Plywood Types and Uses: A Comprehensive Guide

Plywood is a highly versatile material. It can be used in a litany of different projects and applications, providing a sturdy yet affordable option for professionals and amateurs alike.

But how do you know which type of plywood to choose from? There are 17 different types of plywood to choose from, each having its own strengths, uses, and (most importantly) cost. The plywood you choose depends on the project as well as how important aesthetics are to the project at hand. The grade also matters as there are some plywood types graded for exterior use while others should be exclusively used indoors.

17 Types of Plywood

There are a lot of things to cover when it comes to the different types of plywood out there. Let’s start with the simplest explanation: the different types. There are 17 types of plywood to focus on, so let’s take a look at each of them individually.

1.) Sundeala Board

Without a doubt, this is one of the more sustainable plywood types you will find. Sundeala plywood boards are entirely comprised of recycled paper, which then receive reinforcement in order to make them a sturdier type of plywood. It is both long-lasting and totally eco-friendly.

For the most part, you will find sundeala board in 4×8 boards, and it can come in a variety of different color variants.

What is it used for? Sundeala board is mostly used for information boards or cork boards, the kind that you would see hanging up in hallways somewhere. You also can find sundeala board in modeling railways as well.

How much does it cost? Because of its durability and sustainability, sundeala board is expensive. An 8×4 board can run anywhere from $150 to $250 depending on the color and the vendor.

2.) Subfloor Plywood

Subfloor plywood
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When you are working on flooring, the subfloor is one of the most important aspects. For some projects, DIYers will work on the top layer, not really concerning themselves with what lay underneath.

But subflooring has to have a durable base. That is where subfloor plywood comes in. It is cheaper compared to concrete subflooring, and it is also easier to replace. There are also two different types of plywood subfloor to choose from in CDX and OSB plywood. Both are sturdier than the regular option but just soft enough that you can nail into it.

What is it used for? As the name implies, it is used for subflooring. Subflooring is the layer of flooring beneath the finished surface.

How much does it cost? A 4×8 panel of subfloor plywood will cost somewhere in the $40 to $50 range or $1.50 per square foot for a 5/8” thick panel.

3.) Exterior Sheathing Plywood

Exterior sheathing plywood
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It can be a little confusing as there are a ton of different exterior sheathing plywood types out there. The most common is OSB (mentioned above) as well as CDX. Basically, this is a type of plywood that has been re-engineered in order to make it stronger compared to standard plywood.

This type of plywood is joined by a waterproof adhesive. Most of the time, this type of plywood will be at least semi-exposed. It’s similar to particle board in that it is comprised of compressed wood flakes.

What is it used for? Exterior sheathing plywood is used for more heavy-duty applications like roofing. It can also be used for roof decking and exterior sheathing.

How much does it cost? A 4×8 board with 7/16” thickness will run around $50 depending on where you buy it.

4.) ApplePly

The thing that distinguishes this plywood from other types of hardwood and softwood plywood is that there are more layers to them. That said, they can still look quite similar to softwood and hardwood plywood in terms of color and grains.

The construction process of ApplePly is unique in that it takes strip of alder and birch wood and then laminates them together. Which ultimately makes it light but sturdy, a favorite for a plethora of different processes.

What is it used for? ApplePly is typically used in making cabinets as well as free furniture. That said, it can be used for some other applications with the right cuts.

How much does it cost? Because of the durability, a 4×8 sheet will cost around $150 for a ½” thickness.

5.) MDF Core

MDF core plywood
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The medium-density fiberboard (MDF) core is often times compared to particleboard. There is one main difference, however, and that is the fact that MDF core is comprised of individual wood fibers.

MDF core is quite neat to work with since there is no sawdust or wood chips used to produce it. It also tends to be flatter and can work well with resin and vinyl coating as well as a variety of paints.

What is it used for? MDF core is typically used in making furniture. It is a solid furniture base, making it the go-to choice for many pre-manufactured furniture types.

How much does it cost? For a 4×8 board that is ¾” thick, you can expect to pay $50 to $60 at major outlets like Lowe’s and Home Depot.

6.) Veneer Core

Veneer core plywood
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What really makes veneer stand out is the odd-numbered veneers that comprise the core. There is a center veneer layer, and the sides are generally made of glued cross-grained veneers.

