Plywood is a go to material in the woodworking space. This wood product come in different classification based on quality and other important aspects. Besides, it may not be as classy as solid lumber, but you can count on its moisture-resistant and low-maintenance quality. So, you might want to consider various types of plywood for your next project.
You can use plywood for most interior or exterior applications, as all you have to do involves getting the right wood type for maximum durability.
Also, remember that we have wood types that are twist, bend, and warp-resistant, accommodating various tasks. Therefore, you are spoilt for choice.
The untrained eye may carelessly choose a product when one does not know the essentials in plywood shopping. Moreover, choosing the wrong plywood type can ruin your project, waiting energy, time, and money.
Thus, read this article for essential pointers when getting the best material for your project.
What Is Plywood?
Plywood is a composite lumber product. It comes from wood veneers stripped from hardwood or softwood logs. In addition, the layers utilize glue for maximum adhesion, whereas higher grade plywood requires pressing and heating through more intense processes.
The wood delivers more stable surfaces, making it more preferred over 2×4 logs. Also, it does not expand when moisture penetrates the wood grain and is thus resistant to shrinking, warping, breaking, and cracking.
Ply is the number of wood layers and the resulting plywood board’s thickness. Some applications require thicker logs, while others involve smaller pieces, depending on the strength needed.
The manufacturer glues each layer, known as a wood veneer, to create the required number of plies. However, it is prudent to carefully assess each board type as the wood layers may have varying thicknesses.
Also, the final board’s thickness may vary depending on the seller, even if it has the same number of plies as another.
Plywood is typically available in three-, five-, or multi-ply, with three-ply being the most famous among woodworkers. Three-ply is durable, strong, and appears more decorative than the others.
On the other hand, five-ply is stronger than three-ply, whereas multi-ply works best for outdoor projects, like roofing. Therefore, there is no absolute best, and the choice depends on the project’s expectations.
Types of Plywood
Unfortunately, shopping for the most suitable plywood type for your home applications is not a walk in the park. So, it is advisable to be acquainted with the following options for successful shopping.
This plywood type comes from pine woods, cedar, or redwood, among other softwoods. Although the wood appears weaker when pitted against sturdier hardwoods, it comes in handy for heavy woodworks.
Besides, softwood plywood is suitable for subflooring, shelving, frame and roof sheathing, sheds, dog houses, and temporary flooring. But it is prudent to avoid using the lumber for outdoor work as it lacks the needed essential water-resistant attributes.
Oppositely, hardwood plywood comes in walnut, maple, oak, and birch wood veneers. Usually, most manufacturers use seven or more layers and glue them at the right angle and depth to make them sturdy and reliable for heavy projects.
In addition, you can use the lumber for projects needing a durable frame like wood or packing casings, furniture, sports equipment, and musical instruments.
Aircraft plywood is the most durable and highest grade type. It utilizes hardwoods to create solid and long-lasting boards. In addition, the lumber is moisture and heat-resistant to accommodate various projects.
The plywood consists of thinner wood veneers to keep it lightweight and flexible while delivering significant strength.
Also, these features make the lumber suitable for building aircraft, rafters, boards, furniture meant to hold heavy loads, and buildings requiring industrial-strength plywood.
This lumber is ideal for exterior woodworks as it withstands rain, wind, and other weather conditions. In addition, the manufacturer uses water and weather-resistant adhesive for gluing it.
Exterior plywood is a multi-ply product, delivering additional strength. Besides, it consists of hardwoods like oak to withstand harsh climates. Therefore, you can expect strong wood frames for many decades.
Also, oak exterior plywood has greater leverage than other lumbers. And it is mold and mildew resistant, even in highly moist environments.
Lumber Core Plywood
This wood is primarily three-ply and involves laying down a thick wood core and gluing two wood veneers on each side. The outer surface of the lumber is hardwood like maple, birch, and oak, whereas the inner layers are softwood strips.
This core quickly grasps screws and is thus a perfect choice for applications needing fasteners. However, the wood may have some voids, making it weaker. Therefore, the screws and nails may not hold if you choose wrongly.
