Plywood is one of the commonest building materials today. It is often used for frame structures, stair risers, and other building purposes because of how good it is at supporting heavy masses.
However, there is still a growing concern about how much weight can plywood hold. We will examine this in this article.
How Much Weight Can Plywood Hold
The standard affordable plywood supports a total load capacity between five to fifty pounds. Plywood strength depends primarily on its thickness, among other factors. For instance, quarter-inch thick plywood can hardly hold five pounds of weight. Strength drops with time when the weight applied to the plywood is more than it can bear.
Strength of Plywood: Factors that Determine Plywood Weight Capacity
The load capacity of a sheet of plywood depends on various factors. They include:
It is best inferred that the greater the plywood thickness, the stronger it will be. Variations in plywood thicknesses relate to their diverse use. Note that not all plywood is suitable for weight-bearing purposes.
The widely used plywood thickness is 1/2 inch fir plywood, although the thickness can range from 1/8 inch to 3/4 inch.
The 1-inch fir plywood is made accessible for heavy construction purposes, such as concrete forms, industrial flooring, and stair risers. It is also made available with tongue and groove patterns that merge for greater strength.
A 12-by-36 inch piece of 3/4 inch thick fir plywood could roughly support five pounds, whereas the 12-by-36 inch piece of 1/4 inch fir plywood does not have that load capacity.
Plywood’s strength reduces when thickness diminishes. Therefore, plywood thickness is a primary factor when choosing the best plywood for supporting weight.
Another vital factor to consider is the direction of the grain. It will not be surprising if you are not familiar with this factor because it is mostly overlooked.
During the manufacture of plywood, the direction of the grain is closely monitored. Plies are merged so that the wood grain direction of the top and bottom are perpendicular.
Further, the plywood with the direction of wood grain running parallel along the longest side is generally considered much stronger than one in which the grain runs along the shorter side.
The type of wood used in plywood manufacture makes a big difference when considering its capacity to support the weight. Basically, the types of plywood produced are obtained from either the softwood or hardwood species.
The most common wood species are conifers, whose wood chips are used to manufacture softwood plywood. They are generally not as strong and heavy as hardwood plywood.
However, several manufacturers look to bypass this diminishing property by applying exterior glue on softwood plywood.
The layering of plywood is another critical factor to consider. Plywood with more layers has higher strength. Individual layers of plywood can be easily counted by observing the edge.
Plywood with fewer than four layers, such as the regular 3/4 inch thick fir plywood, has lesser strength to support heavyweight than those with more than seven layers, such as the marine plywood.
The 3/4 inch thick plywood is sometimes referred to as shop-grade plywood and is generally the most affordable plywood. It is more likely to bend or break easily than other plywood types.
Additional plywood layers can provide better load capacity per square foot of the plywood. Keep in mind that plywood layers of hardwood species are more susceptible to absorbing moisture, reducing the plywood strength over time.
The type of glue used in the manufacture of plywood impacts its strength and durability. Meshing the plywood layers with enough glue contributes to its moderate strength, stability, and ability to resist expansion or shrinkage.
Softwood plywood strength drops when manufactured with interior glue, unlike those with exterior glue. Exterior glue makes softwood plywood stay intact as the plywood strength and durability increase over time.
In contrast to hardwood plywood, the glue will block the softwood plywood from absorbing moisture. This is critical because plywood layers weaken and crack upon prolonged exposure to moisture.
The flexibility of plywood is another pivotal factor to be considered when looking out for its ability to support a load. Plywood flexibility, otherwise referred to as shear strength, is a commonly overlooked property.
A practical example is an exterior grade 3/4 inch thick fir plywood on which sheathing has been placed on the exterior. This contributes immensely to the shear strength.
The flexibility of fir plywood incredibly adds to its ability to resist cracking when coupled to uneven frame structures, making it incomparable to any other building material.
The shear strength of plywood is a crucial quality that will come in handy when considered for use in bearing weight.
