If you plan on tackling your own home renovation project, you need to understand that there is a difference between the types of plywood, wood beams, and other such wood pieces you'll see at the lumberyard. To you, those sheets of plywood may all look alike, but the differences between them can contribute greatly to the success or failure of your project. Note a few things to remember when choosing plywood for any building or renovation project around the home so you're sure you choose the right type.

1. Number of plies

The first thing to consider when shopping for plywood is the number of plies; this refers to the number of layers that go into making each sheet. Remember that plywood is not a solid sheet of wood but is made from layers of wood and wood mixtures that are glued together. The higher the number of plies, the thicker and stronger the plywood is likely to be. A thin plywood can be acceptable for interior walls that don't bear weight but for floors, ceiling pieces, and the like, opt for the maximum number of plies. You might also note if building codes require a certain number of plies for certain surfaces and ensure you adhere to those requirements.

2. Structural versus exposed plywood

When shopping for plywood, you may note that some sheets are classified as structural and some as exposed. Structural plywood has certain strengths and a certain stiffness that makes it better for holding up the weight of a project, whereas exposed plywood refers to the glues that are used to create and hold those layers of plywood itself. Exposed plywood glues are going to hold up better under exposure to sunlight, moisture, and the like. Choose the type that is best for your particular job; structural plywood is good for a subfloor and if you're going to add drywall or another material in front of the plywood, but exposed plywood is good for walls and other surfaces that are left exposed.

3. Formaldehyde-free plywood

Formaldehyde is a chemical compound that, when exposed to in large amounts, is very dangerous to humans. However, it has often been used to create resins and glues that hold those plies of plywood together. While there is little chance of a dangerous exposure to formaldehyde just from cutting and installing plywood, you might be concerned with that exposure if your sheets were to ever be recycled or burned. To ensure you're choosing the safest option for structural plywood, opt for a formaldehyde-free variety. 

For more information on structural plywood, talk to a professional.