As frustrating as it may be to realize that discerning plywood quality isn’t as simple as counting plies, it’s a good thing. Why? That realization can keep you from unwittingly purchasing poorly made plywood, and it’s the first step toward understanding what you can do to figure out the quality level of a sheet of plywood. As key as it may be to ask questions about the manufacturing process and establish trustworthy sources for quality plywood, that process can be a fairly complex and difficult one that not every individual plywood customer can navigate. So what’s a customer to do? It might seem a little backwards at first, but trust us: You have to start with a trip down memory lane.
Picture Your Favorite Sheet of Plywood, Ever
We’re guessing that if you’re looking for a great sheet of plywood, you’re not searching for an ideal which you’re not confident exists; you’ve actually seen one at some point in time. Review in your mind that sheet of plywood against which you’ve always measured all other sheets of plywood. What set it apart from most sheets you’ve seen since then? Maybe it was its face appearance, its extremely flat surface, or its sound, patch-free core and ability to mill just like solid wood. Whatever details come to mind, record them. Now you’re ready for the next step: remember what you paid for it. Yes, seriously.
Learn How Plywood Pricing Really Works
Plywood manufacturers aren’t in the business of bargaining: they will give you what you want. If you want an A1 Walnut panel but don’t want to spend more than $50, they can do that. If you are willing to spend $100 instead, they can do that, too. But the $50 panel won’t be the same quality as the $100 one. Not a chance.
While this price-based reasoning might not ring true with other lumber products, it makes sense when you understand how plywood is manufactured. If a manufacturer wants to make a cheaper product, they can easily compromise on face veneer, core construction, glue, or something else to lower their cost or the price. That’s why you need to know what’s most important to you and be willing to pay for it. If you’ve seen your ideal sheet of plywood before, you can certainly see it again; just don’t expect to pay less for it than you did last year. If you pay less, there’s one thing you can pretty much count on: you’ll get a lesser product.
Grow in Your Own Plywood Expertise
If you want to begin to understand plywood pricing better, one way to do it is to carefully examine your dealer’s plywood stock. Notice the price differences, and ask why one type costs $5 more per sheet than the seemingly identical panel stacked two slots over. As you grow in understanding how manufacturing and composition differences affect the price, you’ll become more knowledgeable about what’s reasonable to expect to pay for the plywood you desire.