solid wood trees

Plywood vs Solid Wood

Plywood has many advantages compared with solid wood. But it also has its setbacks such as formaldehyde emissions, etc.

Plywood is a wood panel made from solid timber veneers. People may wonder, why would we peel the timber into veneer and then glue them together? What are the benefits of plywood? Any disadvantages of plywood compared with solid timber?

This article is going to compare plywood with solid timber in many aspects.

Comparing Solid Timber and Plywood

Plywood Is Dimensionally Stable

Plywood has the ability to stay straight and flat over time. That is called dimension stability. The grains of adjacent veneers in plywood are perpendicular to each other. So the strength of plywood in both directions is very close unlike solid timber.

In solid timber, the strength in the perpendicular direction is much lower than in parallel direction. A solid timber panel is easy to bend or warp over time. Moisture content on the surface and core of timber differ a lot too. This also creates inequality of strength inside and outside.

On the contrast, the plywood has a very uniform moisture content grade throughout. This makes it a great and reliable material.

plywood vs timber
2mm Plywood

When the market needs a 2mm plywood, solid timber won’t be able to meet the demand. Solid timber as thin as 2mm will break easily and won’t last.

Plywood Make Jumbo Sheets

jumbo size plywood
Jumbo Size Plywood

Since plywood is more stable in dimensions, we can make jumbo size plywood as big as 1800*3600mm.

What if you want to make a solid timber 1800*3600mm? Then you will need a huge tree wider than 1800mm and can only make a few sheets of panel out of it. It will be a huge waste. And a tree wider than 1800mm is hard to find right now.

big tree logs
Very Rare Huge Tree

Plywood mills can make 1800*3600mm plywood from a fairly small log. And waste during production is smaller.

Plywood Can Bend

There are techniques that plywood can be flexible and bending. Bendy or bent plywood is very useful for being furniture parts, such as a chair back and chair seat.

bent plywood bending
Bent Plywood For Chair

Plywood Can Laminate

A bunch of decorative faces can be laminated on the surface of plywood. A few samples are:

  • Impregnated Paper
  • Phenolic Coated Film
  • Aluminum
  • High Pressure Laminates (HPL)

Special Treatment on Plywood

Plywood can be termite free, fireproof, mold-free with special chemicals added. This is extremely useful in certain conditions. These specialty plywood are more lasting than solid wood in some climates.

Solid Wood Contains Less Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is one of the main materials for glue used in plywood manufacturing. Even 3-layer plywood has two layers of glue. Let alone the plywood with 13 layers or 15 layers.

In contrast, solid timber only contains a minimum amount of formaldehyde which is natural in the trees.

Solid wood furniture is extremely popular for making indoor furniture because of the small amount of formaldehyde. Even though it is more expensive, solid wood furniture has a huge market.

Solid Wood Are 100% Water Proof

It is naturally waterproof because there is no glue layer or any layer in its structure. The solid wood is solid and won’t ever delaminate like plywood.

Solid Wood Can Be Recycled

solid wood flooring polish
Solid Wood Flooring Polishing

Furniture or flooring made with solid wood can be recycled with polishing and new stain. This rarely happens for plywood because the polishing will damage the surface layer of plywood and kill the balance of sheets.


Which is cheaper, plywood or solid wood?

There are precious wood and cheap wood. Plywood prices usually lie between them. But there is some very expensive plywood made from tropical hardwood veneers. For the same wood species, plywood is more expensive.

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