Blockboard and plywood are two popular types of engineered wood and two of the most commonly used alternatives to solid wood.
The major difference between plywood and blockboard is their structure or how they are constructed. In this article, we explore everything there is to know about the difference between the two.
Because of their similar appearance and uses, people often get confused between blockboard vs plywood. The two types of engineered wood are very different from each other in terms of core structure, properties, and applications.
What is Plywood?
It is probably the most popular type of engineered wood. It is formed by laying thin layers of wood (plies) onto each other, usually with their grain rotated up to 90°. The wood layers are joined using glue and high pressure to form a strong panel.
What is a Blockboard?
Also called board or ply board, it is a type of engineered wood that is made by arranging & joining small blocks or pieces of wood, usually softwood, edge-to-edge between two thin solid wood layers (veneers) using glue and high pressure to form a strong board.
As you may have already understood, plywood contains plies while a block board contains wooden blocks or strips.
Blockboard vs Plywood
|Composition||Core of wood strips sandwiched between veneer layers.||Thin wood veneer layers glued together at right angles.|
|Strength and Rigidity||Generally less strong and rigid.||Typically stronger and more rigid.|
|Weight||Lighter due to the hollow core.||Heavier due to denser layers.|
|Common Uses||Doors, partitions, and lightweight furniture.||Cabinetry, flooring, and construction.|
|Screw Holding Capacity||Lower due to the softer core.||Better screw holding capacity.|
|Warping and Bowing||More prone to warping, especially in humidity.||Resists warping better.|
|Cost||Generally more cost-effective.||Can be more expensive.|
|Surface Finish||May require additional finishing work.||Typically smoother, requiring less finishing.|
|Thickness Options||Available in various thicknesses with variable core thickness.||Available in a wide range of thicknesses with consistent core thickness.|
There are many other differences between plywood and blockboard based on manufacturing, appearance, properties, grades, uses, and cost.
Ply contains an odd number (3, 5, …) of thin wood layers called plies or veneers which are combined together using strong glue and high pressure. The wood layers are arranged such that their grain is at a cross-section. It can have 3 or more layers depending on the thickness required.
A blockboard contains small wooden blocks or strips and two or more veneers. The wooden blocks are arranged edge-to-edge between the veneers and glued under high pressure to form a board with veneers on both sides.
Strength & Durability
Block boards are generally less strong than because their core is made of softwood while plywood is made from hardwood veneers. They are also less durable. However, they are stronger and more durable than MDF and particleboard. There may be gaps between wood blocks in a block board.
Plywood is very strong and moderately durable. It can withstand moderate loads. It is dense and uniform and have no caption in the core. Higher-grade plywoods are stronger and more durable. Some are even resistant to fire.
Ease of Work
Blockboard is generally lighter than plywood because the core is made of softwood. It is also easy to work with, transport and handle. It is also easier to cut. It holds screws and nails really well, which is why it is used in applications where the wood’s screw-holding capacity is important.
Ply is dense and heavy as it is made of hardwood veneers. It can be slightly difficult to carry around. However, it is equally easy to work with, though it can be difficult to cut but holds screws really well.
Blockboards can be painted, finished and laminated to achieve the desired look. Ply too is easy to paint and laminate. Both come in laminated options also.
Because blockboards have gaps in their cores, they can absorb and retain moisture, causing the wood to damage or decay over time. Water-resistant boards are also available. They are made by using BWP Grade (Boiling Water Proof) resin.
Not all plywoods are resistant to moisture or water. Only BWR or higher grade (marine ply) can withstand water and can be used in places like kitchens and bathrooms.
They are better than blockboards in terms of moisture-resistant properties.
Blockboard vs Plywood : Other Physical Properties
Bending or Sagging
Plywood tends to bend when used as long pieces. Blockboards, on the other hand, are more rigid and will not bend even when used as lengthy boards or panels. Long plywood panels may start sagging over time.
Blockboards have excellent dimensional stability and don’t warp or crack easily. Plywood is also resistant to warping and cracking.
Edge-splitting while cutting
They are easy to cut and do not split on edges.
Plywood can be difficult to cut owing to its higher density. It also splits and splinters on the edges while cutting.
Both ply and block boards come in a variety of sizes. Grades are assigned to them based on their physical properties and other criteria.
The most common size for Ply is 8 (l) x 4 (w) ft. (2449 x 1219 mm), but it also comes in other sizes, including 8 x 3 ft, 7×4 ft, and 7 x 3 ft. It comes in a range of thicknesses, from 3 mm to up to 25 mm.
Blockboards are also available in a variety of sizes, including 8 x 4 ft., 7×4 ft, and more. The thickness of sheets ranges from 16mm to 25mm.
The four most common types or grades of ply are A, B, C, and D, with A being the highest-quality wood and D being the lowest-quality. A-grade is the best in terms of appearance, physical strength & durability. It’s also the most expensive type of plywood.
In commercial use, plywood grades are assigned as follows:
- MR Grade (Moisture-resistant grade) – It’s made up of hardwood timber with urea and formaldehyde resin.
- BWR Grade (Boiling water-resistant grade) – Water-resistant plywood made using hardwood timber with phenol and formaldehyde adhesive and synthetic plastic resin glues
- BWP Grade (Boiling water-proof grade) – Marine-grade (waterproof) plywood made with undiluted formaldehyde and phenol resin.
- FR Grade (fire-retardant grade) – It is chemically treated to resist or contain the flames when burnt.
- Flexible Grade – This type is flexible and can be bent for making curved furniture.
Similar to plywood, blockboards also have different types, including MR grade, BWP grade, and BWR grade.
Uses of Blockboard and Plywood
Blockboard and plywood can be used interchangeably in most projects. But keep their respective properties in mind when using them in your project.
Ply is stronger and more durable, but it’s also heavier and can be slightly difficult to work with.
Both are suitable for making furniture, beds, chairs, tables, wardrobes, etc. Unlike plywood, long panels of block board do not sag, which makes it a better choice for making long wall panels, doors, bookshelves, tabletops, benches, panels, flush doors, and partitions. Blockboards can provide better insulation against sound and heat than plywood and are, therefore, used for making partitions.
Plywood furniture is stronger and lasts longer than blockboard furniture. It’s a moderately durable material and can be used for exterior construction, though it can get damaged by water. It is commonly used for making furniture, cabinets, and interior trim.
How Blockboard vs Plywood Fare Over the Years?
Plywood works best in dry environments and indoors, though water-resistant grade it can also be used in exterior projects. If maintained properly, it can easily last up to 50 years or more. Use only marine-grade for kitchens, bathrooms and other water-prone places.
Blockboard is less strong and durable than plywood, but it can still last a few decades when maintained and protected correctly. Moreover, interior grades blockboards should be kept away from moisture.
Blockboard vs Plywood : Cost Analysis
The cost of plywood depends on its grade, size, and thickness. Top grades such as BWR, BWP, and FR are the most expensive.
Block board is comparatively less expensive however, Marine-grade boards can be costlier.
Ply and blockboard have different properties and are suitable for different purposes. For projects where long wood panels are required, blockboard is a better choice than plywood. It’s also easier to work with and can resist sound better. Plywood is stronger and is preferred for heavy-duty applications and furniture for homes and offices.
Make sure to do your research to choose the best between plywood and blockboard based on your specific requirements and budget. Need help? Contact Cameroon Timber Export SARL to consult with a specialist woodworker. Or you can visit our official website to choose from over 40 wood species and buy timber online at a wholesale price with home delivery worldwide.