Bob Vila Radio: Plywood Basics

Plywood is one of the most versatile materials in modern construction, and can be used in everything from flooring to furniture. Make sure you understand its basic characteristics and grading before using it in your next project.

Plywood is a manufactured material used throughout the home in such elements as flooring, walls, and furniture. Veneer-core plywood, the type you’re most likely to find at your local home improvement store, is made up of several glued-together layers—or plies—of wood. The number of plies can range from three up to as many as 11. Typically, each layer sits perpendicular to the one below. This composition adds to plywood’s strength, which is one of its big selling points. Others include its stability and resistance to moisture-related swelling and warping. Plywood is also lighter than solid wood and, depending on quality, can be less expensive.


Listen to BOB VILA ON PLYWOOD BASICS or read the text below:

plywood basics


The impressive range of plywood on the market varies according to factors such as core material, thickness, panel size, number of plies, and the species of wood used for the outermost layers—or faces. Other important variations include plywood grade—the aesthetic quality of the faces—and suitability for exterior use.

In recent years, environmental groups have raised an alarm  about the off-gassing of formaldehyde used in plywood glues. Keep an eye out for products with low formaldehyde-emission, or “E,” ratings.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.