Is plywood cheaper than wood? Cheaper wood alternatives

Plywood cheapest cost

Plywood goes for about $15-$30 for a 4×8 sheet. This makes it cheaper than natural wood. Thickness, quality and special treatment of the sheet are all factors in the price. High grade plywood, treated for moisture protection can easily fetch north of $60 for a 4×8 sheet.

If you’re a beginner woodworking just looking to get you hands on some material to start learning with, plywood is great. A single sheet of average grade plywood will give you a ton of material you can rip down on your table saw. You can even cover up the edges with bevel cut on your miter saw.

Plywood is a great way to start learning how to work with wood. I’ve certainly gone through numerous sheets in my day. You also won’t risk ruining pricy hardwood with saw bites and burns. 

Plywood sometimes gets a bad rap for being “cheap”, but it is what it is and it certainly has its uses. Before plywood was invented we used to sheath walls with shiplap. It was more expensive and performed worse for its intended use. Just because something is more affordable doesn’t make it junk!

If you’re in a house with wood framing you’re likely standing on plywood that’s below the top layer of flooring. Don’t knock the thing holding you up!

Cheaper plywood alternatives to wood

oriented strand board plywood

There are even cheaper alternatives to plywood. Once such type is OSB (oriented strand board), this is often referred to as plywood, as the concept is the same. The difference is that it is wood chips and glue pressed together rather than full thin sheets press together with regular plywood.

OSB isn’t an alternative for projects where you need a nice show edge, but for projects where the OSB will be covered up it will usually be fine. You can’t really paint OSB, you can apply paint to it, but it’s rough, bumpy and porous, the resulting paint job will look terrible. 

MDF or “medium density fibreboard” is the cheapest alternative to plywood. If you just need a sheet of something that will be covered up and is decently strong, it’s a great choice. MDF is basically just wood pulp that’s mixed with resin and pressed into sheets. 

It’s great for specific purposes. For example, I’ve built a miter box out of MDF, and many carpenters make miter saw fences out of it, as it is cheap and dense. However, one major drawback is that it doesn’t handle moisture well at all.

Lastly, there’s particle board. If you’ve ever had a cheap piece of Walmart furniture, then you know all about this material. It’s dirt cheap and not great. However, if it meets the requirements of your project then may as well use it. 

Is plywood cheaper than wood? Yes, you should use the most worthwhile materials for your projects. Consider the is plywood is a good alternative for you!

Medium density fibreboard plywood
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