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Versatility of Plywood

What is Plywood?

Plywood boards or "sheets" are made up of three or more thin layers of real wood that are glued together. The layers are known as "plies", hence the name "plywood". Generally, the thicker the plywood, the more layers it has.

How is plywood made?

Plywood manufacture usually requires logs that are greater in diameter and and straighter than the average log from which wood is cut. The bark is removed before the log is heated and soaked for between 12 and 40 hours prior to cutting.

The log is then placed in a large peeling lathe and turned on its long axis while a long blade peels a continuous sheet, or ply, from the log. The long sheet is cut into initial lengths and widths. Surfaces are scanned for any defects. The plies are then pressed and bonded together with glue, and the resultant boards cut to their final dimensions.

What are the different types of plywood?

There is a vast range of plywood types. The types of plywood suitable for interior design and architectural applications include:

Soft Plywood: This is a very common type of plywood used generally for construction and industrial purposes.

Hardwood plywood: This type has greater strength and stiffness. Its resistance to damage and wear makes it suitable for heavy-duty applications, including floors and walls.
Tropical plywood: This plywood is made of tropical wood from Asia, Africa and South America. It is superior to softwood plywood because of its extra strength and evenness of plies. Because of its attractive grain and colouring, this plywood is preferred choice for inclusion in some types of furniture.
Decorative plywood:This plywood has an attractive hardwood outer ply for used in furniture making, wall panels and other "high-end" applications. Other types of decorative outer ply include formica and resin-impregnated paper.
Fire-retardant plywood:This is plywood that has been treated with chemicals to improve its resistance to fire.
Flexible plywood: This "bendy ply" is used to make curved shapes.

What are plywood's characteristics?

Plywood offers all the inherent advantages of wood plus enhanced properties in its laminated structure.


With high strength and stiffness to weight ratios, plywood is very cost effective to use in structural applications such as flooring, shearwalls, formwork and webbed beams. Plywood is considerably stronger than some other wood-based sheet products, such as medium density fibreboard (MDF). It's strength is due to the way the direction of each layer's grain is alternated in relation to adjacent layers.

Rotations of the Grain

This reduces the likelihood of splitting when nailed at the edges. There is a consistency of strength across the board. Expansion and shrinkage is minimised giving better dimensional stability.

Surface Dimensional Stability

The cross laminated construction of plywood ensures that plywood sheets remain relatively stable under changes of temperature and moisture. This is especially important in circumstances where moisture exposure is very likely for example flooring and formwork construction.

Panel Shear

Plywood is very cost effective to use in structural applications such as flooring, shearwalls, formwork and webbed beams due to its high strength and stiffness to weight ratios.


It is not limited in the same way real wood is by the size, shape and appearance endowed by nature because it is a manufactured product. Plywood sheets come in a range of thicknesses and facings. Plywood with a smooth veneer can be finished with many of the same finishing products used on real wood.

Chemical Resistance

Plywood is a durable material when preservative treated. Plywood does not corrode and can be used in chemical works and cooling towers as a cost-effective.


Because plywood is made of plies, it can come from the parts of trees that are not suitable for the milling of beams, blocks and boards. As a rule, that makes plywood cheaper than its equivalent in real wood as well, particularly for large-scale applications.

What is plywood used for?

Plywood is an extremely versatile product, plywood is used for a wide range of structural, interior and exterior applications including formwork, internal paneling, floor covering, moulds for concrete structures, designer furniture to packaging.


Plywood is a great alternative to traditional flooring options because of its strength and noise absorbing properties...

Exterior Cladding

Plywood comes in different grades. The surface look, thickness and strength all depends upon its application. There are structural grades of plywood used for exterior cladding are different to the plywood you see on display in interiors.

Decorative Paneling and Moulding

Plywood is light and easy to fashion. The designs are only limited by your imagination. It is a refreshing change from a white plasterboard ceilings or walls. You can decide on the size and arrangement of the plywood panels according to your taste and the shape of the space.

The angles and shapes of these plywood ceiling panels, paneling and cabinetry bring interesting detail to this large barber shop...

Here is a great example of how flexible plywood is to work with. This bespoke plywood panel is a fantastic backdrop for this restaurant...

This birch plywood wood panel is a work of art...


Plywood for cabinetry can be less expensive and more durable than some timbers commonly used such as pine. The finished product can be painted or the beautiful grains left on show. Finishes include oils such as tung oil, or water-based and oil-based polyurethane finishes (available in low-VOC), which act as a sealant or allow the beauty of the grain to shine through. [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif]The shape of this interior is reinforced by this unique ply cabinetry...

This Paris kitchen apartment with plywood cabinetry is neat, simple and beautiful....

The workmanship of this plywood cabinetry with its clean lines and beautiful grain creates a comfortable apartment interior...


Don’t forget, plywood is wood and looks great. The inner layers may be made with utility-grade material. The outer veneers can be just as rich and lustrous as a plank of solid birch, cherry, hickory, apple, alder, mahogany, walnut or bamboo.

Edged with hardwood trim, plywood edged with harwood trim assumes the appearance of solid wood. I prefer designs that show off the material’s stratified edges. The even layering of dark and light wood lends a crisp, linear detail to any project and reminds us that plywood is both a natural and man-made.

The details on this chair and desk helps create an enjoyable working space...


Just add light to beautiful plywood shapes and the effect is a warm glow. The rectangle paneled light adds a touch of class to this room...

This round plywood pendant adds a touch of elegance to this interior...

Wall Panels

Be aware that plywood can warp and bow so talk to your builder or cabinetmaker about choosing the correct grade and thickness of product for the application.

So simple yet so effective. With simple plywood panels and shelving even a laundry can be an enjoyable room...

The Scandanavians design their interiors using sustainable materials such as plywood to be one with nature...

These white birch plywood wood panels add warmth and texture to this concrete ceiling and white washed walls...

This hotel room with its wood paneled walls, floor and windows glows...

Hotel Holos, Sevilla, Spain

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