Watch out – stop using that cheap plywood!


Keep illegal and substandard timber and plywood boards off your site.

News & views – Using cheap boards can cost you a lot more in the long run. There have been concerns about the structural integrity of some of the cheaper ply on the market, particularly when it gets wet, which can lead to failure and undo your good work.

Government research has shown illegal species of timber are being used as only one in 16 suppliers was found to be compliant with the EU Timber Regulations (EUTR). This regulation puts obligations on those who trade in timber and timber-related products.

Analysis by the National Measurement Office (NMO) also found nine out of 13 samples of imported Chinese plywood contained unauthorised timber products from high-risk areas such as parts of Africa and Papua New Guinea.

How to keep substandard plywood off your site

  • Insist on full Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) certification when ordering plywood. This ensures that your plywood is from a legal and sustainable source
  • Make sure that the supplier’s Chain of Custody certificate number is noted on the delivery ticket against the plywood to confirm this
  • Don’t default to Far Eastern ply – look at alternatives such as Spruce ply, a softwood ply manufactured in Scandinavia. It can be used for any application that Far Eastern ply would be used for, including hoarding to shuttering
  • Be careful when ordering Marine Plywood. There is limited availability of FSC/PEFC-certified Marine Ply, so carry out additional checks on the source to make sure you are getting what you pay for
  • Go for alternative materials such as Norbord or Coillte. Both produce a cost-effective Orientated Strand Board (also known as OSB and Stirling Board), are fully FSC-certified as legal and sustainable and, in the case of Norbord, source materials are Grown in Britain, which helps to support our forestry sector.

OSB has been used in construction for many years and can be used as a backing in wall panel construction, floor and roof deck construction, formwork and hoardings. Both square edge and tongued and grooved versions are available. OSB2 should be used for internal work that’s not going to get wet and OSB3 for external applications, or where there is a risk that the panel will get wet. Both products are CE-marked for structural use.

Coillte and Norbord also have specialist pre-coated OSB for shuttering, hording and wall applications which can be reused a number of times. Other alternatives could be Chipboard or MDF, depending on the application.

Guidance compiled with help from Charlie Law of Sustainable Construction Solutions Ltd

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