It is considered to be one of the “all-around” plywood types because it can hold a lot of weight, has the flexibility to be curved, and it is soft enough that it can handle nailing and screwing with no issue.

What is it used for? The great thing about veneer core is that it can be used for any application where the panel edge will be revealed. It is one of the most versatile plywood types out there.

How much does it cost? A 4×8 sheet of veneer core plywood can be had for around $40 at most of the major home improvement stores in your area.

7.) Construction Plywood

Construction plywood
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The term “construction plywood” can be comprised of a number of different plywood types. It can be divided between non-structural and structural panels where MDF core ply, particleboards, and even foam boards can all be included.

The non-structural boards might look soft, but they are built to be incredibly sturdy. After all, these are meant to be used in construction projects, which means that they have to be durable and sturdy.

What is it used for? If you need to work on shipping crates, roof bracing, subflooring, wall bracing, or beams, this is the type of plywood to go with.

How much does it cost? A 2×4 sheet of ¾” construction plywood can be had for between $30 and $40 at major chains like Lowe’s and Home Depot.

8.) Flexible Plywood

Flexible plywood
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The name pretty much gives away what this plywood is all about. This is the kind that can bend and curve with ease, which means that it is used for a variety of things. It has a cross-grained central ply as well as thicker cross-grained ply on either side.

There are some that come with a much shinier finished surface where there are overlaid veneers that have been added to the surface.

What is it used for? Having flexible, curved plywood can be great for not only making furniture, but also in construction frames as well. Any job that has a need for flexibility would be suitable.

How much does it cost? Like the name, flexible plywood can range in price as well. Finding a 4×8 sheet can range anywhere from $25 to $50 depending on where you look.

9.) Tropical Plywood

This is what is known as the Asian counterpart to softwood plywood. The reason being is that they both look quite similar to one another. Tropical plywood gets its name due to being constructed of tropical timbers from Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

For the most part, it is exported to the US and the UK because it has A-grade density, superior strength, and a certain evenness of the layers. It is one of the more popular plywood types out there.

What is it used for? Because of its strength and aesthetic quality, it is used for accent walls, flooring, and even for sophisticated trim work.

How much does it cost? Depending on the type of tropical plywood you choose, a 4×8 sheet can cost around $30 to $35 through major chains like Lowes and Home Depot.

10.) Structural Plywood

Structural plywood
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You may also hear this type of plywood referred to as sheathing plywood because it is known for being extremely durable for both building and framing purposes. It also uses some of the strongest and most waterproof glues during the manufacturing process.

Structural plywood can also be graded as either a C or D and, though it’s quite durable, it can’t be graded higher because then they will cross into construction plywood territory. It isn’t very flexible, however.

What is it used for? Structural plywood will typically be used for wall sheathing, roof sheathing, and flooring purposes. They are generally used for bracing flooring and roofs as well.

How much does it cost? A 4×8 sheet of structural plywood will run in the neighborhood of $45 to $55 at most of the major home improvement stores out there.

11.) Overlaid Plywood

The reason that this plywood is named this way is due to the overlaid surface that gives the appearance of finished wood. It uses the regular process of making plywood, meaning veneer layers are glued together using waterproof adhesives.

Where the difference comes is that either a medium- or heavy-density wood veneer is bonded using high pressure and heat processes for a greater, more secure construction.

What is it used for? Overlaid panels are generally used for a few different things. They can be used for things like industrial containers and exterior siding, but it can be used from anything that also has a more finished surface.

How much does it cost? Overlaid plywood is more expensive than most other types, running around $85 to $90 at major stores like Lowes and Home Depot.

12.) Marine Plywood

A stack of plywood beside a ruler with a built-in level.
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Despite the “marine” name, this type of plywood is not water-resistant. It is one of the most common types of plywood out there, but it is also one of the most highly graded of plywood types as well.

It uses marine-grade waterproof adhesives and what really makes it distinguishable is the presence of all the knot holes. Often times, it is made of larch or firwood, which makes it quite sturdy and durable.

What is it used for? Because of the aesthetic quality, it is used for exterior structures like benches, decks, plant boxes, and gazebos. With that said, it is not resistant to mold, mildew, and rot.

How much does it cost? Marine-grade plywood can vary depending on the dimensions and number of plys involved, a sheet can run anywhere from $45 to $200 or more.

