What Is Plywood Used For? Plywood Pros and Cons

The key points of what is plywood used for

We stock a wide range of different wood panel products here at Cabinet Timbers, but despite our extensive product catalogue, it’s safe to say that we truly live and breathe plywood in particular. Plywood is just inarguably one of the most versatile construction, carpentry, and design materials available today. 

There’s also a diverse assortment of plywood uses and different types of plywood available for purchase in the present day. Which naturally provides woodworkers and cabinetmakers with total freedom of choice and full creative flexibility to produce new designs for a wide range of different contexts.

So, what is plywood used for? And how do woodworkers know what the most suitable plywood type is for their unique project? These are the questions we’ll be answering in today’s blog, so stick with us as we delve deeper into the different types of plywood panels and their many different applications, as well as the pros and cons of working with those plywood types.

Here’s what we’ll be covering in today’s blog on what is plywood used for:

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The different types of plywood and their use applications

If you’ve had a look at our range of plywood products here at Cabinet Timbers, then you should already have a good understanding of just how diverse plywood is as a wood material. Let’s start with understanding plywood, how plywood is made and the impact of plywood uses. 

Plywood is made from multiple plies or uniform ‘slices’ of wood that are then glued or bonded together with a powerful glue sealant (usually resin-based sealants). In some cases, wood veneers may also be applied on the outer faces of plywood panels for aesthetic applications. 

The type of glue sealant and the quality of the wood plies used to produce plywood will then dictate the grade of that plywood sheet. Different plywood grades are suitable for different use applications. For instance, A-grade plywood that’s been produced using water-resistant glue sealants can be used in boat building, decking, and other applications where you can expect those plywood panels to be exposed to higher levels of moisture.

Here’s a little more information on all the different types and plywood uses we stock at Cabinet Timbers and what that plywood is used for:

Interior plywood

Manufactured to Australian standard AS 2270, interior plywood is generally manufactured for non-structural, interior applications that require a high-quality aesthetic finish. These plywood panels are produced to boast a variety of different wood finishes that are suitable for interior wall panelling and ceiling linings, as well as cladding, door skins, and even some furniture production.

interior plywood melbourne
Exterior plywood Melbourne

Exterior plywood

Manufactured to AS 2271, exterior plywood panels are manufactured to be suitable for semi-exposed applications with the right finish. Some common use cases include the production of outdoor ceilings, walls, cladding, and even outdoor furniture (i.e. benches and deck furniture). Exterior plywood panels also generally boast a higher-grade face for external presentation and a lesser grade back for installation.

Marine plywood

Manufactured using solid and stable glue bonds that are water-resistant and boil-proof, marine-grade plywood is renowned for its A-grade construction, advanced durability, and suitability for a wide range of different applications, including boat building and the construction of kitchen, bathroom, and laundry spaces (i.e. wet areas). With a high strength and stiffness to weight ratio and exceptional impact resistance thanks to being grade A plywood, marine grade plywood is arguably the most versatile and heavy-duty type of plywood available on the market today. This also means marine-grade plywood is likely to cost more per sheet than other plywood types.

marine plywood
structural plywood

Structural plywood

Built for durability rather than for aesthetics, structural plywood is less likely to be installed in outward-facing configurations, and is more likely to be used as structural elements in construction and carpentry. Structural plywood has also been used to produce wooden pallets, crates and boxes, as well as truck bodies and truck floors, and even billboards and basic furniture. Structural plywood also typically has CD grades or below (i.e. a C-grade timber veneer on one face, and a lower D-grade veneer on the other face).

Birch (furniture) plywood

A popular softwood plywood, birch plywood is renowned for its advanced durability, attractive grainy wood texture, and exceptional strength in comparison to other types of plywood. Check out our blog on hoop pine vs. birch plywood for more information. 

All of its durable and aesthetic qualities make birch plywood a popular choice for furniture production purposes. Alongside being used to produce wooden tables, desks, and chairs, birch plywood has also been used by woodworkers and cabinet makers to construct cabinetry, cupboards, shelving, and decorative wooden partitions.

Birch Plywood
Prefinished & Specialty Plywood

Prefinished plywood

Although plywood panels are already constructed to ensure smooth faces that are perfect for painting and applying primer or treatment coats, there are prefinished and specialty plywood panels available that come pre-treated. These prefinished plywood panels are available in a range of different grades and can be used for both interior and exterior applications, depending on the type of prefinished plywood you select.

