Lightweight Plywood Alternatives

By Michael Roberts
Plywood is produced in wide, flat sheets that make it a standard material in home building.

Plywood consists of thinly cut sheets of wood stacked several layers deep and glued together. The grain on each layer of the board alternates, giving the wood added strength. It was first developed for mass production and sold in the 1930s by Portland Manufacturing Company from Portland, Oregon. It became a standard for use as structural panels in building, specifically for walls and floors. Lightweight plywood is made from different low density woods in the same alternating-grain structure.

Oriented Strand Board

Oriented strand board, or OSB, is a type of board used as structural panels like plywood, but OSB is made up of small, thin chips or strands glued together. The chips are aligned with their fibers in specific directions to give the board as much strength as possible. It's this alignment that makes OSB different from wafer-board or chip-board, where the fibers are randomly aligned. Building codes recognize plywood and OSB as being structurally equivalent. OSB typically weighs more than lightweight plywood, but is a less expensive alternative.

High Density Fiberboard

High density fiberboard is also known as hardboard and is a type of engineered wood product, designed to be very dense and hard. The material is also known as hardboard. It is made from small particles of wood and pulp combined at high temperature and pressure. No glues or resin is used. Though it is much denser than lightweight plywood, it is usually sold in thinner sheets. It is often used as a stabilizing material for laminate floors. Like plywood, high density fiberboard is not normally waterproof, but can be made so by adding oil during the manufacturing of the wood.


Masonite is similar to high density fiberboard, but the fibers are formed into boards with wax and other resins. The boards can be used for walls and roofing like plywood, but it also can be used for home siding. Siding is one of its most common uses, due to the product's affordability. It also is resistant to insects like termites because it is an artificial wood, and provides more strength than wood boards. It can be purchased pre-painted or pre-stained, making for quicker installation.

Glued-Laminated Timber

Glued-laminated timber is similar to plywood in that it allows wood-makers to create large sections of wood out of smaller sized trees. The boards consist of thick pieces of wood glued together with their grains pointing in the same direction. Glued-laminated timber has many more applications than plywood. It can be bent into curves, and used as wall covering, but it also can be made thick in long beams used to support structures. Because glued-laminated timber preserves much of the woods natural beauty, it is often left uncovered.

About the Author

Michael Roberts has been writing professionally since 2010. He's written on a wide range of topics for different websites. His eHow articles cover topics in motorcycles, bicycles and other modes of alternative transportation. Michael received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Michigan in 2009.