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Grades of Plywood

plywood grades

Plywood is an engineered wood that is a staple in many home building projects because of its strength and low cost. Understanding the different grades of plywood is critical to choosing the best material for the task.

Grades of Plywood: Softwood

In the case of softwood plywood, each veneer contains two grades, one for the “face” veneer and the other for the “back” veneer. There are four grades of plywood veneer: A, B, C, and D. 

A-grade plywood is the highest quality. While it will cost more, the time savings can be worth it for projects that will be visible to the eye. This type of plywood is smooth and easy to paint.

B-grade plywood usually has minor flaws that may require small repairs. It is slightly less smooth.

C-grade plywood has more visible flaws and knots up to 1.5 inches in diameter.

D-grade plywood can have large flaws and knots up to 2.5 inches in diameter. This is typically the cheapest grade of plywood veneer. 

The first letter refers to the grade of the face of the plywood, and the second letter refers to the back. Therefore, “AB” plywood would have an A-grade face veneer and a B-grade back sheet.

Grades of Plywood: Hardwood

The grading system for hardwood plywood is a little different. Like softwood, the face veneer is represented by letters, and A is the highest quality and D is the lowest quality. However, there is a different standard for backs: 1 is the best and 4 is the worst.

A1 hardwood plywood represents the top quality plywood, and D4 the lowest quality (but most cost-effective) plywood. 

Which Grade Of Plywood Is Right For My Project?

That depends on your project. If both sides of the plywood will be visible, A1, A2, B1, or B2 are acceptable choices. If the back will not show, A4 or B4 will be a suitable alternative.

If you are planning on a clear finish, A1 or A2 is likely the best choice. If the plywood will be painted, grades B and lower are suitable for faces, and 3 or lower are suitable for backs.

Planning to use plywood for an outdoor project such as a deck, roofing material, or shed? You will want to make sure the material is resistant to moisture. If the plywood has an X at the end, this means it can withstand some exposure to moisture.

Marine grade plywood is available for structures such as cisterns and boat hulls that will have prolonged exposure to water.

Although this grading system can be a useful guide when balancing cost and quality, it is always a good idea to examine plywood products in person to be sure the grain pattern, flatness, and edges meet your project requirements. If you’re not sure what grade is right for your needs, contact Forest Plywood. Our expert team will help you choose the best product for your next project.