As you probably know, plywood is one of the most popular building materials out there, especially when it comes to all of the different types of engineered wood. Plywood is used for a wide variety of purposes, but what many people wonder is how much weight it can actually support.
Yes, people do use plywood for some weight-bearing applications, but with that being said, is it ideal for this? Let’s get right to it and figure out how much weight plywood can support, how to calculate how much weight it can support, and more.
Is Plywood Ideal for Weight-Bearing Applications?
If you are wondering whether or not plywood is ideal for weight-bearing applications, what you need to know here is that it really does depend on the size, the thickness, and the type of plywood in question. There are many different types of plywood out there, dozens in fact, and they all have different strengths.
With that being said, the number one determining factor behind whether or not plywood can be used for weight-bearing applications is how thick it is, because the thicker it is, the more it can hold. Therefore, plywood, especially thick and high-quality plywood, is often used as a load bearer.
For instance, a good piece of marine-grade plywood can handle several hundred pounds per sheet.
Now, if you are building a house, what you do need to know is that of course, you aren’t going to use plywood to actually support the walls because it’s not strong enough to do that. However, plywood panels are used to connect the various studs to each other that form the frame of a home, thus assisting the studs in holding up the frame.
So, while plywood is not something that you would use purely for weight-bearing applications, it can certainly be a part of the equation.
What Determines How Strong Plywood is?
Above, we did mention that the number one determining factor in terms of how much weight a piece of plywood can bear is how thick it is, but with that being said, thickness is not the only determining factor here. There are actually four factors here that will determine exactly how much weight a specific piece of plywood could hold, so let’s take a look at all four.
As is the case with literally any material out there, the thicker it is and the more there is, the stronger it will be.
Keep in mind that the thinnest piece of plywood that you can buy is usually 1/4-inch. However, this type of plywood can only hold up around 10 pounds, so that definitely isn’t ideal for weight-bearing purposes. Most pieces of plywood will range from 1/2- to 3/4-inch thickness, and these are ideal for structural purposes, such as for home building.
For most cases, a 3/4-inch thick piece of plywood will be enough, but you can always go for ones that are a full 1 inch thick as well.
2. Number of Layers
The number of layers also makes a big difference, and of course, the more layers a piece of plywood has, the more strength it will have. Now, your lowest grades of plywood are going to have anywhere from three to four layers, and this is known as shop-grade plywood, which is only ideal for small purposes.
Next, you have those types of plywood that have anywhere from four to seven layers, and these can be used for things like flooring, cabinets, and other furniture-related purposes.
With that being said, if you want to go for something that can actually bear weight and be structurally sound, then you want to go for plywood that has seven layers or more. Keep in mind that each additional layer of plywood can add around five pounds per square foot of load capacity.
3. Species of Wood
What you also need to be aware of with plywood is the fact that the type of wood used to make it does make a big difference. In other words, plywood made out of softwood is not going to be nearly as strong as that made out of hardwood.
4. Grain Direction
The other thing to pay attention to here is the direction of the grain. Plywood that has the grain or the direction of the wood running along the longest side is generally much stronger than the type of plywood that has the grain running along the shorter side.
Wood is the strongest in the direction of the grain, so this is important to consider.
How to Calculate How Much Weight Your Plywood Can Support
Quite honestly, if you are not a mathematical genius and you are not familiar with all of the technical terms related to plywood and engineering, then you are best off using a plywood load calculator found online.
Here we have linked to what we think is the easiest to use plywood load capacity calculator out there.
What Is the Strongest Type of Plywood?
Without a shadow of a doubt, the strongest type of plywood out there is marine plywood. Marine plywood can easily hold several 100 pounds per sheet.
Now that you know exactly how to calculate the load-bearing capacity of the specific piece of plywood as well as the various factors that affect how much weight plywood can bear, you can now choose the right kind of plywood for your specific application.