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Best Plywood For Subfloor: Ultimate Guideline for Beginners

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Plywood is an excellent material for subflooring. It’s inexpensive, easy to work with, and does a fantastic job at distributing weight evenly. 

The choice of plywood for your subfloor material is an important decision. There are a lot of factors to consider, such as cost, thickness, and durability. Plywood can also affect the moisture content in your home because plywood absorbs water over time. 

Many plywoods on the market can meet your needs depending on how much weight you need them to bear and what type of flooring they’re going under. This guide will help break down the best plywoods on the market so that you can make a more informed decision when choosing one for your project!

Plywood Slat 6"X.25"X36" , Pack of 5
  • Country of Origin : United States
  • Model Number: 5320
  • Package Weight: 5.7 pounds

What is Subflooring, and What Does it do?

What is Subflooring, and What Does it do

Subflooring, as the name implies, is what’s placed under your flooring. 

The finish (exterior) flooring is carried by a framework that is connected to your floor joists. 

Unfortunately, as a standalone product, most finished flooring materials are insufficient to support the heavy dead weight of fittings, apparatus, and other household goods, plus the weight of humans and animals. 

In addition to providing stability, your subfloor material provides a level exterior, which makes flooring installation more accessible, whether you hire a professional or do it yourself. 

In a damp environment, subflooring also serves to protect your coating floor from moisture damage and mold.

 Subfloors can be used for wiring and plumbing.

Most Common Type of Subfloor

The most common type of subfloor is the plywood subfloor. Plywood subfloor is available in many different styles and thicknesses to be used for a variety of floor surfaces. However, the best plywoods are typically those that offer high durability with heavy weight-bearing capabilities.

How to Choose the Best Plywood For Subfloor?

Most Common Type of Subfloor

The first step is to figure out what level of support you need for your flooring.

For instance, if the finished surface on top will be carpet, you’ll want to use plywood with high compression strength.

If the veneer is laminate or hardwood flooring installed on top of the plywood, you’ll want to use plywood with high shear strength.

If your flooring material will be an area rug that sits directly on top of the subfloor, then either type is acceptable for this application.

A typical wood-framed house has four layers of flooring. Subfloor material, namely plywood, is supported by the floor joists. Typically, two by eights, two by tens, two by twelves, or engineered wood are spaced 16 inches apart. 

The plywood subfloor is attached with glue and screws directly into the joists. Most often, plywood, OSB, or CDX are used. All three come in 4×8 sheets with a 5/8 inch thickness. Subfloors then receive underlayments based on the type of floor joist you are using. It is now time for the flooring to be installed. 

When choosing plywood for flooring, it is crucial to consider multiple factors, such as the type of finished flooring, the size and spacing of the joists, and the level of moisture in the air. A specialized home builder’s expertise shows that conventional plywood is the best floor covering, followed by CDX and OSB.

The next step would be determining what thickness you need- based on how heavy or dense the surface above it will be and whether there are any obstacles like electrical outlets underneath where you’re installing your new flooring.

Finally, consider the type (e.g., regular grain vs. end grain) to match your needs and preferences best possible before making a purchase decision.

Recommended Article To Read: Problems & Solutions with End Grain Hardwood Flooring

How to Choose the Best Plywood for your Project

Homeowner’s Guide to Plywood

If you’re building a new home or other structure, pick plywood that’s at least one-half inch thick.

Homeowners should look for plywood that is labeled as being “hardboard” or “OSB.” These are the types of plywoods with the most longevity.

There are many different thicknesses to choose from, ranging from  ¼ inch up to ¾ inch thick. The thinner the rail, the less likely it will be to warp and buckle.

The most common types are constructed with either untreated or surface-treated plywood, so be sure to check the label before you buy it. Untreated is less expensive but also more susceptible to moisture damage. Surface-treated boards have been coated in a material that provides water resistance and protection from mold growth on top of the wood.

The best type of plywood for subflooring is a ¾ inch thickness with a surface-treated top to ensure that it resists moisture damage and potential mold growth in your home.

Recommended Article To Read: The Ultimate Guideline To Storing Plywood

Why Should you Use Plywood Instead of Particle Board or OSB?

Use Plywood Instead of Particle Board or OSB

Particle Board

Particle Board is a lightweight type of wood with excellent insulation properties. It’s also typically cheaper and easier to work with than plywood or OSB, making it popular for underflooring that needs to span long distances without being too heavy. Particle board may be the best option if you’re trying to build an inexpensive subfloor in a commercial setting.

Some homeowners find particle board subfloors more appealing than plywood subfloors in terms of affordability. However, this type of subfloor is typically only good for a single layer of flooring.

The major downside to particle board vs plywood or particle board vs osb is that it doesn’t last as long and can become brittle over time if you don’t take care of it.

