Plywood is the unsung hero of construction and manufacturing. It’s not the most glamorous material out there, but it’s certainly one of the most versatile. From building a treehouse in your backyard to constructing an airplane, plywood has been the go-to material for decades.
If you’re buying it for the first time, the many available options can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve taken an in-depth look at the types of plywood. With our help, you can spend less time researching and focus on your next project instead.
We’ll cover the unique properties, characteristics, and intended uses of each type of plywood. You’ll also learn about the various plywood grades and sizes.
Plywood grades are used to classify the quality and appearance of the wood veneers used to make plywood. The grading system is based on the number of defects or imperfections present in the face and back veneers. It also considers the number of repairs made to the veneers.
There are four main grades of plywood, including A, B, C, and D. Each grade has specific characteristics and is suitable for different applications.
Grade A plywood is the highest quality plywood available. It has a smooth, clear surface with no knots or defects. The veneers used to make grade-A plywood are carefully selected and matched for color and grain consistency.
Grade A plywood is typically used when a flawless appearance is desired. This could include building high-end furniture, cabinetry, and architectural applications.
Grade B plywood has a few small defects and repairs on the face and back veneers. These could be knots, splits, or patches. These imperfections don’t affect the strength or durability of the plywood. They may, however, require additional finishing or staining to hide.
It’s commonly used for furniture, cabinetry, and decorative applications where a moderate appearance is acceptable.
Grade C plywood has more noticeable defects and repairs on the face and back veneers than grade B plywood. These defects may include larger knots, splits, and patches, as well as variations in color and grain. It’s mostly used for construction purposes, such as subfloors, roof sheathing, and wall sheathing.
Grade D plywood is the lowest quality plywood available. It has numerous defects and repairs on the face and back veneers, including large knots, splits, and patches.
The veneers used to make grade D plywood may also have voids and gaps. These degrading features make it unsuitable for applications where structural strength and stability are important.
This plywood grade is typically used for temporary construction purposes, such as concrete forms and temporary structures.
In addition to the four main grades of plywood, there are also specialty grades available, such as sanded plywood. This type of plywood has a smooth surface and is used for painting and finishing applications. Another grade is overlaid plywood, which has a high-quality face veneer and is used for concrete formwork and industrial applications.
Plywood comes in a variety of sizes and thicknesses to meet different construction and manufacturing needs. The most common plywood sizes are 4 x 8 feet, 5 x 5 feet, and 3 x 7 feet.
When selecting the right plywood size and thickness for a project, it’s important to consider factors such as:
- The intended use
- The load-bearing capacity required
- The appearance desired
Here are the common plywood sizes.
4 x 8 feet
4 x 8 feet is the most common size for plywood. It’s widely used for construction purposes, such as sheathing, flooring, and roofing. It’s also used for furniture, cabinetry, and decorative applications.
5 x 5 feet
5 x 5 feet plywood is commonly used for furniture and cabinetry. It’s also used in the manufacturing of high-end products, such as musical instruments and planes.
3 x 7 feet
When it comes to concrete formwork and other temporary construction applications, 3 x 7 feet of plywood is the most common option. It’s also used for signage, display panels, and decorative purposes.
In addition to the common sizes mentioned above, there are many other options available to meet specific project requirements. Some manufacturers produce plywood in sizes up to 10 x 20 feet or larger, while others specialize in custom sizes.
Plywood thickness is also an important consideration when selecting the right plywood for a project. The thickness of plywood ranges from 1/8 inch to 1-1/4 inch or more. The most common thicknesses for construction plywood are 1/4 inch, 3/8 inch, 1/2 inch, 5/8 inch, and 3/4 inch.
Thicker plywood is stronger and more durable, but it’s also heavier and more expensive. Conversely, thinner plywood is lighter and less expensive, but it may not be suitable for all applications.
Types of Plywood
There are several types of plywood, each with its own unique properties and quality. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at some of them.
Softwood plywood is made from softwood trees such as pine, cedar, spruce, or fir. It’s one of the most widely used types of plywood. This is due to its availability, affordability, and versatility. It’s commonly used in construction, furniture, packaging, and industrial applications.
This type of plywood comes in various grades, ranging from A to D. The most commonly used grade for construction purposes is CDX, which is a combination of C and D grades.
As the name suggests, Hardwood plywood is made from hardwood trees such as maple, oak, birch, or cherry. It’s more expensive than softwood plywood but is also stronger, more durable, and has a more attractive appearance. It’s commonly used in furniture, cabinetry, and decorative applications.
Hardwood plywood also comes in various grades, including A, B, C, and D. The most commonly used grades for furniture and decorative purposes are A and B.
