All About the Different Types of Plywood

Learn how to choose the right type of plywood or other wood-based board for your home improvement project.
Cutting Plywood Panels For DIY Doghouse

Cutting Plywood Panels For DIY Doghouse

A circular saw is used to cut panels for a DIY doghouse.

Related To:

Wood-Based Sheets

Wood is the main constituent of many sheet goods. Some of these may be used in the main structural components of a house; others for decorative finishings.

Plywood

Thin layers of wood, with the grain of each layer at a right angle to that of the previous layer, form plywood. Each layer is bonded tightly to the next, creating a very strong structure, and thickness adds further strength. Some plywoods are available as marine plies, which are impregnated with water-repelling chemicals.

Other boards

Sheet materials such as MDF and particleboard are made from pieces of wood compressed together at high pressure. Water-resistant versions of these sheets are also available for use in areas where humidity may be high.

Cutting a Sheet

Using a handsaw

If the sheet is coated (with melamine, for example), mark the guide line on the side that will be visible and cut with this side facing upward. This is because the edge of the coating on the lower face will chip during cutting; this way, the chipped edges will be invisible. Score along the guide line on all sides of the sheet with a utility knife, and use a fine-toothed panel saw to reduce the chances of chipped edges.

Using a power saw

The blade cuts as it rises, so to avoid chipped edges on the visible side of a coated sheet, mark the guide line on the rear of the sheet and cut with the rear side facing upward.

Cutting drywall

To cut a straight line in a sheet of drywall, place a straight edge along the guide line, and score along it with a utility knife. Fold the sheet to snap it along the line, and cut through the paper backing.

Laying a Plywood Subfloor

See All Photos

Installing Plywood Subfloor: Plan Ahead

Plywood is rated for use, based on whether it’s for interior or exterior applications, and what type of material you plan to use for the finished floor. Available in standard sheets of 4 X 8 ft (1.2 X 2.5 m), your work will be easier if you minimize the number of cuts you need to make to cover the floor. Lay out your floor carefully before you start attaching sheets to the joists. Also, plan the layout so that the cut edges are against the perimeter of the room. Make sure the sheets are spaced evenly and butt each sheet tightly. The first step is to snap a line across the floor joists to mark the position of the first sheet of plywood.

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Installing Plywood Subfloor: Prepare Floor Joists

Apply a consistent bead of construction adhesive on the floor joists.

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Installing Plywood Subfloor: Laying the First Piece

Keeping a space of about 1/8 inches (3 mm) away from the walls to allow the material to expand, lay the first piece of plywood on the chalk line.

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Installing Plywood Subfloor: Attach to Joists

Starting at one end of the floor, drive nails in every 6 inches (150 mm) along the joists. Screws or staples may also be used.

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Installing Plywood Subfloor: Preparing to Cut

To cut plywood to size, use a pair of sawhorses and 2 x 4s to create a stable cutting station.

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Installing Plywood Subfloor: Cutting

Using a circular saw with the depth of the blade at 1/2 in (13 mm) deeper than the plywood sheet, cut the plywood to size.

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Installing Plywood Subfloor: Laying Plywood

Lay additional pieces of plywood, inserting the tongue into the groove joints of each piece of plywood.

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Installing Plywood Subfloor: Fitting

Use a piece of lumber as a smash block to protect the plywood tongue. Smash the additional pieces of plywood in place.

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Installing Plywood Subfloor: Leveling and Finishing

Check the butt joints of each piece of plywood to make sure the floor is level. If a sheet is raised, drive extra staples (or nails) to force the sheet into place. Using a flat trowel, cover all of the seams and fasteners with reinforced flooring patch. Sand the floor smooth with a hand sander.

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Types of Plywood and Other Boards

Plywoods

3-ply and 5-ply: These common types of plywood get their name from their number of layers: e.g, 3-ply has three layers. Uses include: Boxing in or decorative internal uses

Multi-ply: This is composed of many layers. Uses include: Heavyweight construction, e.g., house framing

Other Boards

Blockboard: Not technically a ply, but shares its characteristics. Has two thinner outer layers that enclose thicker, square-cut lengths of wood. It is therefore stiff and durable. May have a decorative veneer or a finish of a lesser grade of wood. Uses include: Ideal for shelves and cabinets, and can be finished with paint

Medium-density fiberboard (MDF): Very versatile. Made up of highly compressed wooden fibers glued together. This method of manufacturing means that cut edges are neater than those on other materials. It can provide a rigid structural component, or can be intricately shaped to form a decorative surface ready for paint. Available in various thicknesses. Main drawback is that it gives off a very fine dust when cut, which must not be inhaled. Wear a mask when MDF is being cut. Uses include: Cabinets, cabinet doors, boxing in, shelving

Moisture-resistant MDF: A version of MDF that can resist moisture attack. It is often green. Uses include: Areas prone to moisture: e.g., kitchen or bathroom

Fiberboard: A lightweight version of MDF. Joints between sheets can be taped, and the boards painted. Uses include: Underlay for flooring, or as an alternative to drywall on a ceiling

Particleboard: Central core is composed of small wooden fibers. Has no decorative quality, so is usually covered. Some sheets fit together using a tongue-and-groove mechanism. Available in various thicknesses. Uses include: Often used as floor sheathing

Moisture-resistant particleboard: More water-resistant than normal particleboard. It is often colored green. Uses include: Flooring

Veneered particleboard: Has a melamine (plastic) or decorative wooden veneer. Uses include: Commonly used for shelves

Hardboard: Thin, compressed fiberboard. Standard hardboard has one smooth side, and one rougher side. Different grades and a variety of finishes are available. Uses include: Often used for parts of kitchen cabinets with a melamine (plastic) surface or veneer

RX-DK-DIY072014_plywood-labeled_s3x4

RX-DK-DIY072014_plywood-labeled_s3x4

Photo by: C1 PRO ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

C1 PRO, 2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Keep Reading

Next Up

Types of Hardwood Flooring

DIY Network experts explain the different types of hardwood flooring.

All About the Types of Paint and Finish

Learn what types of paints and finishes can be used on a variety of different surfaces.

Your Guide to the Different Types of Wood Flooring

The enduring good looks of hardwood flooring come in many types and styles to fit different needs and budgets.

What Type of Flooring Should I Get?

You’ve got choices to make; we’ve got the advice you need.

All About the Different Types of Wood Finishes

Natural wood finishes enhance rather than cover the grain of the wood. Learn more about the different finishes to help you choose the right one for your home.

The Different Types of Stone Flooring

Is nature’s most elegant flooring worth the ongoing maintenance and the price?

All About Concrete, Mortar and Aggregate Material

Learn about the different types of concrete, mortar and aggregates and how to choose the right materials for your project.

What Type of Front Door Material Is Right for Your House?

Wood, fiberglass, steel or solid glass—there are a variety of options to suit your preference, your style and your budget when it comes to choosing an exterior door.

Outdoor Wooden Structures: Materials for Fences and Decks

Learn about the different types of materials that can be used to build a wood fence or deck, plus get tips on basic fence construction.

All About Bricks, Blocks and Wall Ties

Compare the different types of bricks, blocks and natural stone to find the right materials for your next home improvement project.

Get Social With Us

We love to DIY. You love to DIY. Let's get together.

Discover Made + Remade

See the latest DIY projects, catch up on trends and meet more cool people who love to create.

Make It. Fix It. Learn It. Find It.