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Can You Use Plywood for a Deck?

Man fixing plywood in the deck

When considering building a deck, you may wonder if plywood is a suitable material for your project. It’s important to investigate the pros and cons of using plywood for decking in order to make an informed decision. In this article, we’ll discuss whether plywood is a viable option and share key factors to consider.

Plywood is a popular choice for many construction projects due to its strength, versatility, and affordability. However, when it comes to decking, there are specific requirements that must be met in order to ensure a long-lasting, safe, and functional outdoor space. Factors such as exposure to the elements and weight-bearing capacity should be taken into account before using plywood as a decking material.

Various types of plywood are available, each with its unique properties and applications. In the case of decking, you’ll need to explore options that are specifically designed for outdoor use and can withstand the challenges of weather, moisture, and rot. By choosing the appropriate type of plywood and with proper installation and maintenance, you may be able to use this material for your deck.

Pros and Cons of Using Plywood for Decking

Man fixing plywood in the deck


When considering plywood for decking, there are several advantages that you may appreciate:

  • Affordability: Plywood is relatively inexpensive compared to other decking materials. This enables you to save money on your initial investment.
  • Ease of Installation: Plywood is generally easy to work with, meaning that you can install it yourself if you have some carpentry experience.
  • Customizable: Plywood can be easily cut into any shape, allowing you to design your deck according to your unique preferences.


While plywood offers some benefits for decking, it also has several drawbacks that you should be aware of:

  • Durability: Plywood is more susceptible to rot, moisture damage, and warping compared to other decking materials. This means that your plywood deck may require more frequent maintenance and replacement.
  • Aesthetics: Many homeowners find the appearance of plywood to be less desirable than other decking materials, such as natural wood or composite decking.
  • Weather Resistance: Plywood is not as resistant to the elements, particularly moisture, as other decking materials. This may result in premature damage and wear.

In summary, plywood can be an affordable and customizable option for your deck but comes with some significant disadvantages regarding durability, aesthetics, and weather resistance.

Should You Use Plywood for a Deck?

Man fixing plywood in the deck

Plywood can be used for a deck, but there are important considerations to keep in mind. It’s crucial to understand the advantages and disadvantages of using plywood for a deck before making your decision.

First, consider the cost. Plywood is less expensive than traditional lumber options like cedar, redwood, or pressure-treated wood. This makes it an attractive choice if you’re on a tight budget. Additionally, plywood is versatile and comes in various thicknesses and sizes, which can make the construction process easier.

However, plywood has some downsides that make it less suitable for deck construction. One primary issue is its susceptibility to water damage. Even treated plywood can warp, delaminate, or rot with prolonged exposure to moisture. To mitigate this risk, ensure you apply a water-resistant sealant to protect the surface.

Durability is another concern when using plywood for a deck. Due to its structural makeup, plywood is not as strong as traditional lumber options, making it more prone to damage from foot traffic, heavy furniture, or severe weather conditions. Reinforcing your deck with additional supports or joists may be necessary to increase its overall durability.

Here are some factors to consider before choosing plywood for your deck:

  • Cost: Is plywood a more budget-friendly option for your project?
  • Durability: Are you willing to invest in additional reinforcement to ensure long-lasting durability?
  • Weather resistance: Do you live in an area with heavy rainfall or snow, which may cause water damage?
  • Maintenance: Are you prepared to regularly apply sealants or paint to protect the plywood surface?

In summary, plywood might be a suitable choice for a deck if you’re on a budget and prepared to invest time in maintenance and reinforcement. However, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.

Best Practices for Installing a Plywood Deck

Man fixing plywood in the deck

Preparing the Surface

Before starting your plywood deck installation, ensure that the surface is properly prepared. Clean the area where you plan to install the deck and remove any debris, such as rocks, branches, and dirt. Level the ground to ensure an even surface that can support the weight of the plywood and any additional load. If the surface is uneven or damaged, consider using a suitable material, such as crushed stone or sand, to fill in any gaps or depressions.


Waterproofing your plywood deck is vital to ensure its longevity. To waterproof your plywood, choose a high-quality exterior-grade plywood that’s designed to resist moisture. Take a look at the plywood’s label or consult with the manufacturer to understand the layers and adhesive used, as it significantly impacts the plywood’s resistance to moisture.