The pros and cons of working with plywood

It’s clear to see from our above list of the different types of plywood that plywood can actually be used for an eclectic range of projects. Plywood can be used for furniture production and cabinetry to construction, flooring, and even boat building and other marine applications. 

There are many advantages to working with this lightweight wood material, but it’s important to keep in mind that plywood doesn’t have a lot of the same qualities as solid wood. As a result, those working with plywood will need to consider the material’s unique qualities with every application.

We’ve outlined some of the most notable pros and cons of working with plywood and what is plywood used for in any context.

Pros of working with plywood

More durable than solid wood planks

Plywood panels are produced by stacking wood plies in alternating layers – a process that’s often referred to as ‘cross-graining’. This method of producing plywood actually helps strengthen the structural integrity of plywood, as it’s trickier to split or crack plywood panels that are made up of alternating wood grain with every layer. Cross-graining basically makes plywood more durable than solid wood in the sense that your plywood panels are less likely to crack or split under pressure than wood planks.

More cost-efficient than solid wood

Alongside being more durable than solid wood in some ways, plywood is also a lot cheaper to source and produce than solid timber materials. 

Consumers benefit from the high volume of plywood production cycles by paying less for plywood than they do for solid wood materials.

Generally easy to paint

As plywood is made by debarking, treating, and slicing down wood to uniform plies, plywood faces are more likely to be uniform and thus, easier to paint than solid wood materials. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the grade of plywood you’re working with may also dictate just how easy it is to paint your plywood. For instance, A grade plywood is designed to boast smooth and uniform sides, whereas C or D grade plywood is more likely to possess wood defects like bumps or holes that have been corrected with wood fillers. 

If you’re looking to paint lower grade plywoods, we recommend first checking out our plywood painting guide for expert direction. This step-by-step guide will help you get the best finish when painting plywood of any grade.

Lighter and more versatile than solid wood

Once again, as plywood is made from wood plies rather than solid wood, you can always expect plywood panels to be lighter than solid wood planks that have been cut to the same dimensions. This is what makes plywood a highly popular choice for constructing wooden furniture.

Cons of working with plywood

Cannot be recycled like solid wood

Although plywood may be a more cost-effective option than solid wood, there is much debate about the sustainability of plywood. This is mainly because the formaldehyde resin sealants that are used to glue wood plies together when constructing plywood may actually release formaldehyde emissions when broken down. For this reason, it’s not possible to recycle plywood as you would solid wood materials. Instead, it’s generally agreed that plywood cannot be recycled at pulp mills like solid wood – but plywood uses can be repurposed, or used to create recycled wood furniture, cladding, or reused for structural purposes.

Can be more difficult to cut than solid wood

Although cross-graining can help strengthen plywood panels, the alternating of wood grains across every ply can result in your plywood sheets being more difficult to cut or saw through than solid wood planks. As a result, most woodworkers agree that plywood is best cut with a saw that has a higher tooth count to prevent blades from snagging and causing damage to the wood during the cutting process.

For more information on cutting plywood, be sure to check out this step-by-step plywood cutting guide.

Still susceptible to warping and other types of wood damage

Plywood can be more durable than solid wood planks in a lot of ways, but it’s important to remember that plywood is only made waterproof by the quality of the glue or sealants that are applied during the production process. This means that the actual wood materials used to create plywood are still susceptible to warping and other types of damage when exposed to excess moisture and heat. And whilst solid wood is also susceptible to these types of damage, it can be argued that solid timber is also easier to repair, repurpose, or recycle than damaged plywood.

Why purchase your plywood materials at Cabinet Timbers?

With our expansive catalogue of sustainably sourced and produced plywood products, Cabinet Timbers is one of the most highly reviewed plywood suppliers in Melbourne. We’re the experts in what plywood is used for and proud to offer our plywood products at competitive prices, alongside offering wood specials that allow our customers to enjoy exceptional savings without having to sacrifice quality. 

Our partnership with local timber and materials manufacturers like BORG, Ventech, Carter Holt Harvey and Austral Plywood also ensures that all of our products are produced using timber materials that are harvested from sustainably managed forests, and constructed in accordance with EWPAA product certification requirements

Want to know more about what is plywood used for and how to use any of our plywood products? Then simply scroll through our detailed application breakdowns for each type of plywood we have on offer, or just contact us for even more info on the plywood sheets you’re interested in. Our team of experts is always here to help you get the most out of your wood materials.

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