Marine plywood is specifically designed for use in harsh and wet environments, such as boats, docks, and outdoor structures. It’s made using waterproof glue and has a high-quality face veneer that is resistant to water, rot, and fungus.
It’s typically more expensive than other types of plywood due to its superior quality and durability.
This type of plywood is designed for use in load-bearing applications, such as flooring, roofing, and walls. It’s made using a combination of hardwood and softwood veneers and is typically thicker and stronger than other types of plywood. Grades C-D are the most commonly used for structural purposes.
Fire-rated plywood is designed to resist the spread of fire. It’s used in fire-rated assemblies, such as walls, floors, and roofs. This type of plywood is made using fire-resistant materials and has a fire-retardant treatment that slows down the spread of fire.
It’s available in different fire ratings, ranging from 30 minutes to 3 hours. This will depend on the level of fire resistance required.
This plywood is designed to have an attractive appearance and is used in furniture, cabinetry, and decorative applications. It’s made using high-quality face veneers that are carefully selected for their color, wood grain, and texture.
It comes in different grades and is also available in different veneer species for a decorative finish. These could be oak, maple, cherry, or walnut.
Decorative plywood can also be customized with different finishes, such as stains, paints, and laminates, to enhance its appearance and durability.
MDF plywood, or medium-density fiberboard, is a type of engineered wood. It’s made by pressing together wood fibers with a resin binder at high temperatures and pressures. It has a uniform and smooth surface free of knots and cracks, making it ideal for painting and other finishing techniques.
It’s available in various thicknesses and densities, with high-density MDF being stronger and more durable than low-density MDF. It’s commonly used in furniture, cabinetry, and interior design applications where a smooth and consistent surface is necessary.
Particle Board Plywood
Particle board plywood is another type of engineered wood made by pressing together wood particles and a resin binder. It has a uniform surface that is smooth and easy to paint or cover with laminate or veneer. It’s also less expensive than MDF plywood but less durable and more susceptible to water damage.
This type of plywood is commonly used in furniture, cabinetry, and shelving applications, where cost-effectiveness is a priority. It’s also used as a core material for some types of plywood, such as laminated veneer lumber.
Flexible plywood, also known as the bendy board, is made so that it can be bent or curved to fit specific shapes and contours. It’s made using a flexible core material, such as poplar or birch, that allows it to bend without cracking or breaking.
This type of plywood is commonly used in furniture, cabinetry, and decorative applications where curved or rounded shapes are required.
Aircraft plywood is used in the construction of planes and other vehicles that require lightweight, strong, and durable building materials. It’s made using a combination of hardwood and softwood veneers and has a high-quality face veneer that is free of defects.
It’s also available in different thicknesses and sizes. It can be finished with a clear coat or paint to protect it from the elements.
This is a type of plywood that is treated with chemicals to make it resistant to rot, fungus, and insects. It’s commonly used in outdoor construction where exposure to moisture and insects can cause damage.
For example, decks, fences, and sheds are usually created with pressure-treated plywood.
Moisture-resistant plywood is designed to withstand exposure to moisture and humidity without warping or delaminating. It’s made using waterproof glue and is free of defects. This type of plywood is commonly used in areas of high humidity, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.
If you’re working on a project in marine environments, such as boats, docks, and piers, this type of plywood is your best option. It’s made using waterproof glue and has a high-quality face veneer that is free of defects.
It’s also treated with chemicals to make it resistant to rot, fungi, and insects. A clear coat or paint finish can help protect it from harsh weather.
Factors To Consider When Choosing Plywood for Your Project
- Intended Use: Consider what the plywood will be used for. Will it be exposed to moisture or other environmental factors? Will it be subjected to heavy loads or stress? Different types of plywood are designed for different uses, so it’s important to choose one that is suitable for your intended purpose.
- Plywood Grade: As discussed earlier in this article, plywood is available in different grades, each with its unique characteristics and applications. Make sure to choose a grade appropriate for your project.
- Plywood Type: There are several types of plywood, each fit for different applications. For example, marine plywood is designed to withstand water and moisture, while exterior plywood is designed for outdoor use.
- Plywood Size and Thickness: Consider the size and thickness of the plywood you need for your project. Choose a size that will work with your project specifications and a thickness that will provide the necessary strength and durability.
- Cost: Plywood can vary greatly in price depending on the type, grade, size, and thickness. Consider your budget and choose one that meets your project requirements while staying within your budget.
Plywood has a wide range of applications. From furniture and cabinetry to construction and engineering, Plywood is incredibly versatile. There are many types of plywood available, each with its own unique properties and characteristics.
When choosing a type of plywood for a specific application, it’s important to consider some key factors. Think about the intended use, the environment in which it will be used, and the desired appearance. By understanding the different types of plywood available, you’ll be able to select the right option for your project.