By Abhijit Phadke
Whether you like it or not, plywood is expensive. This article explains why plywood is costlier compared to other options such as particle boards, and how selecting the right kind of plywood for your requirements can help you to save money.
Let's compare the costs first
1. Plywood is costlier than particle boards, and MDF (medium density fibre boards).
2. Plywood furniture is however cheaper compared to good quality solid wood furniture such as teak wood furniture.
3. Amongst the different grades of plywood available in the markets, Interior grade plywood (known as Commercial ply) is the cheapest one. Exterior grade plywood (known as BWR grade) costs more than that, and even more expensive than that is Marine grade plywood.
Why plywood is costlier than particle boards
Particle boards are made from small particles of wood (sawdust and flakes) that are usually by-products obtained while cutting up wood for other purposes. These waste materials are mixed with glue, and the mixture is firmly hot-pressed together to turn it into sheets of wood, which is then sold as particle boards. These boards are weaker in strength, and do not have much water-resistance capability.
On the other hand, plywood is made from wood veneers, which are thin slices of wood obtained by rotary-cutting and peeling logs obtained from trees. The wood used for making plywood is usually of a good quality hardwood. Hence plywood is much stronger compared to Particle boards and even MDF. In addition to this the water resistance properties of plywood can be increased significantly by the use of phenolic resins, as is done in the case of BWR grade and Marine grade plywood, so that it becomes adequately water-proof.
Because of these reasons, plywood costs more than these other engineered boards.
How choosing the right kind of plywood can save you money.
1. For making indoor use furniture for home, you can opt for Commercial plywood (MR grade). MR stands for moisture-resistant. This kind of plywood is not water-proof, but usually meets the requirements of home furniture in most cases.
2. And for the furniture that is likely to get wet, such as kitchen cabinets and other kitchen furniture, you can opt for Exterior BWR grade (BWR stands for 'Boiling water resistant'), which is costlier but which can be called water-proof. Though the initial cost is higher, it is more durable and hence saves money in the longer run.
3. Marine grade plywood is meant for marine applications. It's not really meant for home use and in most cases of home furniture and home decoration, using Exterior grade plywood is good enough. So there's no need to choose the costlier Marine grade plywood. Instead you can choose BWR grade plywood which is cheaper than that.
4. It's better to laminate plywood furniture. Decorative laminates increase the life of plywood, by preventing water from getting in contact with the wood surfaces, and though there is an initial cost involved of buying the laminates, the life of your furniture will increase because of it.
A word about Cheap plywoods
The plywood market in India, still has a very large unorganized sector, that comprises of many plywood manufacturers, who make and sell their goods in the local markets, through plywood shops. Such plywood is much cheaper compared to the branded products, however their quality may or may not be upto the desired mark.
In case you feel that the top selling branded plywood is too costly for you, then you can opt for these local goods, but as an assurance of quality, I would recommend opting for any plywood that has a ISI mark on it. While it is not compulsory for every company to have an ISI mark on their products, having a genuine ISI mark does mean that the manufacturer has got a BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) certification and that the plywood meets the quality benchmarks.
Tips to consider when buying plywood in India.
Check for IS:303 mark for interior grade (commercial MR grade) plywood sheets. MR stands for moisture resistant.
The ISI number for exterior grade plywood sheets is also IS:303. But these plywood sheets will additionally also be marked as BWR (boiling water resistant), or BWP (boiling water proof).
IS:710 mark in the case of Marine grade plywood sheets. (note that I don't recommend this grade, since BWR meets most of the home needs and is more cost-effective).
Also check for '100% hardwood plywood' marked on the plywood sheets. Hardwood obtained from deciduous trees, is much stronger compared to softwood. In fact most of the good quality plywood in India is made from the high-quality 'Gurjan wood' which is a hardwood. The 100% means that all the veneers (plies) that make up the core and surface of the plywood are made from hardwood.
Save on carpentry costs:
Getting your woodwork done requires your personal attention and supervision, unless of course you have a very trusted person doing the job for you.
Ensure that you get plywood of the right thickness and size. Extra-thick plywood costs more and should not be used if it's not necessary. On the other hand, you have to be vigilant that carpenters do not use thinner plywood, when you have paid for thicker ones. If you get a good honest carpenter, this should not be a problem.
In the case of decorative laminates, the thicker it is, the better its quality and longevity. Thicker laminates however cost more. There is also a huge price difference between branded and unbranded laminates.
It's better to work out the material costs and workmanship costs separately, and before starting any work. This way you can save some money on the raw materials such as plywood and laminates and instead pay people better for getting good quality workmanship done.