OSB  (Oriented Strand Board)

The OSB is the most common form of plywood used in residential construction. OSB consists of a wood strand (flat) bonded atop another wood strand on the opposite side. The lamination of the two strands of OSB creates a natural waterproof barrier and makes OSB more robust than plywood that has only one layer or is not laminated.

OSB also provides sound insulation and fire resistance properties because OSB contains no voids, where air can enter from outside to inside building structures when looking at it from a three-dimensional perspective.

The main argument in plywood vs OSB is less costly than plywood and provides the lightest weight option for construction crews.

The Intelligent Choice in Plywood

The Intelligent Choice in Plywood

There are many benefits to using plywood over Particle Board (PB) or OSB(Oriented Strand Board).

Plywood subfloor is more durable, thinner, and lighter than PB Subfloor. These properties of plywood subfloor make it easier to install in tight spaces like closets or under the flooring of a deck with intelligent use of floor joist or tongue and groove.

PB and OSB have an added advantage over plywood because it’s made from recycled materials. However, The problem with Particle Board or OSB (oriented strand board) is that these materials are easily damaged by moisture, making them unsuitable for use in moist environments such as bathrooms, kitchens, etc.

PB and OSB are made of several layers, while plywood is only a single layer. These properties of plywood make it less likely to split or warp because the grain runs through each piece evenly instead of being interrupted by different parts all layered on top of one another.

Particle Board or PB is cheaper than Plywood, but it’s not as strong. It cannot be used for floors because it does not have a structural strength.

Plywood is less expensive than OSB, but OSB offers better soundproofing properties, making it a better option for large projects. In addition, OSB cannot be sanded and finished like plywood, which limits its use.

A key benefit of plywood over other subflooring materials is its durability. This feature makes it better to withstand moisture damage from seepage or high humidity, meaning it has less chance of developing mold.

Types of Plywood

Types of Plywood

Sanded Plywood

Sanded plywood is the most popular type of subflooring found in residential houses and buildings. The rough exterior on one side allows it to be used for diverse purposes, such as installing flooring or wiring under laminate floors.

The other side has a smooth finish that can be painted or stained when finished with another material.

Hardwood Plywood

Hardwood plywoods are used in a variety of commercial settings, such as high-end homes or restaurants. This type of subflooring is made entirely from hardwood and has more attractive features than regular plywood.

It’s also the most expensive option for subfloors because it requires intensive labor to create this material; however, many homeowners are willing to pay the premium for its superior aesthetics.

This type of subflooring is typically more durable than other types because it doesn’t need a primer or sealer layer, which can help reduce maintenance and repair costs in the long run.

Veneered Plywood

Veneered plywood offers an upgraded version of a typical subfloor. Several layers of wood are glued together to create a sturdy and attractive-looking flooring exterior. Additionally, the veneer on top will add some texture and durability to high traffic areas like a kitchen.

Currently Unavailable

Poplar Plywood

Poplar plywood has a tighter grain than oak or mahogany and is more durable because it’s less prone to water damage. Raw wood on top of the other two types also offers sound insulation.

A Related Topic: What is the Best Method to Stain Poplar Wood?

Sheathing Plywood

Plywood sheathing is often used as an enclosure for insulation on the outside of buildings. It is thin and light, making it easier to transport and install. It can also be installed directly on concrete or other exterior surfaces, but it won’t protect them from water damage.

Roofing projects use plywood for sheathing. It’s also more durable and insect resistant than traditional plywood, so homeowners are opting for it.

Project Panel Subfloor

Project Panel Subfloor is a continuous sheet of plywood. It’s known for its durability and easy installation, even though it can be made of different types of materials.

These plywood panels feature tongue and groove edges for easy installation. Furthermore, since both sides are finished, no additional material is required before installing flooring or wiring.

In most cases, glue binds the plywood panels together, so nails and screws are unnecessary during installation. Instead, commercial settings like warehouses or large retail outlets typically use project panel subfloors.

However, high traffic areas aren’t the best places to use this subflooring.

Markerboard – Plywood

Markerboard – Plywood is a type of plywood made from white pine used in place of traditional markerboards.

Known as dry erase boards or whiteboard panels, these are used in classrooms and conference rooms for large writing surfaces without markers. It also offers more durability than regular chalkboards because it does not have a porous finish with rough edges.

Compared to traditional classroom materials like chalkboards or blackboards, this type of subflooring is less messy and significantly more affordable. It can also be customized with markers, chalk, or dry erase markers.

Grade of Plywood

Grade of Plywood

The thickness and quality of the plywood will determine the grade.

Plywoods are graded by letters, indicating their strength in pounds per square inch (PSI). The higher this number is, the stronger it’s considered to be.

There are five different grades: A-E, with “A” being the strongest.

