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Plywood for your indoor and outdoor projects
Plywood is a strong and flexible board material that can be used for many projects around your house. It’s a composite material, meaning it’s made of multiple layers glued together to one large sheet. With this construction you will get a product that is stronger and flexible than one solid piece of wood.
The plywood structure consists of thin layers of wood glued together, creating a strong sheet. The part that makes it so strong is that the layers are laid with the grain running at right angles to each other. The cross-graining reduces shrinkage, expansion, splitting, creates stability and guarantees that the panel keeps a consistent strength in all directions.
The sheets are also normally constructed with an odd number of layers, or plies as this creates a stable and balanced piece of wood.
From its versatility to its sustainability, plywood is perfect for many projects and has become the building material of choice for carpenters, contractors and DIYers alike.
For the untrained eye, it might seem that there is not much difference between the various kinds of plywood, but there is! It’s important to understand the differences in size, ply and other factors making certain types of plywood more suitable for different projects.
The ply in plywood
The plies in a board is the number of sheets, layers or wood veneers that the board consists of.
And the more number of plies, the more stable the board is but also thicker. Each ply's thickness can vary in mm based on the brand so this is an aspect to keep in mind!
Plywood normally comes in 3-, 5-, and multi-ply versions.
The 3-ply board have 3 layers and is commonly used indoor for decorative purposes. Due to the fewer layers, this board is thinner (in mm) and can be curved or bent.
The 5-ply board have got 5 layers of veneers and is sturdier than the 3-ply board and used for projects that needs this “medium” level strength.
The multi-ply board can have up to 11 layers of veneer, it’s therefore more solid and durable than the other versions. With its thicker construction, it can withstand higher forces and hold greater weight, it’s therefore used for outdoor projects like roof sheathing to build sturdier constructions.
Alternatives to plywood
MDF or Medium Density Fiberboard is popular alternative to plywood. The boards consist of sawdust and wood fibers, mixed with glue and pressed together into a board. As these boards are fully manufactured, they won’t have any imperfections that wood usually has. At the same time you can’t stain it like normal wood products.
MDF boards are great for projects as they are easy to cut and paint but they are not as solid and can crack or split if not used to its right capacity.
The hardboard is made the same way as the MDF boards, but they are pressed harder so they more compact and thinner.
Of the alternatives the particleboard is the cheapest alternative, this because it’s normally made from recycled wood splinters from the saw mills pressed together to a board. But it’s not as durable or water resistant as other board types.
Oriented strand board
This board product is similar to the particleboard but it’s made from larger chips and slivers instead of splinters. And since the pieces are larger the board is also more solid and robust than the particleboard.