Today, I’m looking at all the uses of plywood – from DIY projects around your home to building materials. In this article, I’ll hopefully answer the age-old question of ‘What is Plywood used for?’ and give you some inspiration to start DIYing some projects of your own.
Let’s get started!
What Is Plywood?
Plywood is manufactured wood made from thin sheets, or “plies,” of wood veneer that are glued together. It’s an engineered product and not a natural material like solid wood.
The plywood layers can be arranged in cross-grained patterns for strength and stability or in alternating grain patterns for flexibility. Plywood can come in various thicknesses, making it useful for many applications.
Its lightweight yet strong properties make it ideal for use in cabinetry and other home improvement projects, such as shelving units and storage units. And, due to its affordability and versatility, it’s also one of the most common materials used to construct DIY projects.
I’ve previously used plywood to DIY storage furniture and even for flooring, so the projects you can use it for are varied. Here are five ways that you could make use of plywood in your own home…
1. Home Improvement Projects
Plywood is a highly versatile material used in many home improvement projects as it’s durable, affordable and easy to use for all skill levels. Let’s face it, if I find it easy to use it in a project, anyone can! Plywood’s versatility makes it ideal for flooring, cabinetry, furniture, and countertops.
Choosing the right grade of plywood, depending on the application, is important when using plywood. For instance, if you want to install hardwood floors over an existing concrete slab or subfloor, you should use a higher grade of plywood such as CDX or OSB (oriented strand board). These grades have better wear resistance than lower grades like BCX and ACX which may not be suitable for heavy traffic areas.
When crafting cabinets or furniture with plywood, select the type of wood based on its weight-bearing capacity. This will help ensure your project lasts longer and looks great too! I used a piece of plywood to replace the top of an old coffee table and, with the addition of some foam and upholstery, turn it into a footstool.
2. Decorative Uses
Plywood is often used for decorative purposes due to its affordability. It can be cut, painted and stained to create various looks that fit in with almost any space. Keeping the wood unpainted adds a scandi vibe to walls and cabinets – I personally love the natural warm colours of the wood grain.
Here are some popular decorative uses for plywood:
- Wall panelling
- Table tops
It’s important to note that the type of finish you choose will determine how durable your project will be. A clear coat or sealer should be applied if using plywood outdoors, while indoor projects may require additional coats of paint or stain to protect them from scuffs and make them easier to clean.
Plywood can also be laminated to give it a unique look and added protection from wear and tear. I love the look of plywood kitchens with solid colour door fronts and the scandi-style wooden edges peeking out. With all these options available, there’s no limit to what you can make from plywood.
3. Furniture Making
Moving on from decorative uses, plywood is also commonly used for making furniture. It’s a popular material for indoor and outdoor use due to its strength and durability.
Plywood can be cut into any shape or size, allowing it to fit perfectly in the desired piece of furniture, so it’s great for adding shelves inside vintage wardrobes. The layers of veneer that make it up give the wood an attractive natural finish while providing structural stability.
Additionally, many types of plywood are waterproof or water-resistant, making them suitable for humid environments like bathrooms or kitchens. I’ve previously built a bathroom cabinet (below) using pallet wood for the rustic driftwood-style front and used marine ply for the back and interior.
Plywood is easy to paint and stain, so you can customise your design to match your home decor – making DIY furniture projects fast and hassle-free!
4. Flooring Applications
Plywood is widely used for flooring because the lower price (compared to real wood) makes it an attractive option for those of us who are decorating on a budget. It’s handy for creating both the subfloor and finished floors in homes.
When used as a subfloor, plywood helps stabilise the floor above it while offering insulation against cold temperatures and moisture. I used marine ply in my bathroom over the floorboards and beneath the tiled floor. I also used it for boxing-in around the pipework before tiling, and it has been ideal for that purpose.
Many people install carpets directly over plywood, which gives a smoother finish than when carpeting over floorboards. Also, if you like that Scandi vibe, you can seal the plywood and keep the natural wood finish for your flooring.
5. Exterior Uses
Moving on from flooring, plywood is also a great material for exterior projects. If you choose the right grade of plywood, it can be durable and strong enough to withstand the elements of nature, such as rain, snow, wind and sun.
Therefore, plywood can be used in many ways outside including lining sheds or garages, making roofs and shed floors, and even constructing outdoor furniture like benches or chairs.
Plywood is an economical choice compared to other construction materials and its ability to stand up against harsh weather conditions makes it ideal for any outdoor project that requires strength and durability. I used marine ply to build a parcel box (below) and it’s still in great condition after 3 years in the garden.
Its low maintenance requirements make it easy to keep looking good over time without much upkeep. With proper care and protection, plywood can last long outdoors while maintaining its original shape and structure.
I hope this article has given you some inspiration for using plywood in your next project and answered your question of ‘what is plywood used for?’. Let me if you’ve successfully used plywood in your own home DIY makeover in the comments below – I’d love to hear your suggestions for ways that plywood can be used in an interior.
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