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Plywood Types & Its Thickness – All You Need to Know

Plywood, as we all know, is a less expensive alternative to solid wood. Plywood is simple to form, readily available, and available in various textures ranging from smooth birch panels to mottled pressboard. Plywood is an incredibly versatile commodity used for various structural, interior, and exterior applications.

You must have seen wood in various forms at the carpenter’s workshop or your own house when renovating your home.

The wood that looked as if some layers were bound together and used to make furniture, especially wardrobe and kitchen cabinets is called ply or plywood. It is your best companion in making interior furniture.

What is ply?

Plywood is the most commonly used option today, and it is quite essential to know about plywood before using them.

Let us find out what goes into making plywood. Plywood is a term used for a product that is made by gluing together thin sheets of wood. Thin sheets of wood are stuck together to obtain plywood of uniform thickness.

In simple terms, thin layers of wood of a particular size are bound together to obtain a sheet of wood of good thickness. Each layer is called as the veneer.

The veneers are usually made from different woods such as teak, spruce, birch, etc. Usually, veneers are obtained from good quality wood.

The number of veneers selected is usually in odd numbers, like 3, 5, 7, etc. Such kinds of plies balance the sheet and ensures that there is no warping. Plywood is used extensively in the wood industry.

Today, most of the home décor and home furniture is made by using plywood. An advantage of plies is that they are cheap, can be recycled, and are flexible. Thus they can be used to make many products. Also since plies can be locally manufactured, it is easy to get.

Carpenters and interior designers prefer plywood over plain wood because unlike plain wood, plywood is durable and doesn’t shrink, crack, warp, twist in the long run. Of course, it also lasts for a long time.

The manufacturing process of ply:

If you thought making a ply is easier and that it just needs some layers of wood and a good quality adhesive to stick them together, then you are right in some ways but wrong in many ways. Though the process of making a ply sounds easier, it is not that simple. At least 14 to 15 steps of processes go into making a sturdy ply.

Apart from being aware of the quality of the wood used to create the ply, one must also be careful of what goes inside the veneer that can directly impact the overall product.

Indoor and outdoor ply:

Different kinds of plies are used for interiors and exteriors. Usually waterproof or water-resistant ply is utilized for exterior work. By the term interiors, it means that such ply is used for making furniture, doors, etc.

Such type of plywood is known as commercial MR plywood, wherein MR is the abbreviation for Moisture resistant. The exterior plywood goes by the term BWP or BWR plywood. BWP stands for Boiling Water Proof whereas BWR stands for Boiling Water Resistant.

Boiling Water Proof whereas BWR stands for Boiling Water Resistant

Commercial plywood: In India, the term commercial ply is referred to as the ‘MR’ grade ply. This ply is the interior grade ply and used for making indoor furniture units. When it is said that moisture resistant, it does not mean it is water-resistant.

There is a huge difference between water and moisture, as you know. Waterproof ply is the BWR graded ones which are the boiling water-resistant ones. So commercial ply can withstand moisture to a certain extent but they are not waterproof.

Indian standards specification numbers for different kinds of plywood

IS: 303 – MR Plywood, BWR Plywood, Flexi Ply

IS: 710 – Marine Plywood

IS: 10701 – Structural plywood

IS: 5509-1980 – Fire Retardant Plywood

IS: 4990 – Shuttering Plywood

Calibrated ply:

This ply is used for maximum precision. The inner ply sometimes measures only 0.005 inches, thus you can imagine how perfect the ply has been made.

Calibrated ply is mostly used for such furniture where uniformity in thickness has to be maintained.

Marine ply:

This is a term used for exterior plywood and is in high demand in the production of marine applications. Marine ply is also used to make boats and preferred in industries due to its water-resistant factor.

Marine ply, though not much used for interiors, some do make use of it to make kitchen furniture since such types of furniture are often exposed to water.

Classification on the basis of the raw material (wood) used Hardwood plywood is a term used for plies made from teak or birth. This is one of the best quality plywood.

Softwood ply

It is a term used for wood made from soft trees such as Pine, Fir, Spruce, or Cedar. Plies made from Mango tree wood are also softwood plies.

Other plywood terms Flexible plywood as the term implies is flexible plies that can be bent or rolled. Such types of plies are extremely in demand to make designer furniture. Fire-resistant ply is used in malls, theatres, restaurant kitchens to prevent any fire accidents.

