Plywood is not a material which looks finished.
It is typically used as a rougher cut, and then there are finishing touches done to the plywood.
Knowing how rough the plywood can look, it may surprise you to learn how high the pricing can be.
Plywood can get quite expensive, and this often comes as a shock.
When you learn more about plywood and how it was made, the prices that are charged can sometimes feel justified.
Why Is Plywood So Expensive?
1. Lumber Prices Have Increased
To start off, it’s best to mention that lumber prices as a whole have increased.
The lumber prices have increased almost 100% over the last year.
A 100% increase in price is extremely high and something that is going to be a bit difficult to recover from.
One reason the pricing is going up so quickly is that interest rates are so low.
The lower interest rates are making it easier for people to afford to purchase a home.
Since the home prices are suddenly affordable, builders are starting to build again.
With the increase in building, the price for lumber goes up.
This is a simple supply and demand situation that we are currently experiencing.
Until the supply starts to catch up with the demand, people will continue to pay very high prices for their lumber.
This is a factor that will apply to all types of lumber, including plywood.
Until the interest rates start to increase again, you will have to understand that the lumber pricing is going to stay fairly high overall.
All of the other reasons that plywood is expensive will be in addition to the high costs that we are already paying for lumber.
Plywood is heavy.
If you are picking it up in a store, you will probably have quite a bit of maneuvering to do.
In addition, it is not all that easy to work with.
You will have to spend a bit of time trying to maneuver the plywood to get it to fit in your car.
Although purchasing the plywood in your local store is going to be convenient, you must consider how the plywood gets there.
There were likely several different rounds of shipping before it ended up in the store.
The heavier weight of plywood tends to increase the amount of time that people have to spend dealing with the material.
This increases labor and shipping costs, and therefore, the end user will have to pay.
There is not much that can be done about plywood and the price that you pay.
If you can find a way to purchase it directly from the manufacturer, you may end up saving a bit of money.
The process of making plywood is going to add to the overall cost that we pay for it.
When other cuts of wood are made, the tree is sawed into rectangular shapes.
As you know, plywood is a bit different than something that you would see come off of a tree.
With plywood, the manufacturers are going to peel off long thing layers of the trunk and then add glue to it.
The combination of the glue and the wood is then put through a press.
The press adds some heat and gets the plywood to be moldable into sheets of different sizes.
This is what ends up becoming the product we are used to seeing in the stores.
Since this process requires so many steps and some labor, the overall price that you pay for plywood starts to increase.
Any time labor is involved in the production of a product, the overall costs are higher.
If a more efficient way to produce plywood is ever developed, then the pricing would likely go down quite a bit.
However, until that is accomplished, we will be stuck with these higher prices.
One of the major reasons plywood is so expensive is that it is quite stable.
Since plywood is made through a lengthy process that helps promote its durability, the overall condition of plywood will be quite impressive.
When the layers of plywood are put together, they are done so in a perpendicular way.
This makes the plywood much better at handling changes in temperature and humidity as well.
Although you can’t let plywood get exposed to water, overall, it is one of the stronger types of lumber that you can use.
There are some marine-grade plywood products, but those are only going to be even higher in price.
As you have likely seen in years past, when there is a hurricane, many people will purchase plywood to board up their windows.
This is done because of the strength of plywood, its stability, and its durability.
5. Availability of Fiber
We mentioned that the pricing of plywood is going to fluctuate based on market conditions.
It is also going to fluctuate on the amount of wood coming from the forests.
There is only so much of the wood available as it is a natural resource.
There are times when these natural resources are not as abundant.
Since trees take so many years to grow, sometimes there are issues from twenty or thirty years ago that caused slow growth in trees.
This can create a gap in the market that will end up increasing the price that you pay for the plywood.
The availability of fiber will continue to be an issue until there is an alternative to plywood that does not require natural resources.
If there is a log supply issue in one of the states on the west coast where a lot of lumber comes from, the cost of plywood goes up.
You may notice that some of the recent forest fires have caused the prices of lumber to increase quite a bit.
Plywood also has glue mixed in with it.
The glue is easier to come by, but there are regulations regarding this glue that must be considered.
The glue has to be safe for humans to be near, but at the same time, it must work to keep the plywood from falling apart.
As you can imagine, the availability of the raw materials used to create plywood is going to increase the cost of the product.
6. Natural Disasters
There are two ways in which natural disasters can increase the price that people must pay for plywood.
Let’s first look at the times when there is a hurricane.
Prior to a hurricane, plywood is bought quickly to try and board up windows and doors and keep the winds and the rains out.