Additionally, you can apply a waterproofing membrane or coating to the plywood surface to further enhance its resistance to moisture. Some popular choices include:

  • Liquid rubber coatings
  • Elastomeric paints
  • Vinyl sheeting

Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer when applying the waterproofing product, and allow it to cure as specified before moving on to the next step.


Sealing your plywood deck prevents moisture from penetrating the seams and edges. Use a high-quality sealant that’s specifically designed for plywood decking applications. You can typically find these products in the form of:

  • Exterior caulk
  • Decking tape

When sealing the plywood seams, make sure to apply a generous amount of sealant, focusing on areas where the plywood sheets meet. Smooth out the sealant, ensuring it fills in any gaps or crevices.

For the edges of the plywood, consider using decking tape, which forms a barrier against moisture and prevents water ingress. Remember to cover all exposed edges, corners, and joints.

By following these best practices, your plywood deck will be more resilient, weather-resistant, and able to stand the test of time.

Common Plywood Deck Problems and Solutions

Man fixing plywood in the deck

Warping and Delamination

Warping occurs when plywood absorbs moisture, causing it to expand and contract unevenly. This leads to a distorted shape, making your deck unstable and unsafe. To prevent warping, ensure proper installation of your plywood deck with adequate spacing and ventilation. If you notice warping, it is best to replace the affected boards as soon as possible.

Delamination is the separation of the plywood layers, typically caused by water penetration. To avoid delamination, invest in high-quality plywood with strong adhesives and treat the edges to prevent water ingress. If delamination occurs, remove the damaged pieces and replace them with new, treated plywood.

Rot and Decay

Rot and decay are common issues affecting plywood decks, especially in areas with high humidity or constant exposure to water. To prevent rot and decay, use pressure-treated plywood for your deck, and apply a water-resistant coating to the surface. Regularly inspect your deck for signs of deterioration, such as soft spots and discoloration, and address them promptly to avoid further damage.

Here are some practical steps to keep your plywood deck in good condition:

  1. Ensure proper installation and ventilation.
  2. Invest in high-quality, pressure-treated plywood.
  3. Apply a water-resistant coating to the surface.
  4. Regularly inspect and maintain your deck.
  5. Replace damaged or decayed boards promptly.

Alternative Decking Materials

Man fixing plywood in the deck

Composite Decking

If you’re considering plywood for your deck, it’s worth considering alternative decking materials. One option is composite decking, which is made from a blend of wood fibers and plastic. This type of decking is durable, low-maintenance, and resistant to rot, insects, and warping. It’s available in various colors, so you can choose a style that complements your home. While it may be more expensive than plywood initially, composite decking can save you money over time as it requires less maintenance.

Copyright article owner is for this article. This post was first published on May 23, 2023.

Pressure-Treated Wood

Another alternative to plywood for your deck is pressure-treated wood. This material undergoes a treatment process that forces chemical preservatives deep into the wood fibers, making it resistant to decay and insect damage. Pressure-treated wood is an affordable option and widely available, making it a popular choice for decking.

Some things to keep in mind about pressure-treated wood:

  • It may require more maintenance, such as periodic sealing, compared to composite decking.
  • The chemicals used in the treatment process, while safe for homes, may not be suitable for environmentally sensitive areas.

Cedar and Redwood

For a more natural wood option, consider cedar or redwood. Both of these wood species have a beautiful appearance and contain natural oils that make them resistant to decay, insects, and moisture. When cared for properly, cedar and redwood decks can last for many years.

Some considerations for using cedar and redwood:

  • These woods can be more expensive than plywood, but less costly than composite decking.
  • Cedar and redwood decks will require regular maintenance, such as sealing or staining, to keep them looking their best and to prevent damage from the elements.

By exploring these alternatives to plywood, you can find a decking material that best fits your needs, budget, and desired appearance.


Man fixing plywood in the deck

In summary, plywood can be used for a deck, but it is essential to consider a few key factors. First, ensure that you choose the right type of plywood, such as marine grade, to withstand outdoor conditions. Additionally, proper treatment and weatherproofing will extend the life of your plywood deck.

To maintain your deck’s longevity, carry out regular inspections for signs of wear or damage. If necessary, repair or replace the affected areas promptly. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy a sturdy, high-quality deck for many years to come.

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ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on May 23, 2023.

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