Choosing the Right Formwork Plywood: A Guide to Durability and Cost-Effectiveness

Right plywood makes the difference between a sturdy structure, on the one hand, and a tight budget. In other words, the right formwork plywood makes the difference between a sturdy structure on the one hand and a tight budget on the other. We’re talking about formwork plywood here, also known as shuttering plywood. 


This is a hardwearing non-structural temporary mould or box made of timber, which engineers and builders use as a mould/ framework while pouring concrete. This article guides you through the most important points to help you make a better choice.

Understanding Formwork Plywood


Formwork plywood (frequently referred to as shuttering plywood) has to be designed to withstand the pressure and weight of wet concrete in a concrete formwork application. It is only used in concrete formwork applications.

Durability Factors

Type of Overlay


The overlay is a layer attached to the plywood surface, and it provides a layer of protection as well as a finished look. Examples include High-Density Overlay (HDO) and Medium-Density Overlay (MDO), which are often found in athletic flooring because they have a smooth surface that is then sanded to a particular grit underneath the playing surface. 


These overlays can help reduce chemicals and moisture damage and provide a layer of protection against wear. Other overlays include laminated plastic, epoxy resin, metal and fibreglass, all of which can add stiffness and strength to the overall construction.

Core Material


The different materials used in the core of plywood influence the ultimate quality and durability of this material. The best and the most stable plywood is the one with a veneer core, which is composed of thin layers of wood. It is widely used in areas with high standards of quality (e.g., cabinetry and construction). 


Particleboard and Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF) cores are cheap and have a smooth surface. To reduce the price, plywood might be made with film-faced cores from poplar or eucalyptus. There are different degrees of strength and water resistance for such compositions.

Edge Sealing


Edge sealing on plywood edges can be necessary because plywood edges are less waterproof than faces. Sealants like polyurethane, epoxy and marine-grade varnish work as water barriers. Edge banding can also enhance moisture resistance. 

Cost Effectiveness



Plywood formwork has a very limited life. Its material degrades over time, especially after contact with fresh concrete. It can be reused several times but cannot be recycled due to the adhesives used for its production. Plastic and metal formworks have longer lifetimes and can be recycled.

Initial Cost vs. Lifespan:


At first, the cost of plywood construction may be high, but the reusability makes it economical over time. You can use it several times if it is in good condition.



Appropriate maintenance includes cleaning, repairing, and applying release agents to prolong their lifespan. Plywood should also be treated with care when handling and stored in a safe location to prevent damage.

Selecting the Right Plywood

Assess the Project Requirements


This should be highlighted because of the project demands, particularly the load-bearing capacity, environmental effects, and finish of the concrete. Plywood should be selected based on these requirements to ensure successful results.

Choose the Right Grade


Plywood grades range from A through D and indicate both surface quality and looks (A is the smoothest, free from all knots and other defects, etc., while lower grades may include such knots and defects). The right grade should be selected to meet the aesthetic and structural needs of the project.

Consider the Finish


The concrete finish will be affected by the look of the plywood. For a clean finish, phenolic plywood and film-faced plywood are recommended as they have a smooth surface.

Selecting the Right Plywood

Assess the Project Requirements


Consider the size, shape, and complexity of the concrete structure.

Choose the Right Grade


Ensure the plywood meets the necessary strength and quality standards.

The Finish


‘Not very hard work at all.’ The finished texture is given by the plywood.

Maintenance and Care


  • Proper Storage – Store plywood in a dry, level area to prevent warping and damage.


  • Cleaning – Use appropriate cleaning agents to remove concrete residue without damaging the plywood.


  • Inspection – Regularly inspect for signs of wear and damage that could affect performance.


This guide illustrates the factors to consider when choosing formwork plywood. As you’d realised, the correct answer not only determines the successful completion of the current project, but also the possibility of its future reuse to maximise cost efficiency.



It is a balancing act to decide on suitable formwork plywood between two good choices. Dimension, colour? So here are several factors, in order to keep in mind that will help you choose between comparable good performers of formwork plywood, conditions that will ensure building safety and quality, and also beneficial for your budget.

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