Plywood is not nearly as effective as hurricane-proof windows and doors, but it does a pretty good job.
In a Category 1 or 2 hurricane, plywood may be all that is necessary to keep the home from turning into a disaster.
However, in Categories 3, 4, and 5 hurricanes, there is usually a need for plywood after the fact.
When people’s homes have been destroyed, and they are left with large holes to fill, they will need plywood immediately.
Plywood manufactures have to increase their supply and try and provide as much of the desired product as possible to these hard-hit areas.
In some places, it can take six months or more before the rebuilding can begin.
This is because of the need being so great throughout the area.
With plywood manufacturers having to focus on the areas of greatest need, the supply for the rest of the country will decrease significantly.
Another way that natural disasters can impact the supply and pricing of plywood is in the case of fires.
The fires that burn these trees to the ground are going to end up decreasing the supply of plywood available.
The fewer natural disasters that we have, the lower the pricing of the plywood will be.
When you see a large increase in the pricing, you have to think a bit outside the box as to what could be causing it.
7. Construction Levels
Construction levels in the United States fluctuate quite often.
They go up and down depending on the mortgage rates and how much people have to invest in construction on their homes.
With the economy doing well and people having extra money to spend, the construction levels will remain high.
If you are looking to do some work on your home or purchase some sheets of plywood to use as hurricane shutters, it is best to choose a time when construction levels are lower.
During these times, there will be an abundance of product because the contractors will not be busy doing work on people’s homes.
It can be hard to judge when these things will happen, but the market will not change overnight.
It usually takes several months for things to work themselves out after a large economic impact in the market.
Keep an eye on these levels if you are planning on purchasing a bunch of plywood anytime soon.
If you have friends or relatives who are in the building industry, they should be able to give you a better idea as to whether the market is booming or it is on a downturn.
For those who are smart about construction-related products, it may also pay to invest in some lumber and building companies when the economy is not all that strong.
When it comes back, chances are the companies will be doing quite a bit more business.
This will be a good wave to ride.
Unfortunately, for now, the prices of plywood remain high, with really no end in sight at the moment.
If you are planning a big project, you may want to give it a few months and see what happens with the construction levels.
8. Price vs. Size
Although we agree that the price of plywood is high, there are some people who say the price is very fair.
This is because of the size of the wood.
Although you are purchasing plywood in a large sheet, if you were to buy enough wood to cover a similar opening that plywood does, you would probably spend a considerable amount more.
The cheapest way to get plywood is to purchase it in large sheets.
When you do this, the pricing is fair, and you can cut the plywood to whatever size you would like and use it where you need to use it.
If you only need a small piece of plywood, you tend to have to pay a premium for it.
This is because there is more labor involved in cutting these smaller sheets of plywood.
The fact that they needed to be trimmed and cut to size again after being created will make them more expensive.
As expensive as plywood is, you should consider that it is large and can cover an extensive area for a very fair price.
How to Save Money on Plywood
We have established eight solid reasons why plywood is so expensive.
Although this is good to know, it won’t work to save you any money.
There are a few ways you can save a bit of money on plywood, and the first is to look for used plywood.
As we mentioned in the case of a natural disaster, a lot of plywood is brought in to help board up the homes.
This is extremely helpful in the area at the time, but it is not necessarily a long-term need.
When people have their houses rebuilt, they will have many sheets of plywood that they no longer need.
If you pay close attention, you may be able to purchase some of these at a reduced price.
Check for listings on Craigslist or Facebook to pick up the plywood deals in your area.
As long as the wood has not been exposed to water and started to warp, it should be completely fine to use it again on another project.
You will be able to tell the condition of the plywood and whether or not it is a good idea to use it on your project.
Another way to save money on plywood is to wait for a bit of a downturn in the construction industry.
If things are slower and homes are not being built, there will be plenty of plywood to choose from.
This, in turn, is going to help keep the prices down and make this purchase a bit more affordable for you.
Overall, plywood is not something that goes on sale, so you will have to look for the used product to save money.
As you can see, there are some good reasons for plywood being so expensive.
These reasons are going to fluctuate from time to time, but there is no questioning the fact that plywood is priced quite high at the moment.
With the stability and durability of the plywood, you will likely have anything you buy for quite some time.
If you do decide to invest even when prices are high, you will likely be glad that you did.
If you just need a single sheet of plywood, don’t wait for any economic downturns to happen.
The only time you may decide that waiting makes more sense is when you are trying to build a house or purchase a complete set of hurricane shutters.