Plywood weight chart
|Span Rating||Thickness||Maximum live load|
|16 oc||19/32 inches||185 pounds|
|24oc||19/32 inches||270 pounds|
|20oc||23/32 inches||240 pounds|
|32oc||185 pounds||295 pounds|
Plywood strength per square foot
|Plywood thickness||Strength (Max Pressure)|
The amount of strength supported by plywood depends on its thickness. From the table, 1/2” plywood can support 35 psf. If the thickness increases, the plywood will support more pounds per square foot as the weight is distributed away from the center.
Types of Plywood
Getting the right plywood for the right project is not as easy as it looks. Here, you will get acquainted with some plywood types to make informed choices when acquiring plywood.
There are different types of plywood, and they include:
Sanded Plywood is a versatile plywood option. It is a wooden panel with face and back plies sanded smooth during manufacturing. This is done by cross-laminating layers of wood veneer.
Sanded plywood has only one side sanded alongside a clean and smooth surface. It is suitable for use indoors but does not paint well. Sanded plywood is cheap and is used for building projects like shop furniture and cabinets.
Hardwood plywood is a manufactured wood panel comprising three or more layers. It uses hardwood species, like birch, walnut, teak, maple or birch plywood, both on the face and back.
Hardwood plywood is generally heavier than other types of plywood. Its major characteristic is that it is significantly stronger against bending forces. However, you must consider the type, grade, and quality of the wood.
It is equally suitable for use indoors and outdoors and in building projects. You can use them for cabinets, furniture, millwork, musical instruments, etc.
Hardwood plywood is mostly recommended for a decorative projects because it’s the best plywood for painting. (See our guide on how to paint plywood). In addition, it has considerable resistant qualities against climatic conditions.
Sheathing plywood, also called structural plywood, is an exterior grade ply designed for permanent structures.
This plywood is an overall wooden sheet manufactured by binding multiple thin strips of wood. Binding is done using strong adhesives under max pressure and heat to keep the plies together.
Every piece of plywood is standardized during production to meet the standards for strength, durability, and appearance. It distinctively offers excellent structural support and flexibility, not to mention that it is cost-friendly compared to other types of plywood.
Additionally, it is suitable for interior and exterior building applications such as beams, subflooring, roof bracing, and wall bracing.
Nonetheless, a major setback associated with this type of plywood is its low resistance to climatic conditions. This means they cannot be used in areas with cold and heat extremes.
This type of plywood is less common due to its unique function. As the name implies, plywood for a marker board. Markerboard plywood production is minimal, nevertheless, functional. It is accurately measured and cut to varying sizes.
Being usually made from softwood species makes it light in weight. In addition, it prevents moisture, allowing for easy wiping. Markerboard plywood mostly serves as a frame structure for whiteboard markers.
What Plywood Should You Use?
Depending on your building objective, you need to know the type, quality, and grade of plywood most suitable for your project.
There is always debate about which to use in soft and hard plywood. You can use both for interior and exterior applications. However, hard plywood is more durable and stronger with better resistance qualities.
This makes it more suitable for heavy construction. Soft plywood would be the better fit for lighter construction requiring more flexibility.
Best Weight-bearing Plywood
Without a doubt, marine Plywood is the best plywood to utilize when it comes to bearing heavyweight and resisting water. This unique feature makes it suitable for building boats, hence the name marine plywood.
Choose marine plywood to construct materials that will be exposed to harsh weather conditions. If you use regular plywood for this purpose, you risk the plywood weakening and cracking after a while.
Also, you could consider utilizing marine grade plywood alternatives, like fiber cement board or solid surface materials, for enhanced water resistance and durability.
Recommended read: Marine plywood or pressure treated plywood
Best Twisting Plywood
If you are looking for plywood best suited for making curves, Flexible plywood, also called bending plywood, is the best option.
Once the desirable curve has been achieved, the wooden panels are glued together to make them rigid and not allow movement. You can use it for various design purposes.
Best Supporting Plywood
If you need sturdy plywood yet light in weight to be very workable, birch plywood is your go-to. Due to its unique structural properties, it would be superb to use sheathing plywood for your roof bracing and wall bracing projects.
