As confusing as grading and lumber pricing can be for hardwood lumber, navigating the plywood market can cause even more frustration. While we all wish it were simpler than it is, in Part 1 we debunked the concept that you can determine the level of quality simply by counting plies. In Part 2 we began to explore the more nuanced way to secure the kind of panel you desire. Now we’ll continue in that vein and talk more about how plywood pricing is inextricably linked to plywood quality.
Starting with the Price Point
Remember how, in Part 2, we mentioned considering the details in an ideal plywood panel you’ve purchased in the past, and particularly recalling its price? As counter-intuitive as it may seem, price is actually a great place to start when it comes to specifying the kind of plywood you desire. In fact, you can actually order plywood starting with your price point. Let’s say you want to spend $97 on an Oak panel. Your supplier is sure to find one out there for you — or find a mill that can make that happen. Next week, if you go to the same supplier, wanting to spend $53 on an Oak panel instead, they can do that, too. But the $53 product will not be identical to the $97 panel.
Discovering the Differences
If you don’t know the difference (or potential differences) between a less expensive panel and the one next to it, you’ll benefit by making a little informal study of plywood pricing. (After all, knowledge can be powerful! And its price [FREE on our websites] is more than reasonable.)
We highly recommend visiting your lumber supplier of choice and examining the plywood in stock, noticing price differences. See if you can determine the reason for the disparity — and if you can’t, ask! Not only will you get a better idea of what you can expect to pay for the level of panel you desire, but you’ll also get a better feel for how pricing relates directly to certain characteristics. And if you care to extend your study to visit multiple lumber suppliers, you’ll notice that price differences for plywood with the same level of quality are typically minimal.
Avoiding Common Pitfalls
If shopping for plywood and trying to secure the good stuff seems like a lot of work, with no way to get away with a bargain, you’re definitely getting the picture. But beware: counting plywood plies isn’t the only oversimplification you’ll hear. Some people say plywood quality is tied directly to the species used for the face, the origin of the manufacturer, the species used for the core, the flatness of the panel, or any number of elements. However, quality of plywood and suitability to your desires is always more complex than looking at any one characteristic.