13.) Lumber Core Plywood

The triple-ply design of lumber core plywood is made by laying down the thick wood core and then gluing the two thinner wood veneers on either side of the core. The outer surface is generally made of some sort of hardwood, such as maple, oak, or birch.

The softer interior of this type of plywood can be valuable for any project where screwing and nailing are required as they easily attach to the core’s softer interior. But if you choose the wrong nails or screws, they might not adhere so well. Still, lumber core plywood is more than versatile enough for meeting the needs of any project that requires screwing or nailing.

What is it used for? Because of its ability to hold screws and to bend without compromising, lumber core plywood is a great option for closet doors or cabinets, particularly longer or wider shelving.

How much does it cost? A 4×8 sheet of lumber core plywood will run about $50 at most major outlets as well as some properly stocked local hardware stores.

14.) Exterior Plywood

Exterior plywood
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The name makes it pretty clear what this type of plywood is and where you might want to use it. Because it is meant to be exposed to exterior elements regularly, it uses both waterproof and weather-resistant adhesive for the core. A good quality exterior plywood can provide a strong frame that should last decades.

There are also multiple layers involved in the construction of this type of plywood, making it a fantastic choice for exterior use in various locations. For those looking to install exterior plywood under construction or renovations, you might want to consider plywood with an oak or similar finish since it’s mildew- and mold-resistant in most conditions.

What is it used for? Any outdoor project. Planters, sheds, outdoors shelving, benches, gazebos, and more can all be constructed using exterior plywood.

How much does it cost? Exterior plywood ranges from $50 to $60 for a 4×8 sheet in ¾” thickness at Home Depot and Lowes.

15.) Aircraft Plywood

Without a doubt one of the most durable forms of plywood out there is aircraft plywood. It is also one of the highest-graded plywood types since it is made from hardwoods that aren’t vulnerable to heat or moisture, like mahogany and birch.

The construction is of a thinner veneer that keeps it workable and lighter in weight. That durability and stability, combined with the light weight, makes it a versatile type of plywood.

What is it used for? As the name suggests, it is prominent in aircraft building. That said, it can also be used to make boats and rafts, buildings that require plywood of an industrial-strength, and furniture that is meant to hold heavier loads.

How much does it cost? A sheet of 4×8 aircraft plywood can vary in cost quite a bit, depending on the thickness. A 1/16” thick sheet can run around $150 to $160, for instance. The greater the thickness, the more expensive it is going to be.

16.) Hardwood Plywood

Hardwood plywood
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A hardwood plywood would be made up of potentially different wood veneers like oak, walnut, maple, and birch. Most hardwood plywood is made up of as many seen layers if not more, which is what makes them so sturdy in the first place.

The veneers have to be glued at the right angle and depth in order to support the more heavy-duty projects out there. Still, a hardwood plywood can be a versatile choice as it delivers outstanding durability while also having many different attractive finishes to suit a wide suit of styling and designing preferences.

What is it used for? Hardwood plywood is generally used for products that have a need for a more durable frame. That includes wood casings, furniture, sports equipment, and even musical instruments.

How much does it cost? You can safely expect to pay anywhere from $80 to $100 for a 4×8 sheet of hardwood plywood depending on which store and thickness.

17.) Softwood Plywood

These plywood types are often times made out of things like pinewood, cedar, or redwood. With varying grades, thickness, and styles, you can depend on softwood plywood in construction or even creating decorative furniture.  What may be confusing is that softwood plywood can also be used in heavier woodworking projects.

A sheet of softwood plywood has a softwood core faced with a veneer of softwood, giving it its desirable properties that are ideal for structural applications while still retaining an appealing visual appearance.

What is it used for? It is common to see softwood plywood used for laying down subflooring, frame sheathing for house exteriors, roof sheathing, in the construction of sheds, shelves, and even dog houses.

How much does it cost? Though prices can vary based on thickness, the average sheet of 4×8 plywood will run around $65.

Regardless of what your next project or renovation might be, you will surely have a use for plywood since it’s an effective product that’s usually great at reducing the cost, but make sure to find a suitable type and grade to fit the application. As you would know about how there are the best types of wood for beginners to experiment with, you will find that different plywood types also can vary in how hard they are to use and where they might function best.