Weight can be a factor when selecting a specific plywood product and thickness for a project. The heavier the plywood, the stronger the structure needed to support it. This isn’t an issue in many cases, as the structure is more than sufficient to hold the weight. But if you’re not careful, you could cause yourself serious problems, because you didn’t stop to ensure that the structure can hold the plywood’s weight. It can also be a factor in your construction process, as carrying heavy sheets of plywood up ladders or scaffolding can be difficult and dangerous.
What makes plywood heavier than its equivalent in solid wood products is the plywood’s density. This higher density usually comes from the type of wood that is used to make up the core veneers. In addition, all the veneers of the plywood are bonded together with a rosin adhesive, which usually has a higher density than the wood veneer does. Put together, we get an overall density that surpasses all but the densest of hardwoods.
Due to the difference in manufacturing methods for the various plywood products, different sheets from different mills can vary considerably in weight. This difference is created mostly by the amount of resins and/or glues used to hold the wood together, as they can be considerably heavier than the wood or wood fibers. Therefore, the greater the percentage of glue or resin found in the plywood product, the greater the overall weight of the plywood.
Considering that a full sheet of plywood can weigh upwards of 80 pounds, care must be taken when working with it, especially when working alone. Improper handling of plywood can cause severe back injuries, incapacitating you for a considerable amount of time.
Softwood plywood weight chart
Let’s start with the most common plywood product, softwood plywood. The APA (American Plywood Association) has created design specifications for the production of various plywood products. In it, they state that softwood plywood should weigh approximately 3 pounds per square foot, per inch of thickness. Actual plywood sheets weigh slightly less, as the specification is for pre-sanded sheets. As much as 1/32” of overall thickness can be lost in the sanding process. The organization offers a bunch of technical information and educative content.To compare and visualize the difference in weight and thickness, look at the following tables below.
In the next chart, we’re going to compare the weight of other plywood products to Softwood plywood. For the sake of simplicity, we’re only going to compare 1/2” thick plywood. Click to sort by plywood weight or percentage.
|Plywood Type:||Weight per Sheet||Percentage
(compared to Softwood)
|Softwood Plywood||40.6 lbs||100%|
|Hardwood Plywood||45 lbs||111%|
|Marine Plywood||50 lbs||123%|
|Particle Board||61 lbs||150%|
|Baltic Birch||48 lbs||118%|
Note the weight may greatly impact the price. Weight chart is closely related to the price chart.
Based upon these two tables, we can now figure the weight for a variety of plywood types and thicknesses, shown in the table below, in ascending order of weight. Softwood plywood is highlighted, as it is the standard that everything else is compared to.
|Hardwood plywood *||24.4||31.6||45.1||53.3||67.5||93.8|
*Hardwood plywood can actually vary considerably in weight and density, due to the particular construction of the plywood. A variety of different core constructions and materials are used, causing these variations. For example, hardwood plywood made with a birch core, has a density of between 650 and 700 kilograms per cubic meter, while another sheet of plywood which seems the same, but has a poplar core, will have a density of between 500 and 530 kilograms per cubic meter.
Please note that this chart doesn’t cover HDF (High Density Fiberboard), otherwise known as hardboard, simply because it is only sold in thinner sheets than other plywood products. The high density of this product makes it heavier than most other plywood products of the same weight.
Hardboard panel weight chart
After selecting the type of wood, please enter thickness, width and length with appropriate units of measure (inch, foot, millimeter, centimeter, meter) in order to calculate weight. Results in pounds and kilos are available. Important note: as wood density varies depending on contents of moisture, tolerances for actual weight may vary by as much as 20%. If you wish to use this calculator on your website, please contact us.
Select wood, enter thickness, width and length (e.g. 2, 3/4, 5/32), select units (e.g. inch, foot, cm)
Plywood weight to strength
It is natural to think that the weight of plywood impacts its strength; but this is untrue. Since the major weight in any type of plywood product is from the rosin and adhesive used in its manufacture, higher weight merely indicates that the plywood in question has more rosin in it and less wood fiber. Since it is the wood fiber that gives the plywood its strength, a lower percentage of wood fiber makes a weaker plywood product.
The actual strength of anything produced out of plywood is due to a combination of things, including the type of plywood used and the thickness of the plywood. But even more important than that, is the way that the plywood is supported. Without proper support, most plywood products can’t support a long span of their own weight, without sagging.
One of the easiest ways of supporting a piece of plywood, which is being used as a shelf, is to attach a piece of 1”x 2”, 1”x 4” or a strip of cut plywood, to the edge of the shelf, mounted at 90 degrees to the surface of the shelf itself. This moves the vertical centerline of the shelf to the middle of that added on piece. That, in turn, means that the bulk of the material is moved away from that centerline, where it can fight against sagging better. Two such pieces, attached to both the front and back edges make the shelf even stronger.
