Concrete is available in construction elements under different names. Concrete block, rubble, concrete block: what is the difference between these materials? Where we discover that the vocabulary can vary from one region to another… Let’s take the opportunity to discover what is hidden behind; what is the identity card of the concrete block, or cinder block,… finally, you have understood!
Concrete changes region? He changes his name!
Do you know the history of pain au chocolat and chocolatines? Or pencils and pencils? It’s a bit the same thing with concrete: to talk about it, some regions use one word rather than another. Better to find out before you tangle with the supplier.
The breeze block: No. 1 on the national podium
All of France knows what a breeze block is. This is the most common term for this concrete brick, which can be solid or hollow and of various shapes (we tell you more about it a little later). “Cinder block” is therefore the generic term that will be used first in the construction industry. As for users, they are much more likely to use this word in certain regions. This is why 90% of Burgundians and 91% of Auvergnats speak only of concrete blocks! In the Rhône-Alpes region, this word is used by 70% of users. Anyway, that’s how a concrete block is referred to all over the country, regardless of the local accent.
Rubble stone in n° 2… but it has 2 definitions
When we talk about rubble, we are generally also talking about cinder block. But not always. This term actually covers several realities…
- Traditionally, a rubble stone is a cut limestone (in whole or in part).
- But the term is now used to designate a concrete block, especially in some areas. Note that it is most often a cut block. Although it is the most widely used synonym of the word “cinderblock” in France, it is especially widespread in the Rhône-Alpes region, where nearly a third of the inhabitants use it. In Burgundy and Auvergne, around 10% prefer rubble stone to cinder block. Elsewhere in France, it is used a little less.
The concrete block: n° 3 from north to south
We always talk about cinderblocks. But the term “concrete block” is more often heard in the Pays de la Loire and Nord-Pas de Calais regions, but also Aquitaine, Midi-Pyrénées and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. It is difficult to know why this term is thus located in such different regions… But it is a fact.
Other variants: the queron and the agglo
Since we are talking about local appellations, how can we not talk about the I do not want (or cairon)? This term was once used to name the stones that lined the soap makers’ boiler. It is now used to designate the breeze block, rather in the Poitou-Charentes region and in Languedoc-Roussillon.
As for the name chipboard », short for chipboard, it is sometimes used to refer to the base material of concrete blocks. We are talking about concrete chipboard, not to be confused with the same term which designates chipboard.
History of the concrete block… from Antiquity to the present day
Did you know that the cinder block had a long genealogy? Despite its modern style, its ancestor concrete was already used by the Romans. They made a concrete from broken stones called “caementa” (which gave its name to our cement). This mixture was used to fill the spaces left empty between the rubble – that is to say stones more or less cut. The word “concrete” appears for the first time in the Middle Ages (in the 12th century) in a long poem by Benoît de Sainte-Maure: the Roman de Troie. The term will be taken from the eighteenth century to designate a solid mortar, used especially in foundations. We are getting closer to our current concrete…!
And the concrete block in all this? The idea of making concrete building blocks appeared at the end of the 19th century. At the time, they were like solid bricks, made from concrete looted in metal moulds. The manufacturing method is gradually perfected, until the invention of a French machine which will be awarded at the International Fair of Lyon in 1919. “The unique N° 1” is capable of manufacturing 250 blocks per day! Then come the layers, machines that are both small and mobile, which produce blocks of very good quality. Since then, the manufacturing process for concrete blocks has been largely automated using vibrating stationary presses.
The concrete block in its current form was born in the 1950s. The oil shock of 1973 gave it an incredible boost. This is the ideal period to develop a natural, economical, easy-to-use material that meets the new needs of construction and insulation. Since then, the concrete block has become the undisputed star of the building.
The concrete block: identity card
- Geometric shape : parallelepiped.
- Aspect : carved (rubble stone) or molded (concrete block).
- Composition : 85% aggregate (gravel, sand and stone), approximately 9% cement (limestone and clay) and 6% water.
- Origin : natural. Zero chemicals added, cures without cooking.
- Structure : hollow or solid (depending on the desired resistance class). Many types of concrete blocks have been designed to meet all construction needs.
- Weight : rather light (except when you do everything yourself; it ends up being heavy to carry…)
- Prix : super light, it is the material of small budgets.
- Usefulness : versatile (walls, fences, swimming pools, etc.).
- Aesthetic : let’s say… not terrible. Usually covered with plaster or a coating to hide it.
- Isolation : significantly improved by the use of an insulating material (the concrete block is not used alone).
- Dimensions : the standard size is 25 cm high and 50 cm long. Variable thickness, from 5 to 20 cm.
- Qualities : many ! Solid, manufactured according to an NF standard, weatherproof, incombustible, durable (100% recyclable, local manufacturing and almost energy-free), easy to install, modular, economical…
As many concrete blocks as needed
One of the great qualities of the block is its modularity. There are almost as many shapes as construction needs. Here is a list of the main types of cinder blocks.
The common concrete block: hollow or solid
The current block is primarily used to build the current part of a wall.
- The hollow cinder block is by far the most popular, due to its versatility and low price. Its honeycomb structure makes it lighter and more economical. Interlocked or joined with mortar, these concrete blocks are as easily used for vertical chaining as for horizontal joints.
- The full cinder block is more suitable for basement work or underground construction. Heavier and denser, it is used to reinforce the mechanical resistance of a building. But also sound insulation, which makes it the ideal material for a partition wall. The full block perforated is a little lighter, while maintaining the same properties.
The shuttering block (or formwork)
This concrete block has an H shape. It is hollow and bottomless. Its cells are designed to pour concrete directly. It is the concrete block of lost formwork and retaining walls. It is used for rapid construction, including in seismic zones (with suitable blocks).
Accessory blocks: site facilitators
Since construction has different needs, the cinder block has gradually adapted to them. Accessory blocks facilitate self-construction and save time. Thanks to them, we limit the cutting of blocks and the site becomes cleaner!
- The corner block is intended for angles in vertical chaining. It is honeycombed, with a square or round hole to fit into the vertical corner chaining. the post block is drilled for the vertical chaining of the post.
- The planelle block is designed for floor caps. It is the thinnest of the concrete blocks (5 cm).
- The lintel block has a U-shaped structure. It is horizontally reinforced and perfectly suited to the production of lintels for doors or windows in vertical chaining.
- The jamb block (or rabbet) is made for corners and frames of openings, windows and doors. With a smooth side and a hollow side in the shape of a flange, it facilitates the realization of the frame.
Insulating blocks: additional thermal performance
These concrete blocks are the latest additions to the concrete family. Designed to improve their thermal performance, their composition is different. They are formed from expanded clay, pumice stone, pozzolan or expanded slate.
Some blocks consist of lightweight aggregate. Others also contain a integrated insulation in the cells: rock wool, polystyrene or mineral foam. Insulating blocks are appreciated for their very high level of thermal resistance, at least equivalent to that of terracotta insulating brick. About twice as expensive as a standard cinder block, they reduce construction time by 30%.
As to aerated concrete block, composed of sand, lime, cement and water, it is completed by the addition of an aluminum powder (which gives it a honeycomb structure). This very complete block, both load-bearing and insulating material, is sometimes considered a “single-wall” solution. Light, easy to cut, insulating, flame retardant, humidity regulator, it adapts to the exterior as well as the interior.