Now, it seems every house has a retaining wall that has been standing for a hundred years. You know the one, it's leaning over and there is grass growing between the stones. Believe it or not these walls do serve a purpose and if you live on a hill you know exactly what it is. These walls keep your yard yours and not some city or county road clearing project. However, they wall can't it's job if the mortar joints are loose or missing. Every freeze thaw cycle kills a weak joint and undermines the strength of the wall. Filling in the gaps or replacing loose joints is called tuck pointing. There are ready mixes available for this and (wait for it) to make "special blends" portland cement can be added. Adding portland will give mortar more strength, more sticking power, and add some water proofing characteristics.
What about sidewalks and driveways? Your typical ready mix is alright to use as sidewalk material, but there are better versions of the same stuff. There are ready mixes that are more waterproof and others that are more impact resistant. Most sidewalks are about four inches thick and most are just poured right on the soil. I like to dig a little deeper and add a base to pour the cement on. Soft limestone is good for this, put an inch or two down and compact it. This gives something for the cement to grab a hold of and also forms a good strong base that should prevent cracking. If your budget doesn't allow for the extra step then pour your sidewalk at 6 inches with a quality product for a long lasting pathway. If you are resurfacing or adding a cap to old concrete, a step that is often skipped is etching. Concrete must be etched for any new cement to adhere to it. If you skip this step, after a few winters you'll be doing it again.
I know someone out there was laughing when I said the grout was a cement. It is, Google it. Most homeowners have done some tile work before and have therefore grouted. Here's a question, sanded or unsanded? Oh, you didn't get that far in the store? I'll let it slide this time. Sanded grout is for joints over 1/8" and unsanded is for anything smaller. There may be some exceptions to this such as glass tile, but this is the general rule.
Always read the health hazards when dealing with cement, it can cause skin burns, eye and lung irritation and lung cancer. Wet cement is caustic so where gloves and wash off cement that comes in contact with your skin.
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