Hard Plywood Vs. Soft Plywood

Plywood is a decoration and furnishing material made from wood. It is made up of sheets of wood in varying or uniform thickness, bound together by glues of various strengths. Plywood comes in different varieties, namely hard and soft plywood. The quality of the wood determines whether plywood is hard or soft. Hard plywood is used in places where the plywood is put to demanding uses, while soft plywood works for most other industrial and construction uses.

Differences in the Wood

The primary difference between hard and soft plywood is the wood used to make it. For soft plywood the trees of choice are spruce, Douglas fir and maple, which are known for their flexibility and malleability. For hard plywood, the trees of choice are birch or tropical trees like red maple and mahogany, which are known for their strength, stress resistance and stiffness.

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Difference in Physical Attributes

Soft plywood comes in plies of three, five and seven. The ply means how many sheets are glued together to make a single board. The thickness of each ply ranges from 0.1 inch to 0.6 inch, depending on the required thickness of the finished panel. Hard plywood also comes in three, five and seven plies. However, it is treated with extra sealants and is more resistant to chipping, bending and rot.

Differences in Usage

Soft plywood is used in settings that are not exposed to the elements and don't pose a lot of wear and tear. Due to its flexibility, it is used in do-it-yourself projects, especially when the plywood may be changed at regular intervals. It is commonly used in cupboard exteriors, floors, countertops, fences around properties, and containers for moving light- to medium-weight materials.

Due to its longer life and hardiness, hard plywood is more expensive and is sold at a premium. This type of plywood is used in projects that require professional assistance and settings that expose the wood to wear and tear. Generally, hard plywood is used for purposes like floors of containers that transport heavy weights, especially over long distances; scaffolding and other construction material; floors that have heavy traffic, such as at factories and offices; turbine blades; insulation boxes for fuel carriers; various playground equipment, and some types of furniture.

Differences in Limitations

Soft plywood is easily available and due to its flexibility, is favored by DIY enthusiasts. However, due to the softwood base, it bends easily, is not very resistant to moisture and is prone to surface cracks. If exposed to harsh cleaning agents, the surface can become dull and abraded and it may require frequent changes. However, due to the vast number of choices available in the wood used to make plywood, buyers can select the timber most suited to their needs.

Hard plywood is sturdier and less prone to the problems that soft plywood has. However, there are fewer choices and it is more expensive. The thin veneers are prone to cracking, leading to higher maintenance costs.