performance. Countertop mix typically carries premium pricing versus more common concrete mixes, which can drive up the cost of your concrete countertop project. However, countertop mix is, without question, the best product for the job. 

7. Concrete Leveler

Concrete leveler is another product that isn’t technically concrete. In fact, some levelers have very little in common with concrete. However, you may need a concrete leveler material when working with concrete floors before installing flooring. 

Most brands of concrete leveler mix with water in a bucket before pouring it directly where you’re working. You can typically walk on it and lay flooring within just a few hours.

8. Mortar Mix

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Although masonry materials include concrete, most people associate mortar with that list more closely. Mortar mix isn’t concrete at all. But, it should be part of any masonry discussion for clarity. Mortar is a combination of cement and fine sand. Mixing it with water forms an adhesive that creates the bond between bricks and blocks. 

9. Stucco

Surprisingly to some, traditional stucco siding is a type of concrete. Stucco typically consists of all three concrete ingredients with small-sized aggregates. You can find it in ready-to-use bags of base coat and finish coat forms at home centers. Stucco patch, however, is often a vinyl product for use in patching holes or cracks in existing stucco.

Concrete Terminology

Now you know what kinds of concrete are available in ready-to-install types for homeowners. To understand what your contractor is talking about, however, there are a few more terms to define. These are types of concrete in their finished form or phrases that explain how the concrete looks when complete.

Keep in mind that concrete is a mix of sand, aggregate, and binder. Cement is the binder that holds concrete together and is often confused with concrete. 

Concrete With Additional Treatment or Materials

  • Reinforced concrete includes rebar put in place before the concrete goes in.

  • Precast concrete is concrete that is poured into a mold and cured in a controlled atmosphere before bringing it to the construction site.

  • Lightweight concrete uses lightweight aggregates in its production. 

  • Prestressed concrete uses cables or rods to put concrete slabs under compression for additional strength. 

  • Air-entrained means concrete with air bubbles inside that’s useful in cold climates.

  • High-density concrete is also known as heavyweight concrete and is common in industrial uses.

  • Polymer concrete is concrete that consists of synthetic binders instead of, or in addition to, traditional cement. 

Types of Concrete Finishes

There are numerous ways to finish concrete to create various appearances. You may hear terms like the ones below that often refer to both the finish and the creation method. 

  • Troweled

  • Broomed

  • Stamped

  • Exposed aggregate

  • Salt-finished

  • Sand-textured

  • Stained

  • Polished

From flawless foundations to perfect pathways, concrete is an essential component of many home improvement projects. Whether you plan to DIY make your own concrete and install it, or hire a local concrete mason for your next project, it’s always helpful to know the different types and terms before you get started.

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