Marine plywood is not water-resistant, albeit the label. Also, please note that the wood’s name refers to its grade and emphasizes its use of water-proof adhesives to be marine grade, making it a typical and high-grade alternative for most projects.
Marine plywood is distinguishable: it is knotholes and comes from Douglas firwood and western larch, guaranteeing superior sturdiness and durability. In addition, you can use this lumber for exterior furniture and decorative elements like benches, gazebos, plant boxes, and decks.
The wood utilizes water-resistant exterior glue to help it repel water. However, although the surface stands up to moderate moisture levels, it is susceptible to mildew, molds, and rot.
This material has an overlaid surface, delivering a solid wood finish appearance. Moreover, it is more of a decorative product and features a smooth surface. Therefore, you can depend on its durability while avoiding water and dust particles.
Overlaid plywood follows the standard way of making plywood, gluing wood veneers with water-proof adhesives. However, it comes in heavy or medium density as the veneers bond in high pressure and heat processes.
In addition, the thin ornamental wood veneer on top makes the structure more beautiful and resistant to scratches and water damage.
Structural or sheathing plywood is famous for its durability and suitability for framing and building applications. Moreover, the manufacturer uses the strongest and most water-proof glues for added sturdiness.
Interestingly, although the plywood is pretty durable, it comes in grades C or D. Otherwise, a higher grade would make it more expensive for construction.
The lumber is a favorite alternative for interior and outdoor woodwork projects. However, please avoid using it in harsh environmental conditions as it is not as weather-resistant as other plywood types.
Most users consider this lumber the Asian counterpart of softwood plywood as they look similar. In addition, it comes from tropical timber from Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Nevertheless, tropical plywood is prevalent in the US and the UK. It is famous for its a-grade density, layer evenness, and superior strength.
Flexible plywood is suitable for curves and bending, just as its name suggests. Therefore, you can use it in furniture making and the curved parts of construction frames. In addition, the lumber features a cross-grained central ply and thicker cross-grained plies on both sides.
This plywood type is different from hardwood and softwood as it features more layers despite appearing similar to them. In addition, you need to laminate birch strips and alder wood for a sturdy structure.
Appleply is a light wood board and thus a top choice for cabinets and related wood furniture. It is also easy to use as it does not fuzz or tear even with heavy-duty cutting equipment.
Construction plywood is an umbrella term for multiple products. The manufacturer divides them between structural and non-structural panels, including MDF core ply, particleboards, and foam boards.
The non-structural boards may appear soft, but all construction plywoods are incredibly durable and sturdy.
Sundeala board is by far the most sustainable plywood type. It utilizes recycled newspapers reinforced to create eco-friendly and long-lasting construction materials. In addition, you can use it in modeling railways and as information or cork boards.
Exterior Sheathing Plywood
We have multiple exterior sheathing plywood types like CDX, but OSB is the most common. It is a re-engineered plywood, two times stronger than regular lumber and suitable for roof decking and exterior sheathing.
The manufacturer uses water-proof adhesive to prevent wearing. Also, some woodworkers compare it to particleboard as it features the same wood flakes scattered at various angles.
Veneer Core Plywood
Veneer core plywood features odd-numbered veneers in its core, making it pretty distinguishable from other types. It has a center and alternately glued cross-grained veneers to give a sturdy structure.
Moreover, the lumber holds greater weight, is flexible in delivering curves, and works well with screws and nails, making it all-around plywood.
Woodworkers often contrast this plywood type to particleboards. The primary difference is that the MDF core comes from individual wood fibers and does not produce sawdust or wood chips.
Besides, the plywood is flatter than most softwood plyboards, making it a suitable material for furniture bases. It also works well with paint and vinyl or resin coating, perfect for most wood projects.
The only downside to this lumber is that it is heavier than most plywood types. But it is more durable and sturdier than particle board, assuring a long-lasting project.
A subfloor is an essential part of any construction project as it is where you attach the floor finish. Fortunately, the subfloor plywood is cheaper than concrete materials, giving you a friendly alternative.
