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Pro Lumber Yard Plywood vs Big Box

DustyGeorge's picture

You pros out there are probably already well aware of the difference between pro lumber yard products and big box products.  Maybe some of the amateurs like me are not fully aware of the difference.  This morning I bought two 4X8 sheets of 3/4 birch veneer plywood from a lumber yard here in San Antonio that caters to pro cabinet makers.  They cost $31 per sheet of B-2 (not sure what that means) grade.  This afternoon I was in Lowes and checked their prices.  They wanted $45 per sheet of "Professional" (not sure what means either) grade 3/4 birch plywood.  The B-2 grade had one nice face and one very nice face.  It had 10 plys under the veneer (I thought it was supposed to be an odd number but I counted them an odd number of times and they still came out even).  There were absolutely no voids in the plys.  Lowes "Professional" grade had 2 so-so faces, only 5 plys and beaucoup voids in the plys. 


I am convinced.  For a 33% savings and 3 times the quality I will drive across San Antonio to the pro lumber yard any time.


George


You don't stop laughing because you grow old.  You grow old because you stop laughing. - Michael Pritchard


You don't stop laughing because you grow old.  You grow old because you stop laughing. - Michael Pritchard<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Quickstep's picture

(post #113593, reply #1 of 12)

I'll bet that the plywood you got from the lumber yard was flatter too. I started buying plywood at a specialty plywood place because I was just unable to find a sheet of flat plywood at the big box stores. I like Lowe's for most things, but their plywood looks like potato chips. What a joy is is to work with a sheet of ply that's dead flat.

HowardAcheson's picture

(post #113593, reply #2 of 12)

"B2 is the appearence grade of the two face veneers. The best face is graded "B" on a scale of A-D and the back side side is graded "2" on a scale of 1-4. "B2" would be classified as a paint grade plywood but you can find many good sheets that will be suitable for clear finishes.

The best grade of construction plywood is A1 whereas sheathing plywood used for house construction is CD.

Typically, but not always, furniture grade plywood is graded both sides using A-D designations ie: AA for plywood used for cabinet doors where the inside surface is desired to be of the best quality. Most top quality furniture plywood is designated as AB.

Howie.........
Howie.........
byhammerandhand's picture

(post #113593, reply #3 of 12)

More information here: http://justwoodworking.com/charts/hardwood_plywood.php

In the past few years, I've seen some pretty pitiful plywood. Cores were out of whatever cheap stuff they could find in Asia. Lots of warp, and in some cases the core plys just fell apart.

aaronb's picture

(post #113593, reply #4 of 12)

I helped a friend build an entertainment center out of HD red oak. It was about 30% less than my cabinet grade plywood manufactured locally and sold locally. The one thing about the red oak veneer was that the color was very pale yellow. Anyone know if they harvest the red oak from other contries and possibly use other species of oak than what we are used to in the US. All of the plywood was stamped made in China. We had one sheet completely peel open when ripped in half looked like a pita bread.

YesMaam27577's picture

(post #113593, reply #5 of 12)

Anyone know if they harvest the red oak from other contries and possibly use other species of oak .........


Actually, I think that the truth might be even worse than that. I think that they are harvesting whatever they can find in countries with less regulation than we have. After they have harvested the stuff, they take a guess as to what the BigBoxconsumers might be fooled into believing it is.


Then they make plywood out of it while its intransit across the ocean, throwing the waste into the water.


Then they sell the stuff, calling it "Red Oak Plywood".


Even if it looks yellow.


 


 


 


Support our Troops. Bring them home. Now.  And pray that at least some of the buildings in the green zone have flat roofs, with a stairway.

. . I can't live proud enough to die when I'm gone, So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here. (Phil Ochs)
HowardAcheson's picture

(post #113593, reply #8 of 12)

There are probably 25 sub-species of red oak grown in the US, and the same for white oak. Some makes better looking lumber than others. The lumber, including composition materials like plywood, sold in the big boxes is intended for construction use. It is not normally furniture grade.

Howie.........

Howie.........
frenchy's picture

(post #113593, reply #6 of 12)

Dusty George,


  Have you got a shock coming to you!   It's called sawmills.. there are tens of thousands of them across the country..  big ones, small ones, and medium sized ones.. most of the medium and small sawmills sell to the general public. They sell solid wood cheaper than you can buy plywood..   


 Buy mill run grade and get nice boring knot fee wood as well as the good stuff. The stuff with all the character and interesting bits. 

JasonQ's picture

(post #113593, reply #7 of 12)

I'm in total agreement with you.  Had to buy some 3/4 red oak ply a couple weeks back for some built-ins in my new house.  Went to the actual lumberyard, and they had A2 veneer-core for (IIRC) $67 a sheet.  They also had MDF core and lumber-core.  I was very interested in the lumber core until I heard that it was ~$90 a sheet!  Still, nice to know I can get it if I want it.  


The stuff I did get was quite nice - didn't count the layers, but the veneer layer is sufficiently thick to withstand machining and sanding without flaking and tearing out all to hell. 


I can get B2 MDF core oak at Menards for about $45 a sheet, but it's nowhere near as nice.   Maybe for shop cabinets or carcases, but not for shelves. 


Jason

mudman's picture

(post #113593, reply #9 of 12)

That is interesting,


I find that Oak and Birch are cheeper at HD for the same grade. I still buy from my suppliers because, as others mentioned, HD plywood is almost never flat. Also the specialty suppliers usually have a nicer cut for the venner, instead of the broad rotary cut that the big boxes' plywood has. Most of all... I just never use Oak or Birch so I have no choice.


B2 is the norm for cabinet consturction. The letter (A through D) refers to the front and the number to the back. A1 is seldom seen and would cost double B2. A2 or A face and different species back in 1/4" or less are stocked at most large suppliers for use as overlays on end panels. C2 or C3 is not stainable because it will likely have a lot of patches and filler, but it can be great for paint grade. This grading tells you nothing about the core, and there are 5 common core constructions out there (veneer, MDF, PB, lumber, veneer/MDF, lumber/MDF). And if it is veneer core you need to know if it is solid veneer sheets, spliced sheets, or that crap that resembles OSB more than true veneer core. And how many plies. Rely on your lumber yard to direct you and be straight forward about your budget and application. They want you to be happy more than they want to sell you the $$$ stuff.


 


 


Pardon my spelling,


Mike


Make sure that your next project is beyond your skill and requires tools you don't have. You won't regret it.

Pardon my spelling,

Mike

Make sure that your next project is beyond your skill and requires tools you don't have. You won't regret it.

DustyGeorge's picture

(post #113593, reply #10 of 12)

Mike,


Thanks to you and everyone else that has posted about the A1, B2, AA grades.  I've picked up some valuable info.


George


You don't stop laughing because you grow old.  You grow old because you stop laughing. - Michael Pritchard


You don't stop laughing because you grow old.  You grow old because you stop laughing. - Michael Pritchard<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

user-4226953's picture

May i ask where you go to buy (post #113593, reply #11 of 12)

May i ask where you go to buy plywood in san antonio that is considered for pro lumber yard? Thanks.

ashleyjohn's picture

 Thank you for making me (post #113593, reply #12 of 12)

 Thank you for making me aware of the differences between pro lumber yard products and big box products.