Sanded Plywood

Sanded plywood is a type of plywood that is structural in nature and has had both its face and back plies smoothed off during production. The veneers on the panels are cross-laminated, and there are three or more layers total.

Sanded plywood is the panel of choice for many uses where aesthetics are a priority due to its high quality face and back veneers and smooth sanded surface. As a structural material, sanded plywood also benefits from being dimensionally stable, resistant to impact, able to retain fasteners, and easy to work with.

Structural Plywood

Durable in framing and construction, this plywood goes by the name “sheathing” as well. Structural plywood is made with the most durable, watertight glues available. They are often given a grade of C or D. They are incredibly long-lasting, but can’t be rated higher due to the resulting increase in cost.

That said, structural plywood is not very adaptable to extreme climates. But they are still the most popular choices for furniture both inside and outside. Shelves, panels, bookcases, and other prominently displayed objects often make use of this types of plywood.

Tropical Plywood

Since it looks so much like softwood plywood from the West, this types of plywood are often called “Asian plywood.” Tropical wood from nations like Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines is used in its construction. It has received widespread acclaim for its high quality density, uniform layering, and exceptional strength.

This plywood is made by combining many different kinds of tropical woods. Originally harvested exclusively in Asia, it is now sourced from Africa and the Americas. The popularity of tropical plywood is due to its unique characteristics.

Flexible Plywood

In keeping with its name, Flexible plywood is the type of plywood that is used in the fabrication of flexible furniture and constructions. The majority of furniture from the eighteenth century had curved structural forms.

It can be put to use in the creation of curved surfaces in furniture and in the décor of interiors (e.g., to cover a circular building column with plywood). Because it is constructed from strong wood, the overall quality of the wood is high. When compared to standard plywood or any other types of plywood, this material is much lighter. It is quite simple to travel with and set up.

Subfloor Plywood

The subfloor consists of the decking that is laid over the flooring beams before the final floor is laid. Plywood subfloor panels must adhere to the joists’ spacing, which determines their thickness. The term “span rating” describes this value. The length of the floor’s fasteners tells how thick the plywood subfloor over a slab at grade should be.

Usage of Plywood

Sheathing for exterior walls:

A typical material for outside wall sheathing is plywood. It may serve as a solid foundation for finishes like siding or brick since it is robust and long-lasting. Plywood is easy to find and can be bought in different thicknesses to suit different needs. It is also easy to put together.

Home’s Interior Paneling:

Using plywood for internal walls has certain benefits. Plywood is sturdy and can withstand a lot of weight, making it perfect for hanging big objects like bookcases or paintings. It can also withstand wet environments, making it suitable for use in places like bathrooms and kitchens. Plywood is versatile because it can be easily shaped to match different dimensions.

Flooring and Rooftops:

Roofing and flooring made of plywood are common owing to the material’s excellent strength-to-weight ratio, durability, and water resistance. Because of its ease of use, plywood is a popular material among both DIYers and professionals.


Plywood can be a terrific material for furniture, but it all depends on the design. It’s equally at home in either the backyard or the living room. If you’re going for a country or rustic look, plywood is a great material to use. It is also low-priced and simple to manipulate.

Plywood is an excellent choice if you want something a bit more contemporary. For outdoor furniture, its portability and low weight make it a top pick.

Indoor Games Stadium:

Plywood can serve as an indoor arena for a number of sports. It’s a low-priced, long-lasting material with plenty of room for personalization, making it perfect for making a one-of-a-kind game room. Plywood may be stained or painted to give your game a one-of-a-kind appearance.

How to Choose the Perfect Plywood?

Look for the ISI logo.

Quality plywood is the best choice for long-term, intensive use. The plywood produced in the area isn’t up to the task of being used for high-end furniture, worktops, tabletops, etc. In order to ensure you’re getting high-quality plywood, it’s important to verify that it has the ISI certification.

Double Check the Cost

You may end up paying more for plywood from an online retailer. Before making a plywood purchase, it’s wise to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible on the subject. Because of the efficient manufacturing technique used in India, plywood sheets can be purchased for very little money.

Study your are of application carefully

There are a wide range of plywood options available. There are a wide variety of uses for each of these grades. For example, MR-grade plywood is perfect for doors and outdoor furniture that are always exposed to high humidity.

