Category Archives: Plywood

Plywood vs Natural wood – A comparison

Plywood vs natural wood – Which one you prefer. The vast  Engineered wood category includes mass timbercomposite woodman-made wood, or manufactured board, which can be a wood derivative or manufactured by binding or fixing the strands, particles, fibres, or veneers together with adhesives or other fixation methods. The most widely accepted engineered wood available in the market is Natural wood and its alternatives like Plywood, MDF, HDF, etc. But plywood is always considered as the most preferred wood alternative. Why plywood is preferred? This article is about a comparison of properties of Natural wood and plywood.

Also read : Plywood Types – MR resistant, BWR and BWP/Marine ply

Plywood vs Natural wood

Plywood and natural wood are the most commonly used materials for interior works, furniture, kitchen cabinets, decks, facades, ceilings, etc. Both these products possess excellent strength and are flexible, affordable, and workable. Plywood is the most extensively used wood substitute because of its flexibility, strength, and excellent screw holding capacities.

Natural wood

Solid wood is the natural wood and is obtained from trees. The trees are felled and cut in sawmills as per the required size and fabricated as per requirements. Amongst the most popular solid woods are teak wood, oak wood, cherry, maple, mahogany, and Indian rosewood, etc.


Plywood is a manufactured wood panel made from thin natural wood called veneers sliced from hardwood or softwood. These core veneers are glued in layers one on top of the other with adjacent layers having their wood grains rotated up to 90 degrees to one another. The cross layering of adjacent layers imparts structural strength and stability to plywood. These veneers are bonded together with glue and pressed under high pressure and heated to form plywood.

plywood interiors
Plywood interiors

Plywood vs natural wood – Strength

PlywoodNatural wood
Cross veneer layers are responsible
or the strength and stiffness both long and across grains. Plywood bends on loads when placed horizontally.
Solid wood is 20 times stronger along the grains. They are much stiffer than plywood. Wood do not
bend on loads.
Veneer layers are glued together and hence ply layers may debond due to low glue shear strength.Solid wood is a homogeneous and dense material and much stronger than plywood.
The quality depends on the type of wood used and the number of ply layers. Plywood made of gurjan wood is extremely strong.Some solid wood like teak etc posses high density and with proper maintenance can last hundreds of years.

Solid wood is much stronger than any other engineered wood and no alternative can match it.


PlywoodNatural wood
Plywood does not shrink due to the
cross-layered arrangement of veneers.
Timber shrinks across the grains

Appearance and aesthetic looks

PlywoodNatural wood
Plywood is not a decorative
material. For wooden looks, they
have to be faced with decorative veneers.
Designers always prefer
the beauty of wood over any
other material.
The natural grains gives a classy
and elegant look that never can
be matched with any other material.
Plywood finishes are
provided through coatings,
PU paints laminates and veneers.
Wood finishes are through planing
and polishing Some wood varieties
like teak wood got unique grains
and maintain classy looks for years.


PlywoodNatural wood
The plywood grades determine
the durability. MR resistant grade
is good for interior works, BWR
grade is good for external
works,kitchen cabinets,
bathrooms interiors, etc
whereas marine ply is durable
and highly water-resistant.
Natural wood is everlasting if
protected and maintained properly. The durability depends on the type
of wood. Hardwood like teak
wood is extremely strong
and dense and requires minimal maintenance,
whereas softwood like pine needs
frequent maintenance
Plywood can last for years if maintained
properly and protected using laminate
veneers or paints
Plywood cannot match the durability of wood.

Plywood vs Natural wood – Costs

Good quality solid wood is very costly when compared to plywood. The usage of wood is getting restricted due to acts against deforestation and
environmental issues. The scarcity of wood and high costs sidelined natural wood as a non-affordable option. On the other hand, plywood is cheap and got plenty of varieties to manage your budget and requirements and is easily available.

