Pressboard vs. Plywood: Which to Choose?

Pressboard vs. Plywood: Which to Choose?

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If you are looking to build something, particularly a piece of furniture, then there are many different building materials for you to choose from. Two commonly used building materials include plywood and pressboard.

Now, both are engineered wood products, technically speaking, but they are also very different. Let’s figure out what pressboard and plywood are, what makes them similar and different, and what both are best used for.

Pressboard and Plywood: The Basics

Before we start talking about similarities and differences, let’s first figure out what both pressboard and plywood are.

What Is Pressboard?

Pressboard is a very commonly used building material to make things like backings to televisions and radios, as well as for very light furniture.

Pressboard is made by taking recycled paper scraps, breaking them down into small pieces, mixing those scraps with a number of adhesives and compounds, and then pressing those together using great amounts of heat and pressure.

Pressboard is a fairly affordable and common building material. That said, it is certainly not designed for durability or weather resistance, but it is easy to work with, saw apart, and paint.

What Is Plywood?

We then have plywood, another type of engineered wood product that is made by taking strips of real wood, also known as veneers, and then creating layers out of them, with these layers being known as plies.

The strips are laid side by side to form single layers, with additional layers then being created, each of which has the veneers facing perpendicular to the last.

This creates what is known as a cross-grain pattern, which allows the plywood to be durable, impact resistant, and often moisture resistant too. Plywood is a commonly used building material, both for interior and exterior use, and can serve a very wide range of purposes.

Similarities of Pressboard and Plywood

Now that we know what both pressboard and plywood are, let’s determine what similarities they share. As you are about to find out, there really aren’t many similarities between the two.

1. They’re Technically Types of Engineered Wood

One of the most basic similarities shared here is that both plywood and pressboard are types of engineered wood. Plywood is made by gluing and pressing together wooden veneers, whereas pressboard is made by pressing together paper scraps, with paper of course originally being made out of wood.

2. They’re Quite Common

If we are talking about home building purposes, plywood is the more common of the two, but that said, pressboard is also quite common. You can find both of these materials in various sizes, and both are easy to find in most home improvement stores and lumber shops.

3. They’re Not All Water Resistant

The other similarity shared by both of these building materials, especially if we are talking about low-quality plywood, is that they both may not be very waterproof. Pressboard by nature is not very water resistant, and if you get plywood that is not rated for exterior use, it won’t be very water resistant either.

Differences Between Pressboard and Plywood

Now that we know what makes pressboard and plywood similar, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other.

1. Overall Durability

One of the biggest differences between these construction materials has to do with durability. Specifically, plywood, due to that cross-grain pattern, does tend to be very durable. It has a great deal of impact resistance, it can resist being cut apart, and it generally lasts for quite some time even in unideal conditions. On the other hand, pressboard is not very durable at all. Pressboard is not something that can be used for structural applications, as it just can’t handle a lot of weight or impact at all.

2. Water Resistance

Although not all types of plywood are water resistant or waterproof, many are, especially those made with high-quality veneers, particularly if the plywood in question is rated for exterior use. There are many types of plywood that are almost 100% waterproof.

On the other hand, pressboard is not very waterproof or water-resistant at all. It will absorb water rather quickly and then fall apart. It’s just not something you can use for applications that involve moisture.

3. Uses

Another huge difference here has to do with what both are used for. Pressboard is quite weak and is therefore usually just used for very light furniture, as well as for backings on televisions and radios. However, it’s not something structural and you cannot use it outdoors. On the other hand, plywood is very versatile, and depending on the type you have, can be used for subflooring, walling, sheathing, sub-roofing, cabinetry, furniture, shed building, and much more.

4. Appearance and Workability

Pressboard is usually always going to be smooth. Yes, it does look quite nice. On that note, pressboard is also very easy to cut, snap, score, and saw apart, and it also takes on paint, stain, varnish, and other decorative processes very well.

Plywood, on the other hand, is often quite rough and visually unappealing, and due to its cross-grain pattern and texture, can also be hard to cut, paint, and decorate.

Pressboard vs. Plywood: Which Should You Use?

If you are making lightweight furniture or just need something cheap that looks nice, as long as it doesn’t need to be strong, then pressboard is fine. However, if you need something strong and resistant to the elements, particularly for outdoor use, then it is plywood that you want to go with.


Now that you know what both pressboard and plywood are, and what makes them different from one another, you can make an informed choice between the two.