While conventional wisdom says that the number of plies is the greatest indicator of quality when it comes to plywood, the reality is that there’s much more involved in evaluating plywood quality. Instead, you have to consider the manufacturing process as a whole. While that involves the amount and quality of glue that’s used — something we discussed in our previous post — it also involves more than that.
Understanding Plywood Supply Chain Issues
The manufacturing process for plywood is key; you want to ensure that the plywood you purchase comes from a mill that’s consistent about quality control. The problem is that typically the dealer from which you purchase the plywood is several links in the supply chain removed from the manufacturer and, as a result, unable to tell you anything about the manufacturing process and related quality control measures. So even if you know the right questions to ask, you probably won’t be able to find out the answer. As frustrating as that may be, don’t worry: we do have a different solution to offer.
Defining Your Desired Plywood Panel
You already know that simply designating the grading category of hardwood lumber doesn’t ensure that you’ll secure precisely the boards you’ve envisioned for your project; the same is true of plywood. Your idea of the perfect panel is probably different from that of other builders — or even than your expectations and desire for a different application. You need to describe the key components of what you’re after. Is it a completely flat panel that won’t move at all? Perhaps a particular aspect of appearance? Maybe, instead, it’s tied to the core construction: do you desire no patches, allowing for the panel to mill just like solid wood?
Once you’ve envisioned your ideal plywood panel, you’re probably thinking of a particular one you’ve purchased before. Do you remember what you paid for it? Once you have specific details and a price point in mind, you can go to your supplier, ready to discuss what you’re looking for.
Realizing How Plywood Pricing Works
None of us wants to pay more for plywood — or anything else, for that matter — than we need to. But when it comes to plywood, a bargain-basement price is rarely, if ever, a good thing. Because plywood is a manufactured product, a lower price for you almost always indicates a lower cost for the manufacturer. And that lower cost inevitably means lower quality. Now, if lower quality is fine by you, then by all means, go for the lowest price possible. But if it isn’t, well, you simply can’t expect to get away cheaply. That whole “you get what you pay for” concept certainly rings true when it comes to plywood.
To understand more about the significance of plywood pricing, take a look at Part 3.