Everything You Need to Know About Plywood and Where to Use it
The complete guide
May 29, 2020
Plywood has been our go-to option for fixed furniture for decades now. Due to its popularity, many homeowners are currently seeking plywood as a substitute to solid wooden furniture.
Unlike any other building material, plywood is one affordable option that is not only versatile but also holds the beauty of wood. Available in softwood, hardwood and various finishes, this material can be used for roofing, flooring, furniture, wardrobes and cabinets, wall sheathing and even some DIY projects.
So here is a detailed low-down on what you need to know!
#1: What is plywood?
Plywood is an engineered wood made by glueing together thin veneer sheets with a resin under high pressure. Thus creating a thick, strong and flexible flat sheet. It is usually mostly preferred as it is cheaper than wood and doesn’t get warped or shrink in the long run.
#2: Best types of plywood for interiors
There are over 18 types of plywood distinguished based on the type of wood used, application and process. However, let us concentrate on the three basic types — MR ply, BWR/BWP ply and Marine ply.
Moisture Resistant Plywood
Also known as commercial ply by local vendors, is used in interiors extensively. From furniture to cabinets, it has good resistance to moisture in damp and humid conditions, making it a favourite material in tropical areas. However, this is not waterproof.
Boiling Water Resistant and Boiling Water Proof Ply
It is most favoured for interior and exteriors as well. The resistance to water makes it suitable for all weather conditions and is also used in the bathrooms and kitchens where exposure to water is high. It is also used for wall cladding on the exteriors, staircases and more due to its waterproof nature.
It is often associated with BWR and BWP ply by carpenters. But the similarities are minimum. The material is of superior quality and is waterproof to a great extent. Thus, its applications are found mainly in boat building and industries where exposure to water is high. So, the myth that marine ply is the best material for kitchens is pointless unless you’re planning to keep your kitchen immersed in water all the time.
#3: Thickness and plywood grade
Ply means layer. The thickness of the sheet is determined by the ply. More ply creates a thicker and stronger board. The minimum number of plies are 3-ply and can go up to 5 or more. Plywood with lesser number plies are thinner and weaker even if they’re of the same thickness.
- 3-ply: These sheets are 2 to 3 mm thick and is the most common type of plywood for home interiors.
- 5-ply: This plywood is the most versatile option that is 4 mm thick. This type of plywood works great for indoor and outdoor furniture and decorative boards.
- Multi-ply: This plywood has 7 or more layers. It’s strong and durable enough for permanent structures like roofing.
Plywood often comes with grades that can determine the quality and appearance of it.
- A-grade: Ideal for furniture pieces and cabinets, A-grade plywood has a smooth and sanded surface with minor defects.
- B-grade: This grade of plywood is similar to A grade with a few knots however, the defects can go upto 1 inch across.
- C-grade: This grade is unsanded with minor knots and defects like discolouration. They are ideal for structures where appearance is not important.
- D-grade: Similar to C-grade, D-grade plywood is unsanded and has snags that have not been repaired.
#4: Common plywood sheet sizes
Buying these wood veneer sheets are comparatively easy. When you purchase a plywood board you know exactly what size you’re getting because they are available in standard measurements. Moreover, they are pre-cut to reduce waste. The most popular and common dimensions are 4 x 8 ft. Another popular option is 5 x 5 ft. When it comes to thickness, plywood comes in 1/2 inches. However you can get a variety that ranges of 1/8th and 3/4th inches.
#5: Usage & Cost
Plywood finds application in many interior elements — from furniture and storage to the walls, floors and ceilings. The main uses have so far been to make furniture, modular kitchen cabinets and wardrobes. However, for decorative purposes, plywood can be used as wall cladding, false ceiling and wooden flooring, which can all give your home a cosy feeling.
The cost varies based on different aspects — from the type of plywood to the thickness and quality. You might want to consider all this before purchasing the same.
- The usual prices for MR ply start from ₹28 per sqft
- BWP/ BWR ply starts from ₹48 per sqft
- Marine ply is on the higher end by starting from ₹75 per sqft as its sturdy and waterproof features are better than interior grade ply.
** Prices are indicative of market rates and can vary.
#6: Pros & Cons
- Convenience: Plywood can be used easily without worrying about damage to the plank while using nails and screws. It is also available in various sizes favourable in making furniture.
- Durability: Homeowners prefer this material for its sturdy nature, second only to wood. Also, it doesn’t warp or shrink in varying temperatures making it ideal for households.
- Economical: It is cheaper than wood, making it a lucrative option to invest in. The quality is also superior for the price paid.
- Flexible: The material is available in varied sizes, densities and quality for varying applications. Thus, whether cabinets and furniture or thin wall panels, this is your best bet.
- Eco-friendly: Plywood ensures there is minimal wastage and can also be recycled. Thus, it is eco-friendly as well.
- Shape: You can’t carve plywood like wood to give furniture or storage the classy grooves.
- Delicate material: While using this material one needs to be careful as it can chip easily and splinters fly if precaution is not taken. Thus, this veneer sheet needs to be sealed careful along the edges too.
- Water damage: Exposure to water can damage MR ply as it is not waterproof. Thus restricting its usage to places away from water.
- Assessing the quality: It is difficult to assess the quality of this material by just looking at it. Thus, it is necessary to buy from trusted sources only.
- Usage: Unlike wood, this material can’t be used as it is. It needs add-ons like laminates, paint or polish to give it a better look.
If you still are unsure, read our debate on Plywood Vs MDF here for a better understanding of your options.