Kitchen cabinet

Sheet material applications

Plywood has an extra hand over wood in the case of sheet material applications like wardrobes, partitions, and cabinets.
The maximum size of wood panels depends on the size of the tree. Wood has to be joined for sheet material applications whereas plywood is available in large sheet sizes and can be easily cut and used. Plywood can reduce the joints and give a seamless look. Wood has to be jointed and tends to crack along the joints.

Flexibility and workability

Ply wood can be bend easily where as it is very difficult to bend solid wood.It is very strong and the thinner cuts are easy to work with.Plywood never splits on edges while nailing and posses good screw holding capacity whereas timber used to split on edges on nailing. Ply wood can be easily cut into any shapes and sizes. Plywood are easy to paint or polish. The plywood surface is smooth and any kind of veneer or laminate can be pasted with the help of adhesives. This flexibility makes plywood one of the most versatile material.

Wood, on the other hand, can be planed whereas plywood cannot be planed The edges of the plywood looks rough and has to be covered or coated to look good. Wood possesses excellent screw holding capacity.

Maximum usage of materials

The plywood manufacturing process achieves complete utilisation of the log than timber which is available in logs and the utilisation is only 50-70%. No sawdust results from either rotary cutting or slicing (the two most popular methods of cutting veneer).

Environmental concerns

Natural wood is obtained by felling trees. This leads to deforestation and degradation of environment.

Uses of Natural wood and plywood

Solid wood is commonly used to make the wooden framed structures as well as in flooring. It is also used in the manufacturing of highly durable furniture items for indoor and outdoor use. In the homes and buildings, it is also used for the doors, and window frames. It is also used in ships, aircraft, millwork, ladders, boxes, crates and much more.


Wood is the best material in terms of strength and durability. But high costs, less design options, high labour charges etc is the main disadvantage. Plywood is readily available,can match any customer requirement, cheap and affordable. Plywood is better in terms of flexibility, workability and costs.

Plywood Types – MR resistant, BWR and BWP/Marine ply

Plywood types : Plywood is one of the most versatile, cheap, and commonly used wood alternative for interior works, furniture, kitchen cabinets, shuttering works, etc. Earlier plywood manufactures are limited. They manufacture excellent quality plywood that is durable and long-lasting. Nowadays hundreds of companies have started manufacturing plywood. The densities, qualities, sizes, and standards are compromised and the customers are duped most of the time.

How to select a plywood? Which one is the best?

Also read : WPC boards – Advantages, Disadvantages and uses

Plywood types – What is plywood?

Plywood manufacturing
Plywood manufacturing

Plywood is a manufactured wood panel/ engineered wood made from thin sliced natural wood called veneers in the core as well as the face. These core veneers are glued in layers one on top of the other with adjacent layers having their wood grains rotated up to 90 degrees to one another. The cross layering of adjacent layers imparts structural strength and stability to plywood. These veneers are bonded together with glue and pressed under high pressure and heated to form plywood. Plywood is a versatile, flexible, and highly workable building material widely used in manufacturing furniture, cabinets, shelves, and wardrobes, etc. They are also used for woodwork for ships and boats and for shuttering works in the construction sector. These are the commonly used categories of plywood based on application sectors.

  • Softwood plywood
  • Hardwood plywood
  • Tropical plywood
  • Aircraft plywood
  • Decorative plywood
  • Flexible plywood
  • Marine plywood

Properties and dimensions of plywood.

Usually, hardwood and softwood are used for making plywood. The core will be of an inexpensive wood veneer based on geographical availability whereas the face will be of a quality wood veneer. Plywood is resistant to cracking, splitting, shrinkage, twisting, etc, and got excellent strength and durability. Plywood’s are available in a size of 2449 x 1219 mm (8’x4’) and the thickness ranges between 3 mm to 25 mm based on the manufacturer. The cost and strength of plywood depend on the thickness, grade, type, and the number of veneer layers.

Plywood types, layers & strength

The strength and cost of ply depend on the number of ply layers as they influence production costs and plywood quality. If the number of plies/layers is more, the plywood will be stronger but the production costs will be higher. For example, 18mm plywood of 15 plies is stronger than 18mm plywood of 13 plies. The minimum number of plies in plywood is 3 plies. An odd number of plies in plywood can reduce warping and deformation. Usually plywood of more plies are of premium quality .