This addition of material perpendicular to the surface of the shelf will do more to make a shelf stronger, than adding additional supports. At the same time, you don’t end up with the space problem that those supports can cause, getting in the way of whatever you want to store on that shelf.
Working with the weight of plywood
Considering the size and weight of a sheet of plywood, it can be difficult to work with. While the risk of injury might be low, the inconvenience of working with it may make it difficult to cut accurately. A bad cut on a sheet of plywood can ruin whatever project you’re working on; so it’s a good idea to have some tricks available for handling those sheets and preventing those bad cuts.
Rough cut, before final cutting
Making that clean cut across the length or breath of a sheet of plywood can be difficult. Probably the worst part of it is reaching the other end, when the weight of the piece you’re cutting off breaks the remaining half inch or so. I’ve had many projects messed up by that one problem.
The solution is to rough cut the plywood a couple of inches oversize, allowing any tearing or breaking to happen in the part you aren’t using. Then, since you’re only going to be cutting off a couple of inches, the final cut will be clean and smooth, all the way to the end, without any breakage.
Let the lumberyard to cut it
Of course, you can get out of those cuts altogether, if you get the lumber yard or home improvement center to cut the plywood sheets on their panel saw. Many have one available days and will be glad to make your cuts for you. They typically give you the first cut per sheet for free and then charge you 50 cents per cut after that.
I get only the major cuts done this way; then make all the rest of my cuts in my workshop. This helps tremendously, because my table saw is a portable unit and really isn’t heavy enough to stay in place, under the friction of a whole sheet of plywood sliding across it. It works fine for ripping smaller panels accurately though, so I don’t need them to make all my cuts for me.
Using shop carts for table extensions
Most table saws don’t really have a big enough table for working with a full sheet of plywood, unless you’ve got a full-blown sliding panel saw. I don’t know anyone who has one, both because of the cost and the amount of space they take. For the rest of us, there’s not enough table to the left of the blade, to support the sheet while you’re cutting it off and there’s not enough space to support the cut piece in the outfeed, even for those saws which have an outfeed support.
The solution that many professional cabinet shops have adopted is to build their own extensions for the left side of the saw and to be used as an outfeed table. However, doing this requires a much bigger shop than the home woodworker usually has.
But there is still a solution. Rather than building a large extension for your table saw, build a couple of wheeled shop carts, with the tops the same height as your table saw table. Make sure to install a couple of locking wheels on each of them. Then the carts can be used as extensions, when you need them to, or as normal carts for other purposes when you don’t need them to extend your table saw’s table.
Put a lift on your shop cart
Loading a sheet of plywood onto your table saw or shop cart can be another challenging task. But this one can be made much easier, with just a piece of scrap plywood and a couple of hinges.
As you can see from the diagram above, the J-Hook is extremely simple, consisting of a piece of plywood, with a spacer and lip attached at the bottom end. Two door or cabinet hinges or a single piano hinge are used to attach it to the side of the cart. The mounting should be aligned so that the top of the lift will be flush with the top of the cart, when it is lifted horizontally.
The other important detail is to make the length of the lift such that the sheet of plywood ends up centered on your cart, when lifted to the upright position. A notch for your hand, in the center of the J-Hook, will make it easier to work with.
To load a piece of plywood to the horizontal, first lock the casters on the cart, so it won’t move. Then set the sheet in the it in the J-Hook, centering it. Finally, swing the J-Hook up to the horizontal, setting the sheet of plywood, centered, on the cart. Once it is set on the cart, the J-Hook can be allowed to fall back down to the side of the cart.
Clamp it for assembly
Sometime in just about any plywood project, there will be a time when you have to attach two pieces together at a right angle. Holding those two pieces together, by yourself, while drilling and screwing the pieces together is challenging enough to try the patience of a job. But you can make that job a breeze, with a simple jig and some small ratcheting bar clamps.
The jig consists of two pieces of scrap plywood, screwed together to make a right angle (90 degrees). A couple of triangles of scrap plywood are attached between them, spaced out as shown in the leftmost view in the diagram. It is critical that the 90 degree corner on these two triangular pieces be exactly 90 degrees, as they will pull the two main pieces to meet them. Check it with a good square to make sure that you’re getting exactly 90 degrees, or this jig will end up making your projects out of square.
I’ve got a few different jigs like this, in different sizes, in my workshop. They can be attached to the bench top with clamps, then have the pieces I’m working on clamped to them or on larger projects they can be clamped to two pieces that I need to clamp together. In either case, they provide an excellent way of holding the two pieces of plywood in position, while they are being joined together.