Two subfloor plywood types are on the forefront: CDX and OSB plywood. They are more robust than standard ply and soft enough for fastening.
Types of Ply
The term ply refers to the thickness level of various products, including lumber. It explains why we have thicker plyboards than others. Also, the thickness comes about by gluing veneers, creating a more robust structure.
Below are the common types of ply.
- 3-Ply. This plyboard consists of three wood veneer layers and is the most common board thickness. In addition, the product is suitable for lighter wood projects, mostly indoor work like drawers and cabinets.
- 5-Ply. The product has five wood veneer layers and works best for lighter projects. It is also excellent for projects that do not need much lumber strength.
- Multi-Ply. This structure features eight or more wood veneers and is perfect for exterior tasks such as roofing. Also, you can use it in home construction to establish the building’s frame and foundations.
It is also prudent to know the plywood grades as they tell you the quality used in producing the product. In addition, you will get a rough idea of the prices to work with during budgeting.
Typically, plywood grades adhere to an A, B, C, and D system, with A being the highest grade and D being the lowest. However, this categorization is not the end, as most plywood types are available in two-letter grades.
The first letter grade refers to the front board’s quality, while the second letter is for the back part’s wood grade. Also, the two-letter grades are not similar as they guide which board part should be at the front or back. And, of course, the lower grade is always the back part.
Plywood grades also guide you on the projects they are most fit for, helping you choose the best for your work. For instance, A-C plywood grades are excellent for exterior woodworks and panels, thanks to their durability and weather-resistant qualities.
On the other hand, C and D-grade plywood work better for interior applications. But it is advisable to cover them adequately for added durability.
The plywood meets all the tests to qualify it as a solid exterior material when the board has an additional ‘X’ at the end. Therefore, consider grades A-B or CX for your high-end applications. They do not have knotholes and deliver a more workable surface for staining or painting.
Here, we refer to the plywood’s length and thickness, and mostly, the lumber is available in three sizes: 4x4ft, 4x8ft, and 4x9ft. In addition, these sizes have specific functions, and it is best to get the most suitable one for your work.
Thinner-sized plywood is ideal for greater flexibility, especially in constructing irregularly shaped frames. In contrast, thicker plywood comes in handy for projects in harsh environmental conditions or requiring greater weight.
Although plywood boards are very long, you can always request the lumber yard to cut them into specified-sized pieces. Besides, the tagged plywood size does not reflect the exact size. So, it is best to specify what you want.
Take note of the lumber’s metric unit to ensure you get a suitable size. For instance, three-quarter-inch plywood has a ⅓ inch gap because it generally measures 23/32 inches.
Plywood grades are a factor to consider when pricing the materials. This section gives an estimated plywood price for cabinet and construction grade plywood.
We have CDX and OSB ply for construction-grade plywood. A 4×8 CDX sheet with a 15/32” thickness costs about $28 to 30, whereas a 4×8 23/32 inches goes for $35-37. On the other hand, OSB ply costs $5-15 depending on the thickness.
For cabinet-grade plywood: sanded pine ply costs $13 to 21, whereas hardwood ply goes for $18-45. Conversely, birch plywood ranges between $41 and $ 45, and oak hardwood plies $25-45.
How Do I Choose Plywood?
Choosing the best material should not be hard when you have specific considerations. In addition, below are some pointers to help you get the most suitable product for your woodwork.
- Type of Plywood. The process starts with knowing the plywood type you want. Also, each lumber has specific attributes recommended for various tasks. So, get the most suitable wood type to save money and future repairs.
Consider structural lumber core, hardwood, aircraft, softwood, and marine plywood for exterior applications and OSB or CDX for sheathing and roofing. Also, it is okay to get flexible and tropical plywood for interior projects.
- Edges. Check the plywood edges when considering the veneers, as the thicker the edges, the better the wood. In addition, thin veneer layers may have issues during finishing and sanding.
- Size. The plywood’s size relates to its strength and durability. Moreover, since most applications need screwing and nailing, it is advisable to go for soft plyboards.
Also, although the most common plywood size is 4×8, it is prudent to evaluate the project or consult with your contractor when in doubt.
