Plywood may seem like a straightforward material, but there are actually many variations of a seemingly simple wood board, that so worth doing some research to ensure that you’re buying the right type. When looking at different types of plywood, it’s important to understand the differences in size, ply, and other factors, as certain types of plywood are more suitable for different projects. Choosing the wrong type can ruin your work, so use this guide to select the best type of plywood for your project and save yourself time and money.
Ply refers to the number of layers and resulting thickness of a plywood board. Some projects need thicker boards, while others can involve smaller pieces instead, depending on the amount of strength needed. Each layer, called a wood veneer, is glued to another layer to create the number of plies needed. Veneers can be of varying thicknesses themselves, so be sure to carefully evaluate each type of board you’re considering. The thickness of the final board may vary depending on where you buy it even though it has the same number of plies as another.
Plywood typically comes in three-, five-, or multi-ply, with three-ply being the most common. Three-ply is strong, durable, and looks more decorative than other styles. Five-ply is stronger than three-ply, while multi-ply is strong enough to be used for exterior projects, like roofing.
Soft plywood is made from pine, redwood, or cedar, among other softwoods. They are suitable for exterior frame and roof sheathing and subflooring. Softwood can also be used for sheds, temporary flooring, and shelving. This type of wood is typically not recommended for outdoor use. While it’s a strong material, it lacks the necessary weather-resistant qualities for outdoor work.
Hardwood plywood has between three and seven layers of birch, maple, oak, walnut, or other types of hardwood. They are glued together at right angles to ensure a strong finish and can be used for furniture, packing cases, sporting equipment, musical instruments, and other items that require strong frames.
Aircraft plywood is the most durable type available. It uses hardwoods to create strong boards that can resist heat and moisture. Aircraft plywood is made of very thin veneers, which keep it light and flexible while providing significant strength. As such, it is suited for making airplanes, boats, and furniture meant to hold heavy weights.
Made with weather- and water-resistant glue, exterior plywood is designed to withstand wind, rain, and other weather conditions for many years. Exterior plywood is typically multi-ply for additional strength. In some areas, it is made of particularly hard woods, like oak, to stand up to harsher climates.
Lumber core plywood is composed of two thin veneers of hardwood that sandwich a thick core of a solid slab made from glued-together strips of wood. This core can easily grasp screws, making it a good choice for projects that require these fasteners, but the core can sometimes contain voids that make it weaker.
Marine plywood is varnished with water-resistant exterior glue that helps it repel water. While not entirely waterproof, this plywood can stand up to moderate moisture. It is made of western larch or douglas fir wood and is one of the highest quality types of plywood available. For it to qualify as marine plywood, it cannot have any knotholes. Marine plywood is ideal for outdoor furniture and decorative elements, like planters or benches.
If you’re looking for a more decorative plywood, consider overlaid boards. Overlaid boards contain the same plies as other types of plywood but are finished with a thin veneer of ornamental wood on top. In addition to looking more beautiful, this veneer creates a durable surface that can resist water, scratches, and other damage.
Structural plywood, also known as sheathing plywood, can be used to strengthen framing and building structures that will be covered at a later time. It is made with a strong adhesive and can be used indoors or outdoors, though it is not as weather resistant as other types.
Purchasing Your Plywood
Speak to Curtis Lumber & Plywood for more information about the types of plywood available and what kind of plywood to buy for your next home project. The company’s experienced staff can help you select the best type of plywood for your needs to ensure that your project will stand the test of time. Curtis sells a wide variety of plywood and other home improvement materials, making it easy for you to find the tools you need to get started right away. The company can also arrange for delivery of plywood directly to your worksite in the New York and Northern Vermont areas if necessary.