Plywood in Construction: What you need to know

Published Wednesday 08th March 2017

Walk into any home, store or workplace and chances are you’re not very far away from some multi-purpose plywood.  Plywood is an incredibly popular material to use in construction, not just because of its accessibility and cost, but because of its versatility.

So, what is plywood?

Plywood is a strong thin board of wood, normally comprised of three or more layers glued on top of one another with alternating grains. Due to it being engineered, through the perpendicular graining, it is more hardwearing and long-lasting than normal wood.

These engineering techniques ensure plywood’s renowned resourcefulness.

What can it be used for?

A better question might be, what can’t it be used for? Plywood is incredibly adaptable and is used in furniture making, flooring systems, packaging and partitions or external walls in a home, to name just a few. Its popularity is the best proof of its effectiveness.

Are there different types of plywood?

Lots! There are a number of different types of plywood so you can choose which one suits your needs the most.

Softwood: The most common type used for construction, this type varies in thickness for whatever you need it for.

Hardwood: Made from stronger trees (angiosperm trees) – used for its longevity and hardwearing nature.

Aircraft: Made from birch for a more heat resistant plywood.

Decorative: Usually finished off with particularly beautiful wood (oak, rosewood) for furniture and fixtures.

Flexible: Only uses two or three glued wooden panels to ensure ultimate flexibility.

Marine: Mainly used in marine-based areas due to its resistance to water.

What properties does plywood have?

Strength: Plywood not only has the strength of the wood that it’s made of, but it’s modified to make it even longer lasting. When you place two or more lengths of board on top of one another with alternating grains, it prevents the wood from being able to snap with any ease. The more layers of wood used, the stronger the plywood.

Flexibility: Because plywood is manufactured, it can be modified to take on any piece of construction it’s needed for. A piece of plywood can be anything from a few millimetres to a couple of inches! If you need wood that’s very flexible, you can get plywood that’s only two or three layers thick – perfect for your ceilings & panelling. 

Moisture resistance: A massive selling point for our modified wooden friend – the glue used to create plywood enhances its resistance to both moisture of humidity. So, what’s the benefit of this? It means that if exposed to water or heat, the wood will not warp, expand or shrink, leaving it in the exact shape you need it to be in. If you need a wood that’s perfect for the outdoors, look no further than plywood.

Insulation: Floors, ceilings, walls – plywood has excellent thermal and sound insulation, so can be utilised throughout your build for these purposes. This is a great investment, as it will drastically limit your heating bills for as long as you’re using your build.

Impact resistance: Plywood has the strength to hold incredibly heavy objects due to its design – the perpendicular structure spreads out the load, reducing the stress of the wood. This leaves it particularly useful as part of construction flooring or for seismic activity.

So, that’s plywood in construction in a nutshell. We hope it’s made your construction-based reservations ease off. If you have any advice or information you'd like to share – be sure to let us know on Twitter. And if you're looking for the perfect plywood for your construction needs, be sure to get in touch today.