What is plywood and how is it made?
CBJ – Plywood is an engineered timber product made from layers (or plies) of thin sheets of wood veneers, which are glued together under pressure at high temperature to form a thicker, stronger and more flexible flat sheet.
The logs used to make each sheet are prepared by steaming or dipping into hot water and are then fed into a lathe, which peels the log into the thin plies of around 1mm – 4mm thick, which are used to form each layer of each sheet.
It’s a widely used building material due to its many useful properties as well as its economical cost.
High quality plywood tends to be very strong and does not warp or crack under changes in atmospheric moisture, thus making it a reliable material for a wide variety of applications.
How this versatile timber material can be used for various applications
Plywood is widely manufactured as a softwood and hardwood, and come available in various grades of finish, depending on its intended use.
Here’s just a few examples of how plywood is used and why it is such an excellent choice of material for such uses:
1. Exterior Wall Sheathing
Common wall construction on new homes, especially in North America consist of a 2 foot x 4 foot or 2 foot by 6 foot frame skinned in exterior-grade plywood sheathing.
Plywood panels are used to fastened to each stud together to add strength and prevent vertical or horizontal shifting, keeping the frames structure intact and square.
This technique forms a structure that performs well under high wind and during earthquakes due to its flexible properties.
2. Interior Walls
Certain types of plywood are good for wood paneling or framing interior stud walls.
In most cases, the plywood will not be visible for the final finish however, some highly finished A-graded plywoods are very good for facing inwards and can painted or stained to give a stunning natural wood finish.
3. Roofing and Flooring
Plywood is commonly used to sheath roofs and as a subfloor on many internal flooring projects.
On floors, plywood panels may include tongue-and-groove edges that slot together to allow them to carry the required load without shifting or movement whilst on roofs, they can act as a very durable and suitable skin prior to laying tiles, metal or a membrane.
Plywood is excellent for both applications.
4. Other Construction
It’s not uncommon to find eaves and soffits covered with a plywood skin or made completely from ply.
Some plywoods are made specifically for use as a siding product to appear similar to reverse board and batten siding.
Builder contractors also commonly use plywood for constructing detached garages and sheds, for temporary floors and concrete forms.
Plywood can be a very practical and cost effective material for building furniture.
In situations where one side needs to to look nice, a high grade plywood can be used whilst for the rest of the structure, a lower grade finish is fine.
Plywood is suitable for almost any furniture project imaginable within reason, so it’s not uncommon to find it used in custom built dressers, wardrobes, built in media centres, shelves, bookcases, console tables… in fact, the list is practically endless!
Plywood is great for making cabinet carcasses for kitchens, bedrooms and more.
A good quality plywood is more than suitable for use on backs and sides of cabinets in most cases and is a far superior material to traditional chipboard or MDF as it lasts longer, doesn’t split and is far more durable.
7. General Projects
Due to its versatility, plywood is great for many other home projects from building skateboard ramps, to rabbit hutches to doghouses.
Home DIYers love plywood as it is ideal for building useful items including workbenches, sawhorses, simple step-stools and storage bins.
In fact, we’ve published a few easy DIY projects of our own using plywood sheets.
Why not check some of them out and see just a handful of the many practical ways you can use plywood in and around the home?
It’s a great product and is available in a wide range of thicknesses and grades, ranging from exterior with exposure to moisture to interior dry application.
It always produces an excellent, strong finish and doesn’t cost the earth.