Is plywood hardwood or softwood?


A plywood panel looks similar to natural wood but the fact is it’s a kind of manufactured wood. Depending on the type of wood used, they are available in so many options as engineered wood. Meanwhile, Natural woods are mainly classified into two categories: softwood and hardwoods. Plywood can be made either from using hardwoods or softwoods. Read more: Engineered wood vs plywood.

Read more: Is MDF hardwood or softwood?

Is plywood hardwood or softwood?

Plywood is a type of wood that is made from several sheets of thin wood boards that are bonded together. Most plywoods are made from hardwood, but there are also softwood plywoods. 

The difference between hardwood and softwood plywoods is in the way they are made. 

Hardwood plywoods are made from pieces of solid hardwood that have been cut into narrow strips and then glued together. This process creates very strong and durable plywood. 

Softwood plywoods, on the other hand, are made from pieces of softwood that have been cut into wide strips and then glued together. This process creates less strong but more flexible plywood.

However, plywoods made from softwoods are not necessarily soft to the touch. In the same way, hardwood plywood does not indicate physical hardness. The terms softwoods and hardwoods here indicate which class of wood is used to make plywood. Of course, there is a difference between them. 

Let’s understand some differences between softwood and hardwoods.

Softwoods vs hardwoods

As plywood can be named softwood plywood and hardwood plywood. It becomes crucial to understand the difference between the type of woods. Because the names don’t indicate the physical property such that there is a wood called Balsa, which is one of the weakest wood but still classified as a hardwood species.

So the difference between them is how their seeds grow:

It depends on the seeds the tree produces to classify wood as hard or soft. Hardwoods are classified as such if their seeds have a coating. Coatings can take the form of fruits or shells.

When seeds fall to the ground without any coating and are left to the elements, the wood is classified as softwood. 

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What are the hardwoods used in plywood?

Hardwood plywoods usually are stronger. And stronger hardwood species are used to manufacture plywoods. Hardwoods like balsa are not used because they are weaker.

Plywoods are frequently made from the following hardwoods. 

  • Alder
  • Ash
  • Beech.
  • Birch.
  • Bamboo.
  • Cherry
  • Mahogany
  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Teak
  •  Walnut 

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What are the softwoods used in plywood?

Following are the softwoods used in manufacturing plywood, Cedar, Douglas fir, Pine, Spruce, Redwood, and more. 

Note, Softwood plywood with top grades of veneer on either side is also categorized as hardwood plywoods, It’s when the veneers used are fir, Clear Pine, Cedar, and Knotty Pine.

Hardwood plywood uses

Some hardwood plywood is difficult to work with for DIYers and beginners. 

Hardwood plywood is the perfect material for outdoor applications. Since hardwoods have a higher density and are more water-resistant, they are generally more durable. Additionally, to keep insects off, certain resins are also added to make them termite-proof, as well as improve their water resistance.

With this being said, Hardwood plywoods are often used in architectural, industrial, flooring, and outdoor applications. Moreover, lower grades of hardwood plywood are also used in the manufacture of kitchen cabinets, furniture, and other similar applications as softwood plywoods.

Softwood plywood uses

Plywoods made from softwood can also range in grade from high to low. Consequently, applications vary as well, with higher grades also being used for industrial applications, such as construction. The lower grades are used in making toys, dog houses, and decorative wall paneling. 

However, softwood plywoods made of pinewood, and fir wood, have a lighter density which makes them lightweight and easy to work with. 

Hardwood plywood vs softwood plywood

Plywoods made from softwoods are generally lighter than plywoods made from hardwoods. The density of softwood veneers is lower than that of hardwood veneers. Hardwood plywood, therefore, weighs more. 

Hardwood plywood is made from a harder wood than softwood, which gives it a more pronounced grain. This type of plywood is often used in applications that require a stronger and more durable board, like furniture or cabinets.

Softwood plywood, on the other hand, is made from a softer wood and typically has a smoother finish. It’s commonly used for applications where aesthetics are more important, like window panes for doors.

Given their different purposes, hardwood plywoods are usually slightly more expensive than softwood plywoods. However, they’re also generally stronger and more durable, so they may be worth the investment if you need a quality board that will hold up to heavy use.

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