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.

Factors that Determine How much Weight Plywood Holds 

The load capacity of a sheet of plywood depends on various factors. They include:

Thickness

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 thickness of plywood 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 to consider when choosing the best plywood for supporting weight.

Grain direction

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 in a way 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.

Wood type

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 species of wood are conifers, whose wood chips are used in the manufacture of softwood plywood. They are generally not as strong and heavy as the hardwood plywood.

However, several manufacturers look to bypass this diminishing property by applying exterior glue on softwood plywood.

Layers

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 the shop-grade plywood and is generally the most affordable plywood. It is more likely to bend or break easily compared to other types of plywood.

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.

Glue

The type of glue used in the manufacture of plywood impacts its strength and durability. The process of 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.

Flexibility

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.

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

Sanded Plywood is a versatile plywood option. It is a wooden panel with face and back plies that are 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

Hardwood plywood is a manufactured wood panel comprising of three or more layers. It uses hardwood species, like birch, walnut, teak, and maple, 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 for building projects. You can use them for cabinets, furniture, millwork, musical instruments, etc.

Hardwood plywood is mostly recommended for a decorative project as it can be well painted. In addition, it has considerable resistant qualities against climatic conditions.

Sheathing plywood

Sheathing plywood, otherwise referred to as 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 set grades 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.

Markerboard plywood

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 be well aware of 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. For lighter construction, requiring more flexibility, soft plywood would be the better fit.

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 for the construction of materials that will be exposed to harsh weather conditions. If you use regular plywood for this purpose, you run the risk of the plywood weakening and cracking after a while.

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 diverse design purposes.

Best Supporting Plywood

If you need sturdy plywood yet light in weight to be very workable, birch plywood is your go-to. It would be superb to use sheathing plywood for your roof bracing and wall bracing projects due to its unique structural properties.

Best Beautifying Plywood

You may be interested in decorative plywood that will also work well for building cabinets, shelves, wardrobes, and furniture. In such instances, hard plywood options are the preferred plywood options.

Best Colored Plywood

For colored plywood purposes, dark wood varieties such as teak, walnut, and mahogany are all accessible. Light-colored lumber such as white oak wood and maple are also good options.

FAQs

What plywood is the strongest?

Without doubt, 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?

Solid wood is typically stronger than plywood. 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. In the same vein, its lifespan can be shortened to 20 years if exposed to harsh weather and maintenance conditions.

Conclusion

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.

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