Plywood can be classified in a number of ways, usually based on its different aspects, such as the wood used, its fitness for indoor and outdoor use, the number of plies it has, its grading according to quality specifications, the weight of plywood and its various applications.
It is used to make furniture, cabinetry, concrete forms or for any construction project requiring large, wooden slabs. This kind of wood is createdby placing several thin layers of wood glued one above the other under very high pressure in hydraulic presses to create one thick sheet of wood. Whereas hardwood plywood is used for making cabinets and other furniture, softwood plywood is used in structural building and construction applications.
Types of Plywood
There are 19 kinds of plywood, each with its own specific characteristics and applications. So, it’s difficult to tell which the best plywood for table top is or which is the best one for your cabinets. Here’s a look at various types of plywood:
Hardwood: Cabinets are usually made using plywood from different hardwood species. Of them, Baltic birch plywood and red oak are among the most widely used of all hardwood plywoods, chiefly due to thier affordable prices and easy availability, with birch costing significantly lesser than oak. Still, they are more expensive than other kinds of plywood due to their inherent beauty and flawlessness.
For cabinetry, there are some other hardwood plywoods used, such as ash, mahogany, cherry and maple. This kind of plywood is available in 48×96 inch sheets in thicknesses of 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 inches.
Softwood: Fir lumber makes softwood plywood. Its distinctive appearance and visible defects don’t render it ideal for furniture or cabinet-making. Its chief uses are as structurual building material that may be painted or plastered, because it’s a strong kind of softwood. Almost all homes use softwood plywood as a sub-floor. It is also used for concrete and building structures and is therefore specially made in a one-inch thickness. Like hardwood plywood, softwood plywood is made in 48×96 inch sheets in thicknesses of 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 3/8 and 5/8 inches.
Interior and Exterior Grade Plywood: There are two major types of plywood, Interior and Exterior Grade plywood.
Interior Plywood: While interior grade plywood is used for indoor purposes, exterior grade is used outdoors and is generally waterproof. Furniture for homes and offices is better known as Commercial plywood or Moisture resistant (MR) grade plywood.
Exterior Plywood: This kind of plywood is made from ifr plywood. It is created using waterproof glue and used whenever and wherever there is excess of exposure to the elements. It is available in a range of sizes and is used largely for roofing in the construction industry, where water is present, such as the kitchen or bathroom. It is also used as sheathing in home exteriors, and in constructing transoms and dormers to support masonry.
Boiling Water Proof (BWP): Also called Boiling Water Resistant (BWR) plywood, this kind of plywood is also called exterior grade plywood. It is made from phenolic resins and is sufficiently waterproof.
Composites: Woodworkers and cabinetmakers generally use this kind of plywood. While there are two layers on the outside made of high density fiberboard covered with a thin veneer of hardwood, the inner layers of wood are thin and held together by adhesive glue. The ensuing plywood sheet is large and flat and has a very thick core. Woodworkers prize this high-grade plywood for its ease in working and its uniformity. Neither does it warp nor does it separate but it has a good finish similar to natural hardwood. It is also available in the same sizes as hardwood plywood.
Marine Plywood: When compared with Commercial ply, Marine Plywood is of much higher quality, and therefore it also costs more. It is used primarily for boat-building and industrial needs where plywood gets good exposure to water.
3-ply and 5-ply: These plywood types are so named due to the number of layers that make them up. So, 3-ply is made up of three layers. It is used for decorating the interiors of homes and in boxing.
Multi-ply: As the name suggests, it is made of several thinner layers of wood. It has wide appliations in heavyweight construction, such as house framing.
Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF): This extremely versatile type of plywood is manufactured so that its edges are cut neater than other materials. It can be used to provide a rigid structural part or it can be specially shaped to form a decorative item to be painted. It is also used to make cabinets and cabinet doors, shelves and for boxing in. It is available in a series of thicknesses. However, its chief disadvantage is that when cut, it gives off a fine powdery dust which should not be inhaled. Woodworkers should therefore wear protective masks when cutting this wood.
Moisture-resistant MDF: This MDF version is highly resistant to moisture. Often green, it is used in areas where moisture is high, such as the bathroom or kitchen.
Fiberboard: A lightweight type of MDF, its joints between the sheets can be taped together and the boards painted. It has applications as underlay for flooring or as drywall on a ceiling.
Particleboard: At the heart of this wood, there are small wooden fibers. It is usually covered because it does not have any decorative characteristic. It is available in a variety of thicknesses and is used as floor sheathing.
Veneered particleboard: This comes with a plastic wooden veneer and is chosen for use in shelving.
Hardboard: Hardboard is thin and compressed fiberboard with one smooth and one rough side. It is available in a variety of finishes and grades and is used in kitchens where a plastic surface can be had.
Moisture Resistant (MR) grade: Most commonly used for indoor furniture, the MR grade of plywood can resist a huge amount of humidity.
Flexible Plywood: Known as bendy ply in the US and flexi ply in India, this kind of plywood is flexible enough to be rolled in sheets. Its versatility makes it useful in cutting roundels for furniture.
Fire Retardant (FR) grade: This fire-rated plywood is best used in areas where a fire risk is high and must be reduced. Such places include theaters, shopping complexes, malls, restaurants, kitchens, etc. This plywood’s surface is chemically treated so that the wood’s burning process is delayed.
Termite-Resistant and Borer-proof: As is evident from the name, this kind of plywood offers good resistance from wood boring termites and garden pests that can destroy wood.