Why is 16mm ply used for Modular?

Nowadays, there is hardly any kitchen that is plain. Most householders prefer a modular kitchen as it is easy, convenient, elegant, and gives the kitchen a beautiful look. In India, plywood is most preferred to make a modular kitchen.

Plies with thicknesses ranging from 12 mm to 19 mm; these plies are typically waterproof and made of hardwood. Hence, such plies are usually used in kitchen furniture, especially to make modular kitchens and other furniture. The 16-mm-thick plywood is what is preferred because this thickness guarantees a strong modular kitchen and also lasts for a long time because of its strength.

Decorating the plywood

Plywood is usually decorated with laminates, paints and then polished. Sunmica is the most common laminate used to decorate ply. It is also popular because it is available in different colours, textures and even patterns.

Compared to laminates, paints are less expensive and protect the wood for a long time. Though polishing is generally done on hardwood, plies are also polished to make it look even and good.   Ply is best for wardrobes.  As interior designs are improving with technology, there also have been some great innovations in wardrobes.

Ply’s flexibility and strength make it the most suitable material to make wardrobes. Of course, they can also be decorated as per your choice, thus giving it a beautiful look from the outside.

Plywood Features in Interior Design:

Due to the lack of solid wood availability, the preference of using plywood in making different furniture options is on the rise lately. Though there are also many other options available today such as MDF, following are a few features of plywood which are the reason behind its wide popularity:  

  • One can determine the quality of the plywood by the grades such as Grade A states the best quality ply option.
  • The ply sheets are available in two convenient sizes of 4’x8’ and 3’x7’. This helps reduce waste during its use in any project.
  • Plywood comes with high strength and is highly durable so that it can hold screws conveniently for the creation of different masterpieces.
  • Plywood is cheaper in price and environment-friendly when compared to solid wood.

Apart from these beneficial features, there are some of the other features that should be taken care of too. Here are such features. 

  • As the plyboards are made by piling up several plies, they cannot be folded or molded into different ways. It is best for manufacturing straight options such as tables, cabinets, drawers, and others. 
  • Just raw ply cannot offer you the finish that you have been searching for. For such cases, you have to make use of laminate, paint, or veneer to make the ply look good. 
  • Usually, the plywood is not water-resistant. But now there are plywood options available that are especially water-resistant. Hence, you should check before buying. 
  • In order to stay away from the issues of off-gassing, you should consider plywood that is manufactured with the green process. 
  • It is always ideal to go for plywood from a reputable brand in order to get a warranty and guarantee on the quality of the plywood for enhanced durability. 

Thus, before you decide to manufacture your interiors with plywood, make sure to think about the features and consider the different types of plywood. 

Advantages of ply

Convenient to use: Ply can easily be used. It is easy to nail or screw the ply and unlike wood, these processes do not cause any damage to the ply.   

Provides good strength: Plies are much stronger than any other kind of wood. They are durable also.

Highly economical: Not much wood is wasted during the making of the ply. Thin sheets of variable quality too can make a ply of superior quality.

Not much distress: Plies are made in such a way that it does not suffer warping or shrinking, thus suitable for use for a long duration of time.

Flexible and reasonable: Ply is flexible and hence in great demand to make creative designs in interior design work and other decorative materials. It is also easy to use and thus interior designers prefer plywood over any other material to make high-end kitchens and other interior work.

Plus, plies are stronger and durable, thus making them much popular with carpenters and industries.

Now that you know the intricacies of that ply lying at your house, you will be able to get the best furniture with ply and interior work is done for your home.

After your home’s renovation gets done, do say a soft ‘thank you’ to the ply that is making your home look so beautiful.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1. What is the thickest Plywood you can buy?

Answer: The plyboard with a dimension of 3/4inch is the thickest plywood that one can buy. But the most commonly used thickness is 1/2inch as it offers a lot of flexibility

Q2. What are the types of Plywoods?

Answer: There can be different types of plywoods such as calibrated ply, marine ply, softwood ply, and even commercial ply. 

Q3. Is Plywood stronger than regular wood?

Answer: This is dependent on the quality of the plywood. Plywood is made up of sheets that have been artificially glued together, and the individual plies will fall apart if the ‘Glue shear strength’ is poor..

Q4. Which is the best Plywood for furniture?

Answer: Birch or oak plywood options can be the best for manufacturing furniture. 

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