Plywood types and grades

Plywood is classified into three types based on the area of applications and water resistant properties.

  • MR (Moisture resistant )grade or Commercial ply (IS 303 )
  • BWR (Boiling water resistant ply – (IS 303 )
  • BWP (Boiling water proof or Marine ply – ( IS 710 )

Moisture resistant (MR grade ) or Commercial ply- IS 303

MR resistance OR Moisture resistance plywood is known as Commercial ply. Moisture resistant or MR resistant ply is an interior grade ply that can withstand some amount of moisture, humidity, and dampness, etc. Commercial ply is not waterproof and is not preferred for areas exposed to direct water contacts. Commercial ply is manufactured using wood veneers from locally available tree species. This change in tree species will not affect the basic properties which will be as per IS 303.

Plywood interior

The adhesive used for joining the veneers is Urea-formaldehyde. MR grade plywood is an interior grade of plywood and is suitable for indoor use, not for the exterior and areas in direct contact with water. Moisture resistant grade of plywood has the highest internal density among all the available grades of plywood. MR grade ply is used for almost all interior works like furniture, cabinets, office interiors, partitions, ceiling works, etc.

BWR (Boiling water resistant ply) -IS 303

BWR grade plywood is Boiling Water Resistant Plywood confirming to IS 303. Boiling water resistant plywood is an exterior grade of plywood that can resist water better than MR grade commercial ply but is not 100% waterproof. The veneers are glued by Phenol formaldehyde which is a synthetic plastic resin whereas MR resistant ply uses urea-formaldehyde. These synthetic resins impart water-resisting qualities in BWR grade plywood. Moreover, the core layer is treated with various toxicant chemicals that make BWR termite-proof and borer proof.
Boiling water-resistant plywood is the exterior grade plywood and is used for furniture that likely to get wet, kitchen cabinet, lawn chairs, garden tables, etc. BWR plywood is warp free and has excellent bonding, and with zero core gaps.

External Furniture
External Furniture

BWP (Boiling water proof or marine ply)

BWP plywood means Boiling Water Proof Plywood and is popularly known as Marine Grade Plywood. Marine plywood is manufactured out of single species tropical hardwood and jointed using waterproof glue. No voids are left in the core, hence making it a very dense and water-resistant material. Each layer of wood is laid with the grain running at right angles to the next layer and bonded with boiling waterproof synthetic undiluted phenol-formaldehyde adhesive. Marine plywood is also treated with preservatives and a protective finish for external applications. It is a superior grade of plywood which is higher in quality and strength as compared to both MR and BWR plywood. They can be bent and curved without compromising the strength. BWP is the best ply, with the highest resistance to boiling water, and termites, and moisture. But the cost of BWP is also much above the other variants.

Marine plywood is extremely durable and preferred for applications where the plywood has prolonged exposure to water. It is the best choice for marine applications such as woodwork for building ships and boat ad also for manufacturing external garden furniture, kitchen, and bathroom cabinets, etc

Marine ply can be a preferred choice for your kitchen and bathrooms which are more exposed to water and moisture even though they can also be managed by MR or BWR if protected properly.


While selecting a ply wood please be sure about the variety and standard of ply you are going to use.

MR resistant ply is a strong and durable and interior grade ply that can be used for almost every internal application. Avoids using MR resistant ply in areas vulnerable to water and moisture.

BWR ply is boiling water-resistant and exterior grade ply which got very good water-resistant qualities, termite resistant and borer resistant qualities than MR resistant ply. They are preferred for and can be used for external applications, kitchen cabinets, etc with requisite surface finishes.

BWP is the best grade of ply and is a marine grade ply. They are a hundred percent boiling waterproof ply is extensively used for marine applications and kitchen and bathroom cabinets. The cost is comparatively high with respect to MR resistance and BWR ply due to their superior qualities.

Commercial plywood is re-coloured and sold as marine plywood in the local market. Always purchase from a very good brand and obtain Manufacture test certificate.