Plywood vs. Veneer: Which to Choose?

Plywood vs. Veneer: Which to Choose?

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Plywood and veneer are two popular building materials. However, these two materials are not at all the same things. Sure, they share some similarities, but there are also some major differences between them.

Let’s figure out what both of these materials are, what makes them different, and which one you should use for specific applications.

Plywood and Veneer: The Basics

Let’s first figure out what both plywood and veneer are.

What Is Plywood?

Plywood is a special type of engineered wood that is built by gluing and pressing together many layers of wood.

In fact, the layers used in plywood are veneers. In other words, very thin sheets of wood are layered on top of each other, with each layer being perpendicular to the last, and then glued together, as well as pressed.

There are many different types of plywood, as well as many different grades. Plywood is a very common building material that can be used to build anything from houses and patios to sheds, docks, boats, and more.

What Is Veneer?

Veneer on the other hand, if we are talking about high-quality veneer, is technically solid lumber. Veneer is created by using a very thin blade to shave off thin layers of wood from a log.

The log sits on a spindle and spins in a circle, with the blade constantly shaving off the outer layer. The result is an extremely thin sheet of wood.

Veneer can be made out of many different types of wood and is often applied to things like MDF or other substrates in order to stabilize and seal them. Veneer is also often used as an outer layer to add increased aesthetic appeal, such as for walls.

Similarities of Plywood and Veneer

Now that we know what these materials are, let’s figure out what makes them similar.

1. They’re Both Made of Wood

The basic similarity here is that both are technically types of wood. Veneer is generally solid wood milled straight from a log, and plywood is made by gluing together various layers of veneers.

2. They Can Be Made of Various Woods

Veneer can be made out of an extremely wide variety of wood. This includes, but is not limited to, spruce, oak, mahogany, Douglas fir, and more. Seeing as plywood is made out of veneers, it can also be made out of a very wide variety of different woods. Both of these materials can come in softwood and hardwood varieties.

3. They Are Common Building Materials

Both of these materials are also commonly used when building houses.

4. Plywood Is Made Out of Veneers

Of course, another basic similarity that these two building materials share is that plywood is made out of many layers of veneers.

Differences Between Plywood and Veneer

Now that we know what makes plywood and veneer similar, let’s figure out what makes them different.

1. Thickness

Seeing as plywood is made out of many veneers, it is safe to say that it is much thicker than veneer. A single veneer can be less than 1/10 of an inch thick, while plywood can be as thick as 3/4 of an inch.

2. Strength

A veneer is just a single very thin layer and is therefore not very strong. It’s designed for aesthetic purposes more than anything else. Plywood, on the other hand, is quite strong and flexible. Because of this, plywood can be load-bearing.

3. Water-Resistance

Veneer itself, although it can be moisture resistant depending on the type of wood it is made of, is not nearly as moisture resistant as high-quality plywood.

Not all plywood is very moisture resistant, but there are some types, such as marine-grade plywood, that are waterproof. It is also possible to improve the water-resistance of other types of plywood.

4. Appearance

Veneer is generally designed to look very nice and to add aesthetic qualities to a surface. Plywood may also look nice, although this is not always the case.

5. General Applications

Plywood is used for general building purposes. Veneer, on the other hand, is used to cover up surfaces to make them look better or to increase structural integrity.

6. Cost

Solid wood veneer also tends to be quite a bit more expensive than most types of plywood. I wrote more about how much plywood costs here.

7. Composition

Of course, the main difference is that veneer is just a thin sheet of solid lumber, whereas plywood consists of many sheets of veneer.

Plywood vs. Veneer: Which of the Two Should You Use?

If you are doing some trim, want to cover up an ugly wall, or want to make some nice-looking furniture, then veneer is the way to go. However, if you are building something, whether it needs to be structural or not, then plywood will most likely be your best bet.


You should now know which of these two materials you should use for a variety of tasks. The most important takeaway here is that plywood is made by gluing and pressing together many layers of veneer, while veneer is just a thin strip of lumber.