Concrete Block Vs. Poured and Cinder Concrete: Which Is More Durable and Cheaper for a Garage?

Garages are essential add-ons to any house, offering convenient storage space for vehicles and more. The crucial part is choosing between construction materials like concrete blocks and poured concrete. Choosing between a concrete block garage and a cinder block garage is often based on factors like durability, cost, energy efficiency, and the time involved.

What Are Concrete Blocks?

Concrete blocks, sometimes referred to as concrete masonry units (CMUs), are precast concrete products used in construction, particularly in building walls of structures. These rectangular blocks are made from cast concrete – Portland cement, water, and aggregates, such as sand, crushed stone, or fine gravel.

Types of Concrete Blocks

There are several types of concrete blocks, each designed for different purposes and uses:

  • Hollow concrete blocks. These blocks are commonly used in construction, particularly for building walls. They have one or more hollow cores to make them lighter and improve insulation. The hollow spaces can be filled with a reinforcing steel bar (rebar) and concrete for extra strength.
  • Solid concrete blocks. Heavier but stronger than their hollow counterparts, these blocks are often used for foundations and load-bearing walls.
  • Interlocking concrete blocks. These blocks feature unique designs that allow them to fit together without mortar, making for faster and easier construction.
  • Aerated autoclaved concrete blocks (AAC). Made with a mix of cement, lime, water, sand, and often a bit of aluminum powder to induce foaming, these blocks are heated under pressure, resulting in a light, porous block that is great for insulation but still has structural integrity.

Manufacturing Process

The manufacturing process of concrete blocks involves a few main steps:

  • Batching. Accurate measurement of materials (cement, water, and aggregates) is taken.
  • Mixing. The materials are mixed thoroughly until a paste is formed.
  • Molding. The concrete paste is then poured into block molds of desired sizes.
  • Curing. The molded blocks are kept under controlled temperature and humidity to cure, harden, and gain strength.
  • Quality Control. After the curing process, the blocks undergo quality checks to meet specified standards before distribution.

Advantages of Concrete Blocks

Concrete blocks come with several advantages:

  • Durability. Concrete blocks are very durable and can withstand extreme weather conditions and pressure.
  • Fire resistance. They have high resistance to fire, which can help prevent fire-related damages.
  • Cost-effective. Concrete blocks are relatively cheap compared to other construction materials.
  • Easy to install. Concrete blocks are generally easy to handle and install.
  • Sound insulation. Concrete blocks provide excellent sound insulation, adding to the comfort of the building’s inhabitants.

Disadvantages of Concrete Blocks

Despite their many advantages, concrete blocks also have some drawbacks:

  • Weight. Concrete blocks are heavy, which can make installation difficult, and may require additional support in the foundation.
  • Aesthetics. Some people find concrete blocks less aesthetically pleasing than other building materials like bricks or wood.
  • Insulation. While they offer some insulation, concrete blocks are less energy-efficient than other materials. This can be remedied, however, with additional insulation.

What Are Poured Concrete?

Poured concrete, or cast-in-place concrete, is a building material commonly used in construction for various structural elements, such as walls, floors, foundations, and more. This method involves pouring a mixture of cement, water, and aggregate (usually sand or gravel) directly into the desired location, allowing it to harden and take shape.

Process of Poured Concrete

The process of using poured concrete involves a few key steps:

  • Preparation. The first step involves preparing the area where the concrete will be poured. This may include digging out space for a foundation, setting up forms or molds to shape the concrete, or laying down a layer of gravel for drainage.
  • Mixing. The concrete mixture is then prepared, combining precise amounts of cement, water, and aggregate.
  • Pouring. The prepared concrete mix is then poured into the forms. It needs to be worked into corners and around any rebar or reinforcement put into the form.
  • Curing. Once poured, the concrete must then cure. This is a crucial step, as the curing process allows the concrete to harden and gain strength. Curing generally takes a few weeks to complete, though the concrete will typically be firm enough to work on within a few days.
  • Finishing. After the concrete has cured, the finishing process begins. This involves removing the forms and completing any necessary surface treatments, such as smoothing, polishing, or adding a protective sealant.

