Plywood Tips & Tricks
Plywood typically comes in standard 4 x 8 panels. However, for ease of handling, transportation and storage, as well as less wasted material after smaller projects are completed, plywood can also be purchased in smaller Project Panel sizes such as 4x4, 2x4 and 2x2.
In addition, plywood comes in a variety of thicknesses. The noted nominal thickness may not be the exactactual dimension – as is common with dimensional lumber too – but it will be very close, and certainly close enough to help you ensure you’re choosing the right thickness for the requirements of your project. However, “eyeballing” the thickness you’re looking for is the quickest and surest way to make your first mistake.
As they say, measure twice, cut once.
Understanding Plywood Grades
Veneer Grades: The best way to think of veneer grades is as school grades A though D, with A being the prettiest and D having the least favorable appearance.
A Grade – Sanded, smooth, paintable surface without knots. Any defects small enough to be neatly repaired by the manufacturer using a synthetic filler are acceptable. This product is ideal for furniture, cabinet doors or any projects where beauty is of the utmost importance.
B Grade – Sanded, smooth, paintable surface. Veneers may have only a few small knots or the slightest discolorations.
C Grade – Unsanded, and it may have several minor defects that would need to be repaired it a more desirable appearance is important. Knotholes may be up to 1 ½ inches across.
D Grade – Unsanded and potentially discolored with defects that have not have been repaired and knotholes up to 2 ½ inches across. This grade is often used for structural purposes or as sheathing that will be covered with another product like flooring, siding, roofing materials, etc.
Don’t own a saw? Ask a sales associate at your local hardware store if they offer complementary cutting. Some stores do and they will cut as many pieces as you’d like to any dimensions you need. Feel free to bring your project instructions along so you’re ready to taken advantage of this service when and where it’s offered. The professionals are there to help!
Getting a Clean Edge
All the cuts you need to make on plywood can be made with a circular saw. A miter saw and table saw work too – and can save time on large jobs – but the circular saw is your Swiss army knife of saws. Whichever saw you choose, however, make sure you’re using one with sharp carbide teeth. A high count of sharp teeth will make sure your cuts are clean, while dull blades are more likely to chew up the edges of your panels. As a rule of thumb then, remember, the more teeth, the cleaner the cut.
Two terms that describe cuts:
Rip-cut: A cut going with the grain of the wood. Rip cuts are always less likely to splinter.
Crosscut: A cut that is made across/perpendicular to the grain. This is where you’ll encounter problems with splintering, chipping and other symptoms if your saw blade doesn’t have enough sharp teeth.
For the cleanest possible cuts every time, use masking or painter’s tape. After measuring your cut line, place a piece of tape over the line. Measure and mark your line again on top of your tape. The tape will prevent the wood from splintering and chipping, so when a clean cut is important, always use tape.
NOTE: When using a CIRCULAR saw, remember, the blade cuts UPWARD, so you’ll want your preferred plywood face to face DOWN in order to minimize defects. Conversely, TABLE saws cut DOWNWARD, so you’ll want your preferred plywood face to face UP in order to minimize defects.
We recommend pre-drilling whenever it’s necessary to screw into the side edge of plywood. Drilling screws directly into plywood without predrilling first can cause plies to separate.
When drilling through plywood, if you do not predrill, the backside is likely to splinter. Always drill from the front face to make sure the visually important side of your project is as clean as possible.
If you’re looking to have both sides splinter-free, try using tape on the backside. In the same way that tape helps during sawing, tape will help keep your wood from splintering when drilling. Don’t have tape? Clamp another piece of wood to the backside and drill down into it to achieve the same desired results.
When sanding plywood, you’ll want the proper tools for the job on hand. These may include an orbital sander, sanding block or sandpaper in a variety of different grits, as well as rags for cleaning the sawdust away afterwards. When looking for a smooth finish, start with a low-grade sandpaper (80 grit) and work your way up to higher and finer grits (180-220 grit). The lower the grade the grittier the sandpaper, so grittier sandpaper will do a better job of removing larger imperfections. As you progress to finer grits, the wood will become smoother and more uniform. The finest grit available will sand away even the smallest imperfections until you have that smooth finish you’re looking for.
Edge banding: Edge banding is an iron-on strip that covers the plies at the edges of the plywood. It’s commonly used on plywood furniture projects or anything you wish to look flawless.
Wood edging: Simply gluing, nailing or using a pocket hole jig or biscuit cutter to attach real wood to the edges of a plywood panel can instantly give any piece a high-end look.
Spackle or joint compound: Use spackle or joint compound to fill in any gaps along plywood edges. Allow to dry, sand smooth, then prime and paint or stain.
Paintable Plastic Lattice Tips
Dimensions™ Paintable Plastic Lattice (Tips pdf: English/French/Spanish) has been formulated to allow exterior paints for plastic to adhere. However, we do not recommend applying paint to standard Dimensions Plastic Lattice. Most paints will not adhere to standard lattice and will quickly start to peel.
Materials Needed: Dimensions Paintable Plastic Lattice, aerosol primer for plastic*, and aerosol paint for plastic.
- Clean the surface of the lattice with a solution of warm water and dish soap. Rinse and allow to dry.
- Apply two thin coats of primer for plastic over the entire surface, as instructed on the can. Allow to dry thoroughly between coats.
- Once the second coat of primer is dry, apply two thin coats of aerosol for plastic paint over the entire surface, per product directions. Allow to dry between coats as directed.
* Paint for plastic can be used without primer per product instructions. This information is given in good faith, without warranty, and for guidance purposes only since the nature and quality of the paint or primer purchased by the consumer is out of UFP's control. Under no circumstances should these instructions be followed if they are contrary to the instructions or advice given by the primer or paint manufacturer.
Wood Lattice Installation Tips
Best Practices and How-Tos for Wood Lattice Installation — pdf: English/Spanish
Plastic Lattice Installation Tips
Dimensions Plastic Lattice is easy to install with conventional tools. Matching dividers and caps simplify installation and provide great-looking results.
1. Lattice must be attached to a self-supporting structure or frame. Suspend lattice from the top row of fasteners.
2. Along the top, predrill oversized holes every two feet through both the moulding and the lattice and fasten with screws. Do not over-tighten screws.
3. Along the sides and bottom, predrill oversized holes every two feet through the moulding only and fasten with screws. Do not over-tighten screws. Use rust-resistant screws for best long-term results.
4. For a finished, professional look, connect panels with Dimensions Plastic Lattice dividers and frame with caps. Always allow 1/4" gap between the lattice edge and moulding to permit expansion and contraction with temperature changes.
CAUTION: Do not install lattice in a horizontal application. Without proper support, lattice may sag, ripple and retain heat.