Birch plywood has many faces
Birch plywood is graded by its color, just like birch lumber.
The highest grade is white, followed by uniform
light and natural. Lower paint and shop grades cost
less.Hardwood lumberyards usually stock most grades.
The faces of white birch ply (here white refers to
color, rather than species) are made of top-grade (zero
defects), color-matched sapwood veneers. This architectural-
quality plywood has a handsome appearance,
but it’s expensive; around $75 per sheet.
Uniform light and natural birch ply have top-grade
veneer faces, in terms of natural defects, but they’re not
pristinely white in color. In the past, these grades were
distinctly different. Today, they’re virtually identical in
appearance (they’re both light colored) and in price;
about ten percent less than white ply. Paint and shop
grades of birch plywood are worth looking at if you
want to save money. They cost about $50 per sheet.
Paint-grade birch ply has face veneers that vary in color
and pattern match. Shop-grade sheets have some kind
of damage or manufacturing defect, but must be 85
It’s smart to shop for birch
plywood at a home center.They
typically stock a mid-level grade,
similar to the paint grade at the
hardwood lumberyard, but at
home center prices. This plywood
will vary widely in appearance
from sheet to sheet, and
will contain minor natural
defects, varying amounts of
heartwood and slightly less uniform
core material, but you’ll
save up to 50 percent, compared
to the top white grades at the
hardwood lumberyard. You’ll
also be able to look through the
stack for the best-looking sheets.
Take a friend along to help you
look, be careful, and leave the
stack neat for the next customer.
Top grades of birch
plywood are white and
best choice if you want
a clean, pristine look.
Middle-grade birch plywood sold at home centers offers lots of creative possibilities.The
veneers may show attractive figure patterns, occasional spectacular curly figure, rich colors,
and any combination of sap- and heartwood, including all of one or the other. Staining will
minimize contrasting colors, but the only way to make these sheets white is to paint them!