Advantages of Poured Concrete

There are several benefits to using poured concrete in construction:

  • Strength and durability. Poured concrete is known for its strength and long-lasting durability, with the ability to resist both weathering and natural disasters better than many other materials.
  • Versatility. Due to its nature, poured concrete can take on almost any shape, making it highly versatile in construction.
  • Fire resistance. Like concrete blocks, poured concrete is also highly fire-resistant.
  • Sound insulation. Poured concrete provides excellent sound insulation, adding to the comfort of inhabitants.
  • Low maintenance. Poured concrete structures require relatively low maintenance, contributing to their cost-effectiveness over time.

Disadvantages of Poured Concrete

Despite these advantages, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider:

  • Time and labor intensive. Mixing, pouring, and curing concrete can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, particularly for larger projects.
  • Cost. While poured concrete can be cost-effective in the long run due to its durability and low maintenance, the initial cost can be higher than other materials, especially when factoring in labor costs.
  • Aesthetic limitations. While poured concrete is versatile in shape, it has aesthetic limitations. It may need more visual appeal than other building materials if finishes or other aesthetic touches are added, which can increase costs.

What Are Cinder Blocks?

Cinder blocks, also known as concrete masonry units (CMUs), are precast blocks used in various construction applications, particularly in building walls of structures. Though sometimes confused with concrete blocks, cinder blocks have a distinct composition. They’re made from cast concrete and coal cinders, which make them lighter than concrete blocks.

Types of Cinder Blocks

Similar to concrete blocks, cinder blocks come in several types, each serving different purposes:

  • Hollow cinder blocks. Like their concrete counterparts, hollow cinder blocks have one or more hollow cores. They’re used mainly for building walls, and the hollow spaces can be filled with reinforcing materials for extra strength.
  • Solid cinder blocks. These are more substantial and stronger than hollow blocks and are typically used for foundations and load-bearing walls.
  • Aerated cinder blocks. These blocks contain certain additives to induce foaming, creating a light, porous block excellent for insulation yet retaining structural integrity.

Manufacturing Process

The manufacturing process for cinder blocks is similar to that of concrete blocks:

  • Batching. Materials (cinder, cement, water, and aggregates) are measured accurately.
  • Mixing. The materials are mixed thoroughly to create a consistent paste.
  • Molding. The paste is then poured into molds of desired sizes.
  • Curing. The molded blocks are kept under controlled temperature and humidity to cure and harden.
  • Quality control. After curing, the blocks undergo checks to meet the required standards before distribution.

Advantages of Cinder Blocks

Cinder blocks offer numerous advantages:

  • Lightweight. Due to the coal cinders in their composition, cinder blocks are lighter than concrete blocks, making them easier to handle and install.
  • Fire Resistance. Cinder blocks are fire-resistant, which helps prevent fire-related damage.
  • Cost-effective. Typically, cinder blocks are cheaper than other construction materials.
  • Durability. Cinder blocks are highly durable and can withstand harsh environmental conditions.

Disadvantages of Cinder Blocks

Despite their advantages, cinder blocks do come with certain drawbacks:

  • Strength. While durable, cinder blocks are not as strong as concrete blocks due to their lighter weight and porous nature. This might limit their use in load-bearing applications.
  • Aesthetics. Cinder blocks might not be as aesthetically pleasing as bricks or wood.
  • Insulation. Cinder blocks could be better insulators. Although they offer some insulation, additional insulation might be required for optimal energy efficiency.

Durability and Cost

The Durability of Concrete Blocks and Cinder Blocks

Concrete block garages and cinder block garages are known for their durability. With the right maintenance, block garages of these materials can withstand harsh conditions. The standard cinder blocks and concrete blocks are fire-resistant and can hold up well against strong winds.

