Plywood sheets are commonly used in making furniture and cabinetry, but did you know they come from different wood species with various sizes available in the market? If you’re unfamiliar with this material, chances are you’ll use the wrong type of plywood for your projects.
So, let me give you a quick rundown on standard plywood sizes to keep you on track.
Standard Plywood Sheet Sizes
Plywood sheets are manufactured with layers of wood glued together, so their material sizes vary greatly. However, a standard sheet of plywood is often sold at 4 x 8 feet and 5 x 5 feet.
These sizes also include different thicknesses that range from thin sheets sized ½ inch thick to non-standard thickness standards of ⅛ inch to ¾ inch. Additionally, manufacturing companies offer specialty sizes for this material, which I’ll discuss further below.
Plywood Dimensions: Width and Length
Any type of plywood manufactured and sold in the US is measured using standard English units. In other countries like Europe, Canada, and Japan, you’ll notice that most of their solid wood materials are based on the metric system.
To give you some perspective from my experience, those standard plywood sizes often talked about – the 4 x 8 feet – translate to 1219 mm by 2438 mm in metric. If your next project requires oversized sheets, you can opt for utility-grade plywood as wide as 5 feet and as long as 6 to 10 feet.
Plywood Thickness: Actual vs. Nominal
Something I’ve noticed that often trips up budding woodworkers is the thickness of the plywood. When you’re choosing the right type for your project, you’ll encounter specifications ranging from ⅛ inch to 1 ¼ inch. But this doesn’t reflect the true thickness of the wood.
When you see the term nominal thickness, it excludes the sanding process your material has to go through. You’ll have to remove 1/32 inch from it to get sanded plywood with a smooth surface before you can determine the actual thicknesses of these materials.
The actual size is often processed when the plywood comes out from sanding during manufacturing. Nevertheless, here are the actual thicknesses you’ll encounter when buying pre-cut plywood sheet panels.
Also Read: Will Home Depot Cut the Plywood For You?
Plywood materials are thin wooden sheets with layers glued together and aligned perpendicularly to the wood grain. With this structure, the external layers of these sheets indicate the plywood’s grade and what projects you can use it for.
Sanded plywood is considered top-grade for making cabinets and furniture mainly because its external layer is free of defects, regardless if it’s hardwood or softwood plywood.
Related Topic: Cabinet Plywood Grades
These top-grade materials have size tolerances (specifically for thicknesses) smaller than the ones sold as utility-grade. The size tolerance for utility-grade sheets is 1/32 inch thick, while cabinet plywood comes with 1/64 inch thickness.
Types of Plywood: Hardwood vs. Softwood
Since softwood and hardwood plywood have different components, they’re sold in different sizes and thicknesses. For a hardwood plywood sheet, you can buy the right size by selecting one of its variations; 2 x 2 ft, 2 x 4 ft, and 4 x 4 ft.
As for the softwood variation, you can find a wood sheet available in a common size range of 4 x 8 ft with ¾ inch thickness. It comes from softwood trees like pine, cedar, and many more. Since it’s a sheet with a rough surface, I find that it works well with building a roof, walls, and subfloor.
Core Types of Plywood
Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is a heavy wood type unsuited for home construction. You can encounter this plywood core in crafting projects or speaker cases.
It’s the most common core type with wood-layered veneers glued in a single plane and angle to form a strong structure. Typically, you can buy these materials with 5 to 7 veneers, but you can opt for ones with 13-ply if you’re using them for heavy-duty projects.
Particle Board Core
These are the most affordable core types, but they’re also not water-resistant and prone to damage.
What are Hardwood Plywood Veneers?
Hardwood veneers are often aesthetically pleasing, so it’s not surprising that they’re used for decorative purposes. From my time in woodworking, I can tell you they might not be the best fit for something like roof covering. However, when it comes to furniture and cabinet building, they’re a top-notch choice.
Here are the specific wood species that are highly compatible to use as hardwood veneers:
How to Choose the Right Plywood For Your Project
Ultimately, the plywood sizes you should consider depending on the kind of project you’ll be doing. After all, these wood materials offer different thicknesses and sizes. On top of that, they come from varying wood species with different durability and characteristics.
What are the standard plywood sheet sizes?
Standard plywood sheet sizes are sold in 4×8 and 5×5 ft variations.
Which plywood is ideal for roofing?
External plywood is the ideal option for roofing purposes. It is specifically designed to withstand outdoor conditions and provides better resistance to moisture, weather elements, and UV exposure.
Despite being more affordable, these materials are easier to install and durable enough to withstand harsh weather conditions.
What’s the cheapest plywood type?
The most budget-friendly plywood options are the ones categorized under grade D. These materials are not sanded or repaired, so their defects are noticeable to the naked eye.
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