Which is the Best Plywood for Outdoor Use?

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Are you in search of reliable, weather-proof material for outdoor construction? There are many types of exterior plywood to select from, but be careful as choosing the wrong one may put the integrity of the whole building project in jeopardy. 

Worry not as our pro woodworkers and engineers discuss the best plywood for outdoor use.

Why Use Plywood Outdoors?

Utilizing plywood as the choice for most outdoor projects will provide ample strength to endure different external elements. Unlike interior plywood, outdoor plywood is a sturdier option, with layers bonded with a waterproof adhesive. 

Plywood

Sealing plywood sheets with waterproof glue will make the plywood waterproof, stronger, and resistant to rot even if it is repeatedly drenched in rain. Its combined strength, versatility, and affordability make it the top choice for most outdoor applications. 

Types of Exterior Plywood for Outdoors

There are many types of plywood for construction. Markings are indicated with an ‘X’ to refer to its intended use for an outdoor project whereas the construction grade is indicated in the first two letters. 

Two of the most common are CDX plywood and ACX plywood. We recommend researching the utility grade and the right plywood measurement suitable for your wood project.

CDX

This is one of the most common types of exterior plywood. CDX plywood is one of the affordable options out there that’s also sturdy due to its construction grade.

Marine Grade

Marine plywood is considered one of the highest quality exterior plywood. It is made from premium quality douglas fir. These are knot-free sheets which reduces the risks of water pockets in the wood. 

marine grade plywood

Since there are no visible knots, this makes it more aesthetically appealing. Furthermore, these are best utilized for roof decking and aircraft construction.

Pressure-Treated Plywood

This type of exterior plywood is regular plywood that is infused with chemicals fortifying it against mold and mildew. 

Oriented Strand Board

Oriented Strand Board (OSB) [1] is a good substitute and best suited for areas that are semi-exposed to the elements. OSB is stronger in a vertical orientation as compared to horizontal installations.

T1-11

This type of plywood is most common for siding. It is fairly common and popular due to its natural wood grain overall look. 

What Type of Plywood is Best for Outdoor Use?

A budget-friendly option to opt for is CDX. It is built with layers that can withstand extreme weather conditions and is a popular choice for sub-flooring. 

painting plywood

Meanwhile, ACX is a pricier option than CDX that’s made from veneers instead of trees. It comes highly recommended for a variety of outdoor and renovation projects

The most high-end option that is highly durable and weatherproof is marine-grade plywood. Heavy, strong, and waterproof, marine plywood is commonly derived from Douglas-fir or Western Larch trees.

Which Plywood is Waterproof: Exterior Rated vs. Marine Grade Plywood

Both exterior rated plywood and marine-grade plywood are good for outdoors since they are water-resistant and perform well in dry and wet conditions. Here is a quick overview of both plywood types:

Exterior Rated Plywood

This type of plywood has its veneers glued together with a water-resistant adhesive. 

Marine Grade Plywood

Marine plywood is smoother and easier to work with. Marine-grade plywood can be submerged in water for long periods of time and thus offers the best water-resistant material and waterproofing among other forms of plywood. 

stack of plywood

Plywood Rating Explained

The best plywood for outdoor use can be categorized into four standard utility grades. A is categorized as the highest standard plywood and D as the lowest. 

The plywood with a utility grade of A is smooth and its surface is ready for staining, painting, or finishing plywood edges and surface. Plywood graded with D on the other hand is non-furnished and splintered. 

Composite graded plywood is also possible where different graded plywood is glued together such as AB, CB, CD, etc. The first letter refers to the ‘face’ sheet whereas the second letter signifies the ‘back’ sheet. 

Exterior Grade Plywood vs. Pressure-Treated Plywood

Pressure-treated plywood is made by infusing regular plywood with preservatives to make it less susceptible to rot. 

Meanwhile, exterior grade plywood is glued together for its waterproofing property, but not all are treated chemically. You can also find exterior grade plywood that is also treated with pressure.

pressure treated plywood

How Long Will Exterior Graded Plywood Last?

This kind of plywood can last up to 20 years as long as it has been properly sealed.

Alternatives to Outdoor Plywood

There are several alternatives to outdoor building plywoods. Some alternatives include polyurethane board, medium density fiberboard (MDF), particle board, EKO Ply, high-density fiberboard (HDF), and solid wood.  

Conclusion

Exterior and interior plywood are not at the same level of design to resist the outdoor weather and elements. Our woodworkers suggest researching further and consulting with professionals for the best material for your outdoor construction project. Also take into consideration your budget for the project.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson

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