The Durability of Poured Concrete

Poured concrete is equally durable. However, it tends to be more resistant to the elements and structural issues over time.

Cost Comparison

The cinder block garage cost and concrete block garage cost can vary depending on many factors, like garage size, location, and labor costs. On average, cinder block walls cost less compared to poured concrete. It’s estimated that the cost for a cinder block garage can range from $4-$6 per square foot for the blocks alone.

In contrast, the cost for a poured concrete garage can vary between $5-$7 per square foot. The labor costs, however, may push the overall cost higher due to the skilled work and time-consuming nature of the task.

Garage Types and Sizes

Garages come in different sizes, ranging from a single-car garage to a two-car garage or even an RV garage. Cinder or concrete block garages can be built as attached garages directly connected to your house or as detached garages that stand separately on your property.

The type and size of the garage can significantly affect the total cost. For example, building an attached garage might save money on construction materials like walls and roofing as the house already provides one side. On the other hand, detached garages offer more flexibility in design but could mean spending more money.

Considerations for Building a Garage

Whether you choose a cinder block garage or a poured concrete one, keep in mind the following considerations:

Building Permit

Check with local authorities for building permit requirements. Ensuring that your new garage adheres to local building codes is crucial.

Construction Time

Poured concrete is more time-consuming than cinder or concrete blocks. Plan your timeline accordingly.

Energy Efficiency

For homeowners looking for energy-efficient garages, insulation plays a significant role. Poured concrete offers better insulation than block walls, but additional insulation can improve concrete blocks’ energy efficiency.

  • Design. You can add vinyl siding, paint, or bricks to both garages for a more aesthetic appeal. Consider the garage door style, windows for natural light, and whether to include a side door.
  • Interior walls and roofing options. Interior walls can be added to both types of garages. Garage roofing can vary depending on your preferences and budget. Common roofing materials include shingles, steel, and wood.
  • Electrical components and Bluetooth integration. Plan for your electrical needs, including garage doors with Bluetooth integration for added convenience.

How Thick Should Concrete Be for a Garage?

Determining the right thickness for a concrete garage floor is crucial for the garage’s durability, longevity, and functionality. When deciding on the correct thickness, various factors need to be considered, including the intended use of the garage, soil conditions, and climate.

Standard Thickness

Generally, the industry standard for residential garage slabs is around 4 inches in thickness. This provides a solid base that can withstand the weight of typical vehicles like cars, SUVs, and light trucks without cracking or succumbing to undue pressure.

Factors Affecting Concrete Thickness

Several factors can necessitate a thicker concrete floor:

  • Usage. If you plan to use your garage for heavier vehicles, such as RVs, or commercial vehicles, you’ll need a thicker slab – generally around 5 to 6 inches. This increased thickness ensures the concrete can bear the additional weight without cracking.
  • Soil conditions. The soil condition where you plan to pour the concrete also impacts the required thickness. For instance, in areas with poor soil conditions, such as expansive clay or loose, sandy soil, a thicker slab might be necessary to ensure stability and prevent future problems like settling or cracking.
  • Climate. If you live in a region with extreme weather conditions or frequent freeze-thaw cycles, you may need a thicker slab to withstand potential damage from these factors.
  • Load-bearing walls. If your garage design includes load-bearing walls or posts, those areas may require a thicker slab to support the additional weight.

The Bottom Line

While concrete and cinder block garages are cheaper and less time-consuming to build, poured concrete garages offer more durability and energy efficiency. Your choice should be based on your needs, preferences, and budget. Whichever you choose, engage professional construction companies to ensure quality and adherence to building regulations.

As a homeowner, remember that a garage is more than just a storage space for your car or a detached garage. It’s an extension of your home and can significantly affect your property’s value. With careful planning and the right choice of materials, your garage can combine functionality and aesthetics, offering you a convenient, durable, and cost-effective addition to your home.

Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

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