Common Applications for Basic Types of Plywood

Plywood is a more durable and economical alternative to solid wood and comes in a variety types and forms, each used for different applications, depending on the plywood grade. The following is a guide on the different types of plywood, including exterior plywood, hardboard, and particleboard, and the jobs they are most suited for.

Interior Plywood

• A laminate made from thin sheets of wood called veneers.
• Layers are glued perpendicular to the next, creating a strong, stiff panel.
• Varying thicknesses are available. The most common are 1/4” and 3/4”.
• Sheets usually measure 4’x 8’. Other sizes may be available.
• Most common wood type is Douglas fir and Southern pine.
• Available in a wide range of grades, with the most common being C-D, Exposure 1 (usually called CDX or sheathing).
• Another popular grade is A-D Exposure 1, which is suitable when only one paintable side is needed.

Exterior Plywood

• Plywood construction acceptable for outdoor use.
• A popular grade is A-C EXT, which has one paintable surface and can be used outside.
• Type A-A EXT is also available if both sides will be exposed.
• Plywood siding is also available, and comes in standard patterns such as texture 1-11, reverse board and batten and others.
• A “shop-grade” panel is one that, after its manufacturing process, failed to meet the specifications of a specific grade. The piece can still be used for some applications, but should not be recommended for structural applications.
• A “mill certified” panel does not carry the approval of a quality control agency, but may be used for non-regulated projects such as storage sheds or shelves.

Oriented Strand Board

• Known as OSB.
• A structural panel used for roof sheathing, subfloors, underlayment, single-layer floors, exterior siding and wall sheathing.
• Composed of elongated, thin strands of wood that are bonded with resin under intense heat and pressure.
• A uniform panel free of knotholes that holds nails and screws securely.
• Available in 4’ x 8’ panels in thicknesses of 3/8”, 7/16”, 15/32”, 19/32” and 23/32”.
• Three grades are available: sheathing, single floor and siding.


• Also known as wood fiber substrate.
• Made from wood chips that are mechanically reduced to wood fibers and then bonded together into panels through heat and pressure.
• Panels are thin, grainless, dense, uniformly textured, strong and bone-dry.
• Used as an exterior siding, interior paneling, as a garage door panel, perforated boards, for furniture, toys, cabinets, floor underlayment and many other items.
• Can be sawed, shaped, routed and drilled and will accept paint and varnish.
• Not recommended for use in areas with high temperature or humidity because warping can occur.


• A hard, dense composition board made of very small particles of wood bonded together with resin under intense heat and pressure.
• Comes in various thicknesses from 3/8” to 3/4” and in panels 4’ x 8’; 10’ and 12’lengths are also available.
• Often used in non-structural applications such as interior construction in closets and as an underlayment because it does not warp.
• Should be cut with a carbide blade.
• May swell if it gets wet.