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A Guide to Sheet Materials: Plywood

Plywood is a hugely popular, eco-friendly, durable, and versatile sheet material that can be used for a wide variety of DIY and construction projects.  A brilliant general-purpose building product—perfect for roofing, flooring, wall lining, boxing in, cabinets, and carcassing—it’s with good reason that plywood has become the go-to timber construction solution for our customers.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the applications for plywood, and the various advantages that come with choosing this superb sheet material product.

strength and durability

Plywood is a construction or DIY sheet material, created using a number of layers of real wood—known as plies—glued securely together. As a simple formula, the more you increase the layers of wood in the plywood, the stronger and thicker the sheet becomes. 

During the manufacturing process of making plywood, a technique called cross-graining is used. This method involves fixing each sheet at alternate angles, which offers the final product a myriad of structural benefits; from enhanced durability and strength, to improved balance. Cross-graining also reduces the likelihood of shrinkage, expansion and warping, as well as the risk of the wood splitting when nailed or screwed. 

Plywood remains a hugely popular sheet material owing to its inbuilt strength and durability compared to other timber products such as MDF. Its cheaper price point only adds to the list of advantages; plywood is a much more economical solution when compared to solid wood. Particularly beneficial for larger construction projects. 

Meanwhile, plywood is a wonderfully versatile sheet material, suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, covering a diverse range of practical applications. From walls and floors to furniture making, plywood remains the primary choice for both commercial and home DIY construction enterprises.

plywood sheet material
stack of plywood sheet material


While plywood is delivered as a sturdy, straight sheet, its unique composition enables the product to bend, making it ideal for use in building projects where design flexibility is required. This only adds to the versatility of this sheet material and its range of practical uses. 

It’s important to remember, however, that not every type of plywood is made for bending. Construction-grade plywood, for instance, is created using softwood fibres which can detach when pressure is applied. The most suitable plywoods for bending are those made using close-grained hardwood, which is much less likely to separate or split. 

When attempting to bend plywood, it’s imperative to work along the grain as opposed to against it—thus putting the grain under less pressure and mitigating the chances of the wood splintering.

stacked plywood
bending plywood


One of the core advantages of using plywood is its suitability for outdoor construction projects. When working outside, however, particularly anywhere that might be exposed to water, it needs treating and waterproofing to keep out any moisture.

Thanks to the laminated properties of plywood, if exposed to deluges of water, it’s possible for the material to absorb the liquid. If this occurs, the layers can start to deteriorate, causing the wood to splinter. In particular, the edges of the plywood sheets a vulnerable to water damage, so sealing or applying waterproof protection is an excellent method of increasing the plywood's lifespan.

painting and staining

As plywood is regularly used for decorative elements of DIY or construction projects, this sheet material is often painted to create a visually appealing finish. If you decide to stain or paint your plywood surfaces, it’s important to factor in a few elements before embarking on the task at hand. 

The plywood type will determine the amount of preparation you’ll need to do before applying your paint or varnish; high-grade plywood, for example, may require a little extra time to achieve that desired finish. This can include applying primer and sanding between each coat of paint.

How can we help?

If you’re looking to use plywood in your latest building or DIY project, here at Fountain Timber we supply a superb, carefully-selected FSC® hardwood plywood that will cater for all your construction needs. Please feel free to get in touch if you’d like to find out more.

Posted on October 28th 2022

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