Plywood greatly varies in both quality and cost — and the two usually go together. Here at J. Gibson McIlvain, we carry certain types of plywood to meet the needs of our customers. We also aim to help demystify the whole plywood-pricing scenario. In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we looked primarily at hardwood plywood with cores made from MDF and Particle Board as well as Lumber. In Part 2, we also started to discuss Veneer Core plywood. In today’s post, we’ll continue to unpack the pros and cons as well as differentiate between veneer species.
Hardwood Plywood Core Types: VENEER CORE (Continued)
Veneer core plywood is made from thin veneers, which can range from 2 to 6 1/2 millimeters thick. Those veneers are layered with grain running in alternate directions in order to create a substrate that’s stable. The more layers and the thinner they are, the more stable the product will be. Even though gaps between layers are virtually impossible to eliminate, the number and sizes of the gaps will determine the grade.
Another aspect of this plywood type that impacts grade is the species used; the species is at least partly determined by the location of the mill that manufactures the plywood. When it comes to screw-holding capacity, veneer core plywood is second to none; since veneer species are readily available, this option is quite popular. Some of the most common species used for veneer core plywood are Aspen, Birch, Fir, Maple, and Poplar.
Hardwood Plywood Core Types: VENEER CORE (Specific Species)
Veneer Core Plywood using Douglas Fir is extremely popular along the U.S. West coast. Stable as well as weather-resistant, Fir Core plywood has exceptional screw-holding ability. The relatively soft layers allow for inconsistencies to be evened out when compressed during the manufacturing process.
Also found in the West, Aspen Core Plywood is similar to Fir but not as dense; the result is a lighter sheet. Because the softness allows for compression, an Aspen Core usually allows for plywood with a consistent face. Poplar Core Plywood is common along the Eastern side of the country. Both harder and heavier than Fir, plywood with a Poplar core boasts great stability but lacks weather resistance. Since Poplar resists compression, voids and knots that are part of plys will be apparent on the surface veneer.
Hardwood Plywood with Birch or Maple Cores are high-end, specialty products with a higher number of very thin plys, compared to plywood with Fir or Poplar Cores. The thinner, harder, more abundant layers help create an extremely stable product without any voids. The edge strength is high, with little risk of splintering, making this option perfect for when edges will be exposed or even decorative. Also known as Apple Ply, Maple Ply is seen as the best (and most costly) of the core veneer family.
If you’re thinking that there’s a lot to consider when it comes to choosing the right plywood for the job, you’re right. And a lot will depend on your priorities and the details of your project. Sometimes stability is top priority, while other times, face veneer is more significant. The top tip we have is to form a relationship with a well-educated, experienced lumber supplier and have open-ended conversations when you’re looking to source plywood for a project. This will allow you to leverage their expertise so you know what to look for in order to meet your specific needs.