- Flatness. The plywood’s flatness is a prime consideration, and the rule of thumb states that the flatter the plywood, the more workable it is. Also, although bowed plywood exists commercially, it is harder to work on large surfaces like roof decks, subfloors, and doors.
- Plywood Grade. Higher plywood grades are more refined and smoother: thus, consider using A-grade lumber for decking, roofing, and other outdoor applications. Conversely, you can use C or D grades for subflooring and related projects.
- Brand. This aspect is usually silent for newbie plywood shoppers, but knowing some leading brands before going to the lumber yard is helpful. In addition, compare and contrast different plywood prices to have a working estimate of what to spend.
Finally, reputable brands have almost all the wood types, including variants and grades. But you have nothing to stress about when working with trusted local lumber.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions around the subject:
What Is Plywood Used for?
Plywood is suitable for many woodworking projects, thanks to its flexibility. Furthermore, it is ideal for interior and exterior applications as you can reinforce or polish it with various decorative finishes.
The wood comes from different materials, making it sturdy and durable. Also, it is affordable and perfect for building frames, foundations, sheaths, paneling, furniture, shelves, and casings.
- Which Is the Strongest Type of Plywood?
Marine plywood is the most solid plywood type. Manufacturers press, heat, and polish it to resist moisture and excess heat, making it twist, warp, and crack resistant.
In addition, it often comes in an A-A grade and is thus excellent for interior and exterior projects like roof decks, subflooring, and basements.
Which Is the Cheapest Type of Plywood?
C and D grades are the cheapest plywood types as they have visible knots. Besides, the wood veneers do not undergo any repairs to minimize gaps. But they are still sturdy and durable products.
In addition, construction wood such as foam boards and particleboards are inexpensive plywood options yet deliver a durable and reliable structure.
Is MDF Stronger Than Plywood?
MDF is akin to hardwood or solid wood and delivers more strength, density, and durability than plywood. Further, the product is more suitable for constructing heavy-duty shelves and cabinets, cutting, drilling, and machine processing.
Is OSB as Good as Plywood?
OSB and plywood are from the same wood pieces, and you can even refer to OSBs as OSB plywood. However, OSB is better than plywood in shear value.
Also, it is more robust, thicker, longer, and more workable, making it an excellent alternative for exterior fixtures like roof sheathing and decks.
What Is the Best Plywood for Kitchen Cabinets?
The best wood type for hanging or base cabinets is high-grade marine plywood due to its moist-resistant attributes. In addition, remember that the kitchen is a moist location, and you need a product that withstands mold, mildew, and moisture damage. Therefore, it is best to go for water-proof surfaces.
Which Types of Plywood Are Water-proof?
You should consider the following when looking for moisture-resistant plywood products: Pressure-treated options like structural and construction plywood, marine-grade, OSB, and CDX plywood.
Which Plywood Works Best for Interiors?
Plywood is a famous alternative for interior fixtures such as cabinets and shelves. However, there are specific types to consider for a successful project.
For instance, use MR grade or moisture-resistant plywood for the kitchen and living room and the BR grade or boiling water-resistant plywood for moist environments in the home like bathrooms and kitchens.
Also, although construction plywood like Medium Density Fiber (MDF) and Particleboard is not moisture tolerant, they are excellent for building interior structures such as home decorations, cabinets, and other lightweight furniture.
Which Is the Best Plywood for Outdoor Use?
You need plywood types that withstand harsh environmental conditions when working on outdoor projects such as decking and roofing. They include structural, hardwood, ACX grade, marine-grade, and exterior plywood.
Plywood seems like an explicit material, but there are multiple variations to consider before settling on one type. In addition, different categories work best for various applications, making it necessary to know the:
Types of Plywood
Plywood is available in multiple versions ranging from tropical, structural, and construction types to lumber core, exterior, hardwood, and softwood. Therefore, determine your project expectations to get the best material.
Furthermore, it is advisable to understand the ply, grade, and size differences when looking at different plywood types. This way, you are sure of delivering a durable and sturdy structure.