Best Beautifying Plywood
You may be interested in decorative plywood that works well for building cabinets, shelves, wardrobes, and furniture. In such instances, hard plywood options are the preferred plywood options.
Whatever coat you decide to use for decoration, first seal your surface with primer plywood. This will go a long way in enhancing the overall quality and longevity of your decorative plywood project,
Best Colored Plywood
For colored plywood purposes, dark wood varieties such as walnut, mahogany or teak are all accessible. Light-colored lumber such as white oak wood and maple are also good options.
Plywood weight capacity calculator
Plywood weight calculator Coming soon
What plywood is the strongest?
Without doubts, marine plywood is the strongest and toughest plywood in the wood market. Multiple layers of wood sheets bonded by high-quality glues hold the plies together. This strength, coupled with its excellent resistant properties, makes it the plywood of choice for constructing materials that will be exposed to harsh weather conditions.
Is plywood strong enough to support a person?
This depends on the type of plywood. Generally, plywood can support up to hundreds of pounds in weight. The thicker the plywood, the more weight it can hold. For example, can support up to 295 pounds. Conversely, thinner plywood, like 1/4 inches thick plywood, cannot support a lot of weight. Walking or standing on thin plywood can cause it to flex, weaken, and eventually crack.
Is plywood stronger than wood?
When comparing plywood vs solid wood in terms of strength, solid wood carries the day. This is because solid wood is homogenous and often denser than plywood. However, it is worth noting that there are different types of woods. Some woods are very soft and do not compare in strength to plywood.
How long will plywood last?
Generally, plywood will last for around 35 years. However, the lifespan can be shortened or lengthened depending on how the plywood is manufactured and maintained. Under proper maintenance conditions, plywood can last for up to 50 years. Similarly, its lifespan can be shortened to 20 years if exposed to harsh weather and maintenance conditions.
You can also apply a waterproof sealant for plywood to increase its lifespan.
How much weight can 1/2 plywood hold?
Weight of 1/2″ plywood holds up to 35 pounds per square foot. However, increasing the thickness of the plywood can make it support more weight. This means that the amount of weight the plywood can hold is directly proportional to its thickness.
How much weight can 3/4 plywood hold?
The weight of 3/4 plywood can hold up to 50 pounds. The number of sheets of plywood glued together (the thickness) determines the weight-bearing capacity. Two sheets of 3/4 plywood load capacity would be able to support significantly more weight than two sheets of 1/4″ plywood.
How much weight can a plywood floor support?
Plywood floors can support a lot of weight. However, the amount of weight it can support will vary depending on the thickness and quality of the plywood. But if you use higher quality plywood with more layers, it can support more weight.
Related read: Load bearing capacity of wooden closet rods.
How strong is plywood?
When it comes to weight-bearing capacity, plywood is not quite as strong as solid wood. Nevertheless, it is still a very strong material that can support significant weight. Overall, it depends on the plywood’s thickness and how much weight it can support.
How much weight can 1 inch plywood hold?
1 inch of plywood supports can hold 164 pounds per square foot. However, in the real world, the amount of weight a sheet of plywood can hold will vary depending on the type of wood, the grain orientation, and how well it is fastened down.
How much weight can a 4×8 sheet of plywood hold?
There’s no definitive answer to this question since the weight a 4×8 sheet of plywood can hold depends on various factors, like its thickness and type. However, a 4′ by 8′ sheet of 1″ thick plywood could hold up to 6,752 pounds. It’s quite strong and can support a bit of weight.
How much weight can 1/4 plywood hold?
1/4-inch thick plywood will only support 5 pounds. The thinner the veneers, the weaker the plywood will be. So, if you’re looking for a material that can hold a lot of weight, you’ll need to use something thicker than 1/4-inch plywood.
Related: 3/4 vs 1/2 Plywood for Cabinets
Final Thoughts on the Strength of Plywood
Plywood has become a staple in the construction industry. That makes sense, too, considering their strength, flexibility, and durability. However, one crucial question before making a buying decision is how much weight can plywood hold.
Typically, plywood can support between five to fifty pounds. However, thicker plywood can support more weight.