Grades A and B are considered standard grades for the subfloor.

Grade A

Grade A is free of tiny knots and defects.

Grade B

B graded panels may have minor defects.

Grade C

These panels may have open knots, holes, and discolorations. It is used in high-traffic areas like a kitchen or where there’s a lot of furniture that may dent it.

Grade D

D graded panels may have several defects. As a result, grade D plywood is typically only found in specialty outlets because they’re not as durable but offer significant savings on cost per square foot (PSF).

Grade E

E-graded panels are on par with scrap wood and have severe defects. However, it does not have to meet any particular standards, so it tends to be cheaper than other types of wood flooring materials.

There is a different type of plywood class, which is mainly based on the softness or hardness of the wood.

The most common grades include:

Factory Seconds

This grade plywood has minor imperfections that may not be noticeable to the naked eye; however, this grade offers a discounted price because they’re sold in limited quantities and cannot be returned. This type is typically used for big projects like houses because it’s cheaper than other options.

Selects Grade

This class of plywood includes more minor knots and some edge splits that will require more maintenance over time as you fill cracks with sealant or paint them periodically. It also features fewer voids between sheets, so there should be less chance of damp getting through these boards.

Common Grade

This sort of plywood includes more knots, edge splits, and voids. It’s better to use in dry climates with less chance for condensation damage because the wood will expand and contract with changes in humidity levels.

Premium Grade

This type of plywood is made from a higher quality poplar or oak tree with a tight grain pattern, so it doesn’t suffer as much water damage over time. The raw layer on top provides good insulation properties that other types don’t offer and also features tongue and groove edges to make installment easier without screws or nails needed.

This type of board is used primarily by professionals like roofers who need something sturdy enough to withstand winds up high while still being lightweight enough not to feel heavy.


This post is about the top picks for plywood. Consider one of these great options for your next project. Choose the one that best suits your needs; they each have their strengths and weaknesses.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that each type of plywood has its weight limit. So you’ll want to make sure you choose the one with a high enough grade if your project requires it.

We have looked at the different options available for plywood. Now you know how to select a type of wood and the best plywoods for your project. Take the time to think about all of the details before deciding anything. Happy building!

That concludes our post. We hope this was helpful and informative! Let us know your thoughts on these top picks for plywood in the comment section below.

6 thoughts on “Best Plywood For Subfloor: Ultimate Guideline for Beginners”

  1. Hello,
    We are rebuilding our subfloor because of rot. We changed it 4 years ago and now finding ourselves doing it once more. Our home is above ground about 18″ however it is bricked to the chain wall with weep holes on both sides and in the back. The front does not have weep holes but we do plan to install several.
    We laid 3/4″ 4×8 treated pine plywood, then 5/8″ on top to get the matching height for the rest of the house. We put floating floor of cortex tile with a cork backing. Everywhere the tile laid has mold and rot. All along the baseboards and under the frig, dishwasher, around cabinets where the tile did not touch seems to be fine. In our utility room we put tyvek between the sheets of underlayment. The plywood is not damaged under the tile in that area only. We did not put the tyvek in any other area.
    The original subfloor was tongue and groove boards, felt paper then plywoood. There was a couple layers of glue down floor tile on top. We put underlayement and glue down linoleum which lasted 28 years before we saw any issues.
    What should we use to rebuild our subfloor? Does treated plywood hold moisture? Should we use just CDX Pine and AC on top? Is it ok to put 15# or 30# felt in between the two sheets of plywood? Is tyvek ok? Is there a sealer we should apply to the plywood or not? Your recommendations are appreciated!!

    1. I have one more question, is it ok to install glue down LTV tile with grout. What would be the best flooring to install. I have 3″ oak flooring through out the rest of house. The home is at least 65 years old. Slight cupping in one room because of my AC unit issues in the past but bedroom floors still look great! Sue

    2. Thanks for the questions:

      Question 1. What should we use to rebuild our subfloor?
      Ans: A water-repellent preservative should be applied all over the surface. And do not use it within a few days.

      Question 2. Does treated plywood hold moisture?
      Ans: Yes, it absorbs moisture pretty easily.

      Question 3. Should we use just CDX Pine and AC on top?
      Ans: Yes, you can.

      Question 4. Is it ok to put 15# or 30# felt in between the two sheets of plywood?
      Answer: 30# felt is suggested.

      Question 5. Is tyvek ok?
      Ans: Yes, it is fine. 🙂

      Question 6. Is there a sealer we should apply to the plywood or not?
      Ans: Yes, there is. And you should use it.

  2. The sanded plywood I found is not structurally rated. There is no suggested use as a subfloor. It is 5 ply compared to the structurally rated sheeting with 3 ply of the same thickness. I’m Installing vinyl flooring over the subfloor and would like to know which type of plywood to use.

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