Plywood is one of the most used materials when it comes to home construction. They’re used in building various home detailing such as cabinetry and many other projects in and around the home. If you’re a novice plywood shopper, you might be overwhelmed with the many types of plywood that are out there. To start with, you should know that plywood is simply the product of wood veneer layers glued together. The thickness of plywood will depend solely on the number of layers it has. Plywood comes as 3-ply, 5-ply, or multi-ply, and you can choose which thickness you might need depending on the project you have at hand.
Once you’ve figured that how much ply you need, the next thing you’ll have to do is figure out which type of plywood you should get. This should depend on what you’ll be using the plywood for. Certain types will work best on specific projects, and this quick guide should help you learn the types of plywood available to you.
Types of Plywood
As its name implies, this type of plywood is not as strong compared to others. Wood for this type of ply usually comes from cedar, pine, or redwood. However, construction workers still use this soft wood material for important structural parts such as sub-flooring, roof sheathing, and even exterior frame sheathing.
When you have hardwood, you’ll usually have thicker plywood that has anywhere from three to seven layers of strong woods such as walnut, oak, maple, and birch. This type of plywood is best for framing projects that require really strong woods. Hardwood is generally used for furniture, musical instruments, sporting equipment, and many more.
If you need the most durable plywood, aircraft plywood is the way to go. This type of plywood is the highest-grade there is, and it also layers the hardest woods available such as birch or mahogany. Aircraft plywood uses incredibly thin veneers to make the wood pliable yet exceptionally strong. They’re used mainly for industrial-strength projects such as airplanes, boats, and heavy-duty furniture.
The difference with exterior plywood is in the glue. Exterior plywood uses glue that’s weather and water-resistant, which is meant resist the natural elements of weather. Exterior plywood is made up of several veneers glued together, which means it’s a multi-ply. Different types of wood can be used for exterior plywood, but whatever wood you choose should depend on your location.
This type of plywood is typically a 3-ply consisting of one thick core of veneer flanked by two thinner veneers on each side. These outer veneers are made of hardwood, while the inner core is made of wood strips that are glued into one slab. The purpose of the inner core is to grasp screws.
Marine plywood is one of the highest-graded plywood you can find, and it’s usually made with Western Larch or Douglas Fir woods. Marine plywood is usually put together with water-resistant exterior glue. Marine-grade plywood is generally used on outdoor furniture such as benches, gazebos, and even planter boxes.
The overlaid type of plywood is built much like all other types, with veneer sheets glued to each other. The only difference is that this type of plywood has an overlaid face that gives the plywood a finished look. The finish is not for decoration but rather for durability.
It’s named structural because this type of plywood is built for strengthening structures. What makes it work is the very strong adhesive that puts the veneers together. Structural plywood is generally cheaper options, so it won’t be weather-resistant. It many not be the best option for outdoor structures.
What’s the Best Plywood for You?
Clearly with so many plywood options, the best plywood for you will depend on what you’ll be using the plywood for.
For outdoor projects, it’s best to use weather-resistant plywood such as exterior or marine plywood. For projects that will be weight bearing and require heavy-duty materials, use hardwood, aircraft, or lumber core plywood. For projects that will be mostly used indoors and will not bear much weight at all, softwood, hardwood, or overlaid plywood are all great options.
You may even have to use a combination of two or more of these types of plywood for some projects. Whatever it may be, make sure that you know exactly what types of wood are used in the plywood you’re using to guarantee quality and effectiveness.