Presswood Vs. Plywood: Is There A Difference? (Compared)


Both presswood and plywood are considered forms of engineered wood. This means that they aren’t solid pieces of natural wood, but instead are made up of pieces of wood product.

Adhesive is then added to these pieces, and everything is pressed together to make the final product.

If the process for both is so similar, you may ask yourself if there’s any difference between the two in the end.

Presswood and plywood are not the same product. While they are both man-made, presswood comes in several varieties that are made up of the waste product of already cut wood. Plywood, on the other hand, is an engineered wood specifically cut into thin layers that are then pressed together to form a single sheet.

What Is Engineered Wood?

Man-made, or engineered wood, can’t be found naturally, but it does contain natural wood materials. It is any wood product made from combining different wood materials together with adhesive.

The final product can look and feel like wood but offers a cheaper alternative that is still durable.

Presswood contains the by-products of processing natural wood, including wood chips, shavings, and sawdust. There are several different types of presswood, and each of them uses different types of by-products.

Each type is made with the same general process, though. They are heated and pressed together with adhesives to form the final product.

Plywood is also an engineered wood, but it does not fall under the category of presswood. Instead, it’s its own separate product.

How Is Plywood Different From Presswood?

It’s easy to confuse plywood with presswood, but they are in fact different materials. Plywood is also man-made, but it doesn’t use wood waste. Instead, it consists of thin sheets of wood, called veneer, laying cross-grain on top of each other.

The layers have adhesive added in between and it all gets pressed together to form a single sheet. The material used in plywood is cut intentionally rather than pulled from the cast-off materials from other wood products.

The cross-layering of the wood sheets makes plywood stronger than presswood, but it does cost more.

Plywood is a good middle ground between presswood and natural solid wood. Certain solid woods are obviously the sturdiest and highest quality material you can use, but they’re also the most expensive and the heaviest.

If you don’t want to commit to full solid wood, plywood is the next best thing. Plywood is much more durable than presswood, both because of its materials and how it’s made.

Pros And Cons Of Plywood

The cross-layering of plywood increases its durability. Having the grain of each layer running in the opposite direction means that if one layer fails, it’s less likely the next layer will.

The layers are also thin but still solid wood, not a composite of scraps and glue. Its construction doesn’t depend on the right mixture of materials; it’s sturdy from the start.

Plywood holds nails and screws much better than presswood. You can also use plywood outdoors and in high-moisture areas; just be sure to find “exterior plywood” specifically.

The downsides of plywood include the price. While not as expensive as solid wood, it is still more costly than presswood. Part of this comes from plywood being made from fresh timber. It doesn’t use by-products as presswood does.

This also makes it less environmentally friendly than presswood. Finally, because it’s less processed, plywood tends to have rougher edges.

This can make it difficult to cut, and it requires a lot of sanding. You may even have to apply a protective coating to the edges of your plywood.

And although plywood does take nails and screws better than presswood, this is only in the main body of the wood. If you have to use hardware around the edges, be aware they can crack and splinter on plywood.

Pros And Cons Of Presswood

Presswood is often a cheaper alternative to plywood. The process of making presswood relies on the waste of other processes, which would otherwise be thrown away.

This means that there’s little to no additional cost for the main materials of presswood. Those savings are then passed on to you in the final price.

It’s also an eco-friendly alternative, since the materials to make it come from “waste” products. This does have a downside, however, as some presswood, like fiberboard, can be difficult to recycle due to its pre-processed nature.

Some items made with presswood have been known to release formaldehyde, called off-gassing. Off-gassing is the process of a chemical or gas released from the everyday use of a product.

In the case of presswood, formaldehyde is a component in some resins and adhesives manufacturers use in their wood products.

Though modern levels are not noticeably dangerous in everyday materials, formaldehyde is still a dangerous chemical. If you’re worried about the off-gassing, you may want to skip presswood materials.

Presswood is also not as durable as plywood. While certain types do hold screws and nails better, it’s still prone to breaking and cracking. It does not withstand moisture well, which limits its applications. You should not use presswood in high-moisture or high-humidity areas.

In Conclusion

Although some might see plywood and presswood as interchangeable terms, the truth is that they are different materials. The former is made from fresh timber sheets that are glued and pressed together.

The latter uses the waste material from other wood in a mix with adhesive, and it’s then heated and pressed together into a single sheet.

You can use both materials, however, as a less expensive alternative to solid wood. Plywood is a little more versatile in that you can use it outdoors, but otherwise, you can use plywood and presswood for similar projects.

The main factors in which to use will be the longevity you hope to get out of the project and your budget. Presswood is a cheaper alternative but not as sturdy. Plywood has more durability and versatility, but it will cost you more.

Katherine Ann

Katherine is a freelance writer who enjoys DIY home décor and refurbishing tired furniture. In addition to writing for PlumbJoe, she blogs about books and movies and writes creatively in her spare time.

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