Plywood Primer: What you need to know.

Plywood was never really an appealing material to work with. However, in recent years, many designers have adapted the material as a creative muse. Builders are also thinking of innovative ways to use it in their own designs. Rather than only being used in unfinished work spaces, or simply as subflooring for kitchen, bathroom or whole house renovation; you’ll see plywood in completed projects.

It’s always best to understand how material is made so that you know how to use it in your own work. Under tons of heat and pressure, the sheets of plywood go through a laminating machine that compresses it into a thin layer of wood veneer. Oftentimes you will discover that such woods like pine, cedar, Douglas fir or spruce are used in the creation of plywood, having the face of the plywood being the best of quality. With layer on top of layer, it’s no wonder plywood has substantial durability. So much more than medium-density fiberboard, oriented strand board, or even particleboard, that are made from wood fibers and scraps.

There are always many advantages to using plywood in your next project. Plywood is significantly affordable. What’s more, the quality of plywood is dependable. This material won’t warp, shrink or expand. It can be used for many projects like building a house or a simple do it yourself endeavor.

While plywood is thought to be very durable and thin, not all of them come in the same size. In fact, there are various thicknesses, grades and levels of plywood. Here are a few types you should become familiar with.

Types of Plywood.

Exterior Plywood. This can withstand water and any other ugly weather that it encounters.

Marine Plywood. If you’re building a boat, this is your go-to plywood type. It can hold its own when continuously being exposed to moisture.

Tropical Plywood. While this is a great material to use, you will not normally find it locally. It is produced overseas.

Low-Grade Structural Plywood. You’ll find these kinds of plywood on sites used to build concrete forms.

Hardwood Plywood or Cabinet-Grade Plywood. The exterior can be made of beech, mahogany, ash, or walnut while its interior is significantly softer.

Grades of Plywood.

  • A-Grade. If you need material that is ready to be finished, this is the perfect grade. It’s premium quality and has an extremely smooth, sanded surface with no knots.
  • B-Grade. While this grade is sanded, you’ll find knots on its surface.
  • C-Grade. This will have more defects and it is not sanded.
  • D-Grade. Lastly, this plywood has the least quality. It will adorn many knots and is not sanded. However, some designers may find its appearance charming for some projects.
  • Double Letter-Grade. Often times you will find panels with two different faces on each side. This is when they are sold with two letters as grades.
  • X-Grade. This will let you know that the plywood is approved for outside use.
  • Forest Stewardship Council-Grade. When you see this grade, you know that the plywood comes from a responsibly managed forest.

For any furniture building or cabinetry, any hardwood plywood is perfect material to use. For internal building and finished paneling, Grade A and B are great. When it comes to subflooring and structural building, the best go to grades are C and B.

Sizes of Plywood.

The width of plywood is commonly 4 feet across, while the height can vary drastically. You can purchase 2 x 4 sizes, or for larger projects, plywood is available between 8 to 10 feet high. Always keep in mind that the dimensions will always fall short from originally advertised. Always overestimate when it comes to measuring and purchasing for your project.  

You can also purchase plywood according to thickness. You can purchase panels from half an inch to a quarter inch thick.

The next time you approach a project, whether it be a renovation or redecorating, knowing the type, grade and size of plywood you need will be extremely beneficial. Who knew that such a neglected piece of material such as plywood would make your next project so easy.