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Luan vs. Plywood

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Plywood is a very common sheet of layers of wood products that have been joined together to form one sheet. It is created using hardwood, softwood, and sometimes a mixture of both.

The types of softwood used may include pine, fir, redwood, while ash, mahogany, and maple are examples of hardwoods used in creating plywood. It is used in construction, and interior and exterior design.

Plywood is a common component of flooring, furniture, doors, external partitions, or walls. It is popular for its versatility and structural strength.

stacks of plywood

Luan is a type of plywood made from trees of the Shorea family. It is also referred to as Lauan or Philippine mahogany. It comes in different colors ranging from dark red to pink.

Luan is hardwood plywood that is ¼ or ⅛ inches thick, which means it is one of the thinnest types of plywood.

However, due to its thinness, luan lacks structural strength when compared to plywood. This makes plywood a more versatile building material than luan.

Both products are commonly found in lumberyards and home improvement stores. Luan is used to make veneers, which when glued together, form a soft plywood product with a very smooth surface.

Uses of Luan Plywood

  1. Luan is known to be very lightweight, which makes it pliable and easy to work with. This characteristic makes it a great choice for ceilings, interior doors, wall partitions, drawer bottoms and backs, furniture backings, etc.
  2. Luan is also used as underlayment materials for different types of flooring. Large sheets of luan are not heavy and are very easy to carry and move about, easy to cut and work with. This makes it a common choice of underlayment materials.
  3. Luan is popular as the exterior material for vessels such as boats, canoes, and kayaks. It is very durable and resilient, thus, it is a great choice for exterior surfaces, as they would last longer.
  4. Luan is used to make cabinets since it is easy to work with.
  5. Luan is a popular choice for making wooden dollhouses and toys as it is easy to carve into various shapes.
  6. Luan is a common choice for veneers when remodeling your home. It can be used to remodel countertops, floorings, etc.

Can Luan Be