2nd Nov 2023 -

Plywood can often take centre stage in specialised projects. Whether you are a builder or construction project manager, understanding the full potential of plywood uses will significantly elevate your project’s result.

From crafting custom forms for concrete pours to creating intricate architectural designs, this is your comprehensive guide on how to make the most of plywood's unique qualities. 

Where is plywood used in specialised construction?

Specialised construction projects using plywood often involve unique design requirements, structural challenges, or specific environmental conditions. Here are some common examples of where plywood is integrated within specialised construction. 

  • Boat building: Particularly marine plywood is used in the construction of boats. This is due to its strength, durability and waterproof properties.
  • Aircraft interiors: Flooring with plywood, as well as lightweight plywood panels, can be incorporated into aircraft cabin interiors.
  • Exhibition booths: Plywood can be used to create custom exhibition booths and displays due to its versatility, as well as different veneers and finishes.
  • Architectural millwork: Plywood is often used in the fabrication of custom architectural elements. This can be curved walls, intricate ceilings, and unique furniture pieces.
  • Stage and set design: The construction of stages and sets for theatres, film production, and events often utilises plywood due to its versatility and ease of customisation.
  • Sports equipment: Some sports equipment can be constructed using plywood because it can provide the necessary strength and surface smoothness.
  • Temporary structures: Plywood is used in the construction of temporary structures like pavilions and pop-up stores. This is due to its ease of assembly and disassembly.
  • Soundproofing and acoustic panels: Plywood panels can be designed for acoustic performance, making them suitable for music studios, home theatres, and other sound-sensitive spaces.
  • Climbing structures: Indoor climbing gyms often use plywood for climbing walls and structures due to its strength and durability.
  • Greenhouses: Plywood can be used to construct the frames and interior components of greenhouses, providing structural stability and resistance to moisture.
  • Playground equipment: Construction of playground equipment, such as playhouses and climbing structures, can incorporate the use of plywood.
  • Custom shelters: Exterior plywood may be used in the construction of unique outdoor shelters, such as bus stops, kiosks or outdoor cafés.

How is plywood used in formwork and concrete construction?

Plywood plays a pivotal role in formwork and concrete construction. Each plywood board or sheet is strategically placed to create moulds or forms. Concrete is poured into these forms or moulds and allowed to set. The smooth surface of plywood facilitates clean concrete finishes and accurate shaping, making it a preferred choice for various project types.

To use plywood effectively in formwork, you typically cut and assemble it into the desired shapes and plywood sizes. Then each sheet is secured in place with fasteners or supports. This process allows for customised moulds for various structural elements like a wall, columns, slabs, and foundations. Plywood's strength ensures that these forms can withstand the pressure exerted by wet concrete, maintaining their integrity until the concrete cures.

Plus, plywood's ability to resist moisture during the curing process is crucial in concrete construction. Once the concrete has set, you can remove the plywood forms, leaving behind a precisely shaped and finished surface. This makes plywood an indispensable material for achieving precise, professional-grade concrete structures.

Can you use plywood for scaffolding and temporary structures?

Using plywood for scaffolding and temporary structures is a common practice in construction. Plywood sheets are often employed to create safe and stable working platforms during construction or renovation projects. Here is why plywood is a suitable choice for scaffolding and temporary structures.

  • Strength and durability: Thick plywood such as marine plywood offers robust structural integrity. This makes it capable of supporting the weight of workers and tools compared to other sheet materials such as oriented strand board (OSB). Also, it is resistant to bend and warp, ensuring stability and safety on elevated platforms.
  • Versatility: Flexible plywood can be easily cut, shaped, and assembled to create custom scaffolding solutions tailored to the project's needs. It adapts well to various configurations, making it versatile for temporary structures.
  • Smooth and slip-resistant surface: The smooth surface of anti-slip plywood provides a secure footing and minimises the risk of slipping. 
  • Ease of installation: Plywood is relatively easy to install and dismantle, which can save time and labour costs during construction and renovation activities.

MDF vs plywood: which type should you use?

The choice between plywood and medium-density fibreboard (MDF) for specialised construction projects depends on a range of factors. This includes load-bearing capacity, moisture resistance and aesthetics. We analyse the areas where each material may be more suitable.

Strength and load-bearing: Plywood is generally stronger than MDF. It is often preferred for load-bearing applications. If your project involves structural elements or heavy loads, plywood is the better choice.Customisation: MDF is easier to shape, carve, and route compared to plywood. If your specialised project involves intricate designs or custom shapes, MDF can be a better choice due to its workability.
Moisture resistance: Some types of plywood, such as marine plywood, are highly moisture-resistant. They are suitable for projects exposed to water or humidity. Waterproof plywood can be beneficial for boat building or outdoor structures.Cost-effective: MDF is generally more budget-friendly than high-quality plywood. For specialised projects with tight budgets, MDF can be a cost-effective solution. It will also still provide great performance for non-structural components.
Appearance: Plywood can have a more natural and attractive appearance due to its wood veneer plywood layers. This makes it a suitable choice for projects such as interior finishes and furniture.Painting and finishing: MDF has excellent paint-holding characteristics. If your project involves surfaces to paint, MDF can result in a smoother and more level finish compared to painting plywood.
Speciality grades: Plywood comes in various speciality grades, such as birch plywood. These specialised grades can be crucial for projects where fire resistance or other unique properties are needed.Indoor applications: Overall, MDF is not suitable for outdoor or high-moisture projects. Therefore, it is best reserved for specialised projects that are inside, such as interior door jobs.

What is the future of plywood in specialised construction?

The future of plywood in specialised construction is poised for remarkable growth and innovation. This will be driven by several key factors that promise to revolutionise the industry. Here are 5 predictions for the future of plywood in specialised construction. 

1. Sustainability at the forefront

Plywood's future is widely tied to sustainability. With a rising emphasis on eco-conscious construction, manufacturers are increasingly adopting responsible sourcing practices and production methods. Expect to see a surge in sustainable plywood options, meeting the demand for environmentally responsible construction materials.

2. Technological advancements

Plywood is embracing cutting-edge technology. This has led to enhanced characteristics like improved bonding techniques and options including fire-rated plywood. These technological strides will expand plywood's utility in specialised construction projects.

3. Innovative materials

The future will witness the development of lightweight and high-strength plywood variants. These materials will enable groundbreaking designs and construction methods. This will help to reduce project timelines and enhance structural performance.

4. Prefabrication and modular construction

Plywood's adaptability to prefabrication and modular construction approaches will gain further traction. This trend will facilitate faster, more efficient assembly of components in controlled environments. It elevates both efficiency and quality in specialised construction.

5. Digital tools and simulation

Plywood's role in specialised projects will benefit from the adoption of digital modelling and simulation tools. For example, this can include Finite Element Analysis (FEA) Software, used for simulating structure behaviour under different conditions. These technologies will help optimise designs, ensure integrity and minimise material waste. 

Is plywood the best choice for specialised construction jobs?

Plywood is often considered one of the best choices for specialised construction jobs. However, whether it is the absolute best choice depends on the specific project requirements. Below is a brief comparison with other sheet materials. 

Strength and durability

  • Fibreboard and MDF are less strong and durable compared to plywood. Both are commonly used for interior applications where strength is not a primary concern.
  • Chipboard is generally less strong and durable than plywood and is often used for budget-friendly projects with lower structural demands.
  • OSB is known for its strength and can be a suitable alternative to plywood in certain jobs.

Moisture resistance

  • Plywood can be moisture-resistant, especially if it is treated or used with specific glues. Marine plywood is designed for better water resistance.
  • MDF and chipboard are not moisture-resistant and can be prone to swelling or damage when exposed to water.
  • OSB may not perform as well in wet conditions compared to plywood.


  • Plywood is generally competitively priced and offers a good balance of cost, strength and versatility.
  • MDF and chipboard are often more budget-friendly, but their lower strength may limit their use in certain applications.
  • OSB can be cost-effective and is commonly used in structural applications.


  • Plywood is used in a wide range of construction applications, including floor projects, roofing, and sheathing.
  • Fibreboard and chipboard are often used for furniture and interior applications.
  • OSB is commonly used in structural applications like wall and roof sheathing.

Quality plywood panels at competitive prices

We take immense pride in offering a wide selection of high-quality plywood sheets in various size options. Our extensive selection includes a range of plywood options, from sturdy hardwood plywood to insulated plywood suitable for intricate finishing work.

With a commitment to excellence, we ensure that each plywood sheet we sell meets stringent quality standards to give you peace of mind.

If you are a trade customer, be sure to open a trade account with Building Materials Nationwide brings a multitude of benefits. Our trade accounts are tailored to provide competitive pricing, organise quick UK delivery, and gain access to one-on-one trade account manager support.

Whether you are a contractor or builder, our team is here to streamline your procurement process and support your projects. Sign up for a trade account today or you can contact us below.

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