difference between hard plywood and soft plywood

Difference between softwood plywood and hardwood plywood

A material known as plywood is created by adhering thin “plies” or layers of wood veneer together while rotating the wood grain of the neighboring layers by up to 90 degrees. It belongs to the family of produced boards, which also includes particle board, oriented strand board, and medium-density fiberboard (MDF) (chipboard). The two common types of plywood are softwood plywood and hardwood plywood.

Wooden decorative and furniture materials include plywood. It is composed of wood sheets that are either uniformly thick or vary in thickness, joined with glues of varied strengths. There are two types of plywood: hard and soft plywood. The hardness or softness of plywood depends on the quality of the wood. Hard plywood is utilized in applications where it must withstand extreme pressure, while soft plywood is suitable for the majority of other industrial and construction uses.

difference between hard plywood and soft plywood

Well, in this article, I will be discussing the difference between softwood plywood and hardwood plywood. The following questions will be discussed:

  • What is softwood plywood?
  • What are the applications of softwood plywood?
  • What is hardwood plywood?
  • What are the applications of hardwood plywood?
  • What is the difference between hardwood plywood and hardwood plywood?

Let’s dive in!

Read more: Understanding plywood


What is softwood plywood?

Softwood Because it is made of spruce, pine, and fir, plywood is sometimes known as spruce-pine-fir or SPF. Although cedar (Cedrus sp.) and douglas fir can both be used to make it (Pseudotsugan menziesii). When constructed from spruce (Picea sp. ), the noticeable grains are covered by a technique to make the plywood more effective and as hard as concrete when used for building and shuttering strands.

The most typical size is 1.2 by 2.4 meters (3 ft 11 in 7 ft 10 in), or the marginally larger imperial size of 4 ft 8 ft. The thickness of plies ranges from 1.4 mm to 4.3 mm. The thickness and grade of the sheet determine the plies, which are always odd. The thinner 16-millimeter (5/8 -inch-thick) plywood can be used for roofing. Depending on the separation between the floor joists, subfloors must be at least 19 millimeters (3/4 in) thick.

Tongue and groove (T&G) plywood is frequently used in flooring applications. When the joints do not lie across joists, this prevents one board from moving up or down about its neighbor, creating a solid-feeling floor. T&G plywood is typically found in thicknesses between 13 and 25 millimeters (1/2 and 1 in).

What are the applications of softwood plywood?

Many uses for high-quality, high-strength sheet material call for the usage of plywood. In this sense, quality refers to resistance to warping, twisting, shrinkage, cracking, and breaking. Exterior bonded plywood is appropriate for use outside, however since moisture affects wood’s strength, performance is best when the moisture level is kept in a relatively low range. The dimensions and strength characteristics of plywood are unaffected by sub-zero temperatures, allowing for certain unique applications.

Read more: Understanding woodworking

Well, the followings are the applications of softwood plywood:

  1. For the ventilation panel.
  2. For flooring, wall, and roofs for building construction.
  3. For machinery, vehicle parts making.
  4. For construction work.
  5. In industries.
  6. For packaging.
  7. For making a fence around an area.

What is hardwood plywood?

Hardwood Angiosperms are used to make plywood. This kind of plywood can be recognized by its hardness, surface hardness, inflexibility, and resistant qualities. Heavy weight can be supported using this. Softwood plywood is typically used for building and industrial purposes and is typically made of cedar, Douglas fir, spruce, pine, and fir (together known as spruce-pine-fir or SPF).

For demanding end usage, hardwood plywood manufactured from wood from dicot trees (oak, beech, and mahogany) is utilized. Excellent strength, stiffness, durability, and creep resistance are the hallmarks of hardwood plywood. It excels at heavy-duty floor and wall structures thanks to its strong planar shear strength and impact resistance. Construction made of oriented plywood provides a large wheel carrying capacity. Excellent surface hardness, wear- and damage resistance can be found in hardwood plywood.

What are the applications of hardwood plywood?

Common applications of hardwood plywood include:

  • Panels in concrete formwork systems
  • Floors, walls, and roofs in transport vehicles
  • Container floors
  • Floors subjected to heavy wear in various buildings and factories
  • Scaffolding materials
  • Birch plywood is employed as a structural component in unique applications, such as Windmill blades and insulation boxes for Liquefied natural gas (LNG) carrier

Read more: Types of wood and their uses

The followings are other applications of birch plywood: 
  • High-end loudspeakers
  • Die-cutting boards
  • Supporting structure for parquet
  • Playground equipment
  • Furniture
  • Signs and fences for demanding outdoor advertising
  • Musical instruments
  • Sports equipment

What is the difference between hardwood plywood and hardwood plywood?

We’ll look at the difference between hardwood plywood and softwood plywood in the following aspect:

  • Differences in wood
  • The difference in physical attributes
  • Difference in usage
  • Difference in limitations


Differences in wood

The type of wood used to create plywood is the main difference between hard and soft plywood. Spruce, Douglas fir, and maple are the ideal trees for soft plywood because of their flexibility and malleability. Birch or tropical trees like red maple and mahogany, which are renowned for their strength, stress resistance, and stiffness, are the best choices for hard plywood.

The difference in physical attributes

Three, five, and seven plies of soft plywood are available. The ply refers to the number of sheets that are adhered together to form a single board. Each ply can be anywhere between 0.1 and 0.6 inches thick, depending on the finished panel’s needed thickness. There are also three, five, and seven-ply options for hard plywood. It is more resistant to chipping, bending, and decay, since it has additional sealants, applied to it.

Read more: Properties of wood

Difference in usage

In areas with low wear and tear and exposure to the climate, soft plywood is employed. It is utilized in DIY projects because of its flexibility, particularly when the plywood may be switched out on a regular basis. It is frequently utilized in flooring, countertops, fences around properties, light- to medium-weight material containers, and the outside of cabinets.

Hard plywood is more expensive and is offered at a premium because of its durability and longer life. This kind of plywood is used for tasks that call for expert assistance and in environments where the wood is subject to deterioration. Hard plywood is typically used for things like the floors of containers that transport heavy loads, particularly over long distances, scaffolding, and other construction materials heavily trafficked floors in places like factories and offices, turbine blades, insulation boxes for fuel carriers, different playground equipment, and some types of furniture.

Difference in limitations

Because it is readily available and flexible, DIY enthusiasts like soft plywood. However, because of the softwood basis, it is prone to surface cracks, bends quickly, and is not especially moisture-resistant. The surface can become dull and damaged if it is subjected to abrasive cleaning products, necessitating repeated replacements. But because there are so many options for the wood used to create plywood, customers can choose the one that best suits their requirements.

Soft plywood has difficulties, but hard plywood is more durable and less prone to issues. There are, however, fewer options and a higher price. The thin veneers are more likely to crack, increasing maintenance expenses.

Read more: Different types of wood finishes and finishing products


Hard and soft plywood is determined by the material used to make them. They both vary in material and properties. That is all for this post, where the following questions have been answered:

  • What is softwood plywood?
  • What are the applications of softwood plywood?
  • What is hardwood plywood?
  • What are the applications of hardwood plywood?
  • What is the difference between hardwood plywood and hardwood plywood?

I hope you learn a lot from the reading, if so, kindly share with others. Thanks for reading, see you around!