Plywood has got to be one of the most popular material choices for many projects, including shelves, cabinetry, fixtures, and even furniture.
Its strength-to-weight ratio makes it much stronger than most other woods available today.
Plywood is produced by gluing several layers together in alternating orientations to produce a highly resistant sheet to warping and its components resisting cracking. It is also relatively easy to work with, which makes it highly versatile.
However, if you’d like to try something different for your next project, you’ll be happy to learn there are several high-quality plywood alternatives.
The best alternatives to plywood
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Plywood is used in construction and furniture-making for floors, walls, subfloors, roofs, and packing material or veneer. The wood can be cut into various shapes to make items like boxes or crate pieces.
Plywood has many uses because it’s strong yet lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to work with.
Plywood comes in different thicknesses, which indicate how many layers are sandwiched together: a 12mm sheet will have three layers, while 18mm would be six layers thick.
It’s important to note the different applications each thickness should be used for; thicker plywoods are better suited for flooring, while thinner plywoods are great for box making and other smaller pieces.
Common types of plywood include hardboard, oriented strand board (OSB), particle board, and medium-density fibreboard (MDF).
Each type has its pros and cons but generally speaking. All are very affordable and versatile options to use in construction or manufacturing.
Different finishes can be applied to plywood; a veneer is a popular option as it gives the product an attractive finish at a lower cost than solid wood.
Pre-finished veneers come with a protective layer that covers the surface of the wood, adding durability and resistance to dirt and moisture.
Varnish is another commonly used alternative that is great for sealing the wood and giving it a polished finish.
Whether you’re using plywood in your work or need to buy it for someone else, many options are available to meet your needs.
However, if among those plywood options you don’t find anything that meets your requirements, here are some of the best alternatives to plywood you can use in your building or renovation projects.
1. Polyurethane board
Polyurethane board is a versatile and affordable alternative to plywood. It has similar benefits as plywood while being more lightweight and flexible.
The most apparent advantage of polyurethane board over plywood is that it is much lighter. This makes it ideal for use in applications where weight is an issue, such as when you want to create a mobile structure like furniture or shelving.
Polyurethane boards are also more flexible than wood, which means they can be used in more creative ways than the standard rectangular shape of plywood panels.
Polyurethane boards have other advantages besides their light weight and flexibility. Because they are made from synthetic materials rather than natural ones, they don’t suffer from the cracking and warping that wood can.
They are also resistant to water damage, which makes them an excellent material for any project that is likely to get wet.
Overall, polyurethane boards offer a versatile and affordable alternative to plywood for many projects.
Whether you are building furniture or shelving, creating decorative structures like frames or signs, or making improvements around your home or garden, they can be an excellent choice.
2. Medium-density fiberboard (MDF)
Medium-density fiberboard, also called MDF board, is a type of composite board made from particulate material.
It is primarily composed of wood fibers that are compressed and bonded with adhesive resin to form a flat panel that can be used as structural support for different applications.
MDF boards are commonly used in furniture construction for their strength and resistance against wear, moisture damage, and decay.
They are also often favored over plywood because they do not contain the same potential defects such as voids or knots found in natural wood products.
Additionally, MDF is generally easier to cut than plywood, making it more useful for amateur and professional woodworkers when building simple projects.
While very durable and versatile, there are some downsides to using MDF. Because it is a manufactured product, MDF has minimal waste and can be cut into more uniform shapes than natural wood boards.
However, because of how the board is constructed, MDF may contain formaldehyde, which can irritate certain people’s respiratory systems and cause adverse health effects if exposed to large amounts over long periods.
As such, it is essential always to use proper dust masks when cutting this material or working with any sawdust from its use in your project.
Medium-density fiberboard is a great alternative to plywood for various projects due to its many benefits, including strength and resistance to wear.
MDF may be the perfect choice if you are looking for an easy-to-work-with material for your next construction or home improvement project.
Particle board is a composite building material consisting of wood particles mixed with resins to produce a rigid, flat sheet. It was invented in the 1930s and was first used for home construction in the 1950s.
Particle board is now commonly used as an alternative to plywood in many building projects because it is cheaper and easier to work with than plywood. Still, particle board does not last as long or hold up to moisture as plywood does.
Several different processes can create particle boards. The most common method involves taking sawdust, wood chips or flakes, wheat husks, or other small pieces of wood and combining them with resin and heat until they form one solid piece.
Other processes involve taking wood chips, spraying them with resin, and then placing the mixture into a mold to form a panel.
The particle board can then be cut to size and glued together to create numerous building materials, including countertops, cabinets, shelving units, and furniture.
Particle board is generally cheaper than plywood because it is made from inexpensive waste products that would otherwise be discarded.
As a result, particle board has become an increasingly popular material in construction projects over the last several decades.
However, particle board does not hold up as well over time or against moisture as plywood; therefore, many people remodel their homes and opt for plywood instead of particle board whenever possible.
Additionally, while it is not impossible to find particle board furniture, it is not as common in retail stores as plywood furniture.
Overall, while particle board has many essential benefits for builders and consumers, it does have certain drawbacks that must be considered before deciding to use it for a construction project.
Therefore, when choosing between particle board and plywood for a home or office building project, one should carefully consider both the pros and cons of each material to ensure they select the best option for their needs.
4. Oriented strand board (OSB)
Oriented strand board is an artificial product made of strands of wood that are oriented in parallel to each other and then glued together under heat and pressure.
It is an environmentally friendly alternative to plywood because it is pressed using fewer natural resources than plywood. It can also be cut down efficiently on computer-controlled saws without needing hand sanding or trimming after cutting.
This makes oriented strand board more affordable than plywood while providing comparable strength for home improvement, building construction, and commercial applications.
Potential drawbacks of oriented strand board include its susceptibility to water damage, warping, and splintering when exposed to moisture over time.
But these issues can be avoided by sealing the edges with waterproof sealants and using treated wood strips behind the boards.
Oriented strand board is a versatile product used in many home improvement applications, including furniture making, building construction, and even land-based transportation projects.
It offers incredible strength without sacrificing consumers’ or manufacturers’ need for affordability and efficiency.
5. High-density fiberboard (HDF)
High-density fiberboard, or HDF for short, is an engineered wood product made from wood fibers pressed together.
Compared to traditional plywood, HDF has many advantages as a building material. For example, it is resistant to moisture and termites, making it ideal for humid climates.
Additionally, HDF can be cut into thin sheets without losing structural integrity, making it easier to work with than plywood.
Overall, while not as strong as plywood when used structurally, HDF offers many other advantages that make it a good choice for specific applications.
6. Solid wood
Solid wood is a type of construction material that consists of large pieces of wood that are joined together. It can be used in various ways, including for furniture, flooring, and building materials.
Compared to other materials, such as plywood or particle board, solid wood is typically more expensive and has some limitations regarding its use. However, it also has many benefits compared to these other materials.
One advantage of using solid wood is its durability. Unlike other types of construction materials like particle board or plywood, solid wood is resistant to water damage and insect infestation.
It can last much longer than other materials, making it a good choice if you want your furniture or flooring to last for many years.
Another advantage of solid wood is its aesthetic appeal. Because it comes in various natural colors, grains, and textures, solid wood can create a warm and inviting look in your home that you won’t find with other construction materials.
Additionally, since it has natural imperfections like small knots or cracks, solid wood can bring a sense of character to a room that you may not achieve with other materials.
However, there are also some disadvantages to using solid wood as well. For example, solid wood may be out of reach for those on a budget because it is usually more expensive than other materials like plywood or particle board.
In addition, while it’s durable and strong, solid wood can be prone to warping or shrinking when exposed to water or high temperatures.
7. Eko plyboard
Eko ply or Eko plyboard is a type of alternative to traditional plywood. They have similar properties and uses as ordinary plywood, but they offer some impressive advantages over them.
The main benefit of using Eko ply is that it is environmentally friendly because the material used to make them does not depend on trees or forests for its production, which means that cutting down trees to make Eko ply will never be necessary.
Not only this, but these products can be recycled easily, meaning if you use them in your work and no longer need them afterward, you could gather up all of your old Eko plies and put them into recycling bins where they will be broken down again into their original materials and converted back together into equally usable Eko ply products.
Another benefit of using Eko plies is that they can be produced in various colors and textures.
This means that you will have more options when choosing the right material for your work, and it also allows you to express your creativity through these plies if you want to do so.
Finally, another great advantage of using them is that they are far cheaper than traditional plywood, meaning that if you need to use large quantities of this material in your work on a budget, then Eko ply could be a perfect option for you.
Laminate is used in various applications, including construction and industrial settings. Laminate has many advantages over plywood, making it the preferred material for building projects.
Laminate is made by bonding several layers of different materials to form one cohesive material. The top layer is usually decorative, while the middle layers are made from a strong, durable material.
The bottom layer is usually more rigid and helps to protect the other materials in the laminate from wear and tear.
One of the key advantages of laminate over plywood is that it resists moisture better than plywood does.
This means it can withstand spills and other types of wetness without damage. It also makes it ideal for use in kitchens, where spills are common.
However, if you need to stain or paint laminate for aesthetic reasons, you must be careful not to damage your work surface.
How to choose a plywood alternative
Polyurethane board is undoubtedly the safest choice when replacing plywood in your projects, but medium-density and high-density fiberboards don’t fall too far behind.
Particle board is exceptionally versatile and cheap, which can also be said for oriented strand board, which also has the advantage of being eco-friendly.
While solid wood is the most aesthetically pleasing alternative, it can often be quite expensive. Eko ply, on the other hand, is quite affordable and comes in various designs.
Finally, laminate is one of the best flooring options if you’re looking for something affordable, easy to maintain, and beginner-friendly when it comes to installation.