What is Luan Plywood and How is it Used?

Luan plywood

If you spend much time working on any type of home construction, you probably have at least heard of the term Luan plywood. However, you might not be exactly sure what it is. This is especially true if you’re new to doing these types of projects or perhaps you simply want to learn more, yet you’ve never actually driven a nail into a piece of wood before in your life. As it turns out, Luan plywood is extremely popular for a number of reasons.

What Is It?

If you talking about Luan plywood purchased in the United States, it’s typically a term that is used to describe a variety of types of tropical plywood that can be purchased in various thicknesses. More often than not, the thickness ranges anywhere from 1/8 inch to ¼ inch. This type of wood can be used for various applications, not the least of which include building furniture, paper overlay, flooring and lamination. People also use it for various millwork applications because it’s able to stand up to this type of process, thanks to its overall hardness. These types of plywood panels have been around for some time now, with the first ones being manufactured more than four decades ago. Typically, the panels are manufactured from the Shorea tree that grows in and around the Philippines. As a matter of fact, this same type of plywood is often referred to as Philippine mahogany. More recently, another term has come to light. If you run across something called Meranti plywood, you can bet that it is the same Luan plywood that is being discussed herein. It’s also worth noting that the trees from which this type of plywood is derived are rapidly declining in number, largely because they have been over harvested in order to manufacture this type of plywood. As a result, it’s almost impossible to get two different shipments of the plywood that actually match at this point because there are fewer and fewer raw materials available from which to source these products. As a result, a lot of people are turning to synthetic products that resemble Luan plywood in both appearance and strength, yet don’t actually require the destruction of the entire rainforest in the process.

Getting the Right Size

If you’re wondering how different suppliers end up with Luan plywood of various thicknesses, it all comes down to the manufacturing process that’s involved here. Typically, several very thin layers of the wood are taken and laid directly over each other so that they match up perfectly. Once the desired thickness has been obtained, that particular piece of plywood is then available for sale. Like many other forms of plywood, this particular variety is glued together so that each paper thin layer is solidly connected to the layers both directly above and below it. This is how sellers are able to get different plywood pieces that are almost twice as thick as some of the other examples they might have for sale. Gluing pieces of plywood together may not sound very sturdy, but these particular pieces are especially sturdy, thanks in large part to the fact that the wood itself is hard enough to stand up to a bit of abuse, yet not so hard that it’s impossible to work with.

Is It Waterproof?

A lot of people have a tendency to wonder whether or not this particular type of plywood is waterproof. The short answer is no, it is not. In fact, it’s a very popular underlayment for laminate flooring, yet it cannot be used as an underlayment for tile flooring. If you’re wondering why, it’s because doing so would allow the plywood itself to get wet during the installation of the tile. It’s definitely not waterproof, so allowing it to get wet and then immediately covering it up with tile is only going to cause it to rot. Before you know it, you’ll be forced to take up the entire floor and replace everything all the way down to the underlayment. It works great if you plan on installing laminate flooring, but it’s not such a great option for these types of purposes where it simply doesn’t fit well. As you can imagine, it also doesn’t work well outside. If you can’t get it wet enough to install tile flooring indoors, you certainly can’t use it outside. Some people have tried to do this, initially believing that allowing it to be in the open air would give it a chance to dry. It simply doesn’t work. The wood doesn’t stand up to the test of time well after it gets wet. As such, it needs to be used in situations where it can remain dry and be utilized indoors.

While this is still a very popular type of plywood, it simply isn’t sustainable, as previously mentioned. That means that things will eventually have to change with regard to its overall availability. That’s one reason that the quality of the Lauan plywood that you get today is not quite as good as what you might have been able to find 10 or 20 years ago. These days, people are sourcing the wood from just about every place they can think of and quality isn’t really the focus like it once was. That said, it’s still possible to find some very good pieces of Luan plywood out there, provided you’re willing to look. The idea is to choose a supplier that you know you can trust and then stick with them throughout the entire process. The last thing you want to do is source your Luan plywood from the cheapest supplier or get multiple shipments from different suppliers, as you’re likely to end up with a lot of cheap pieces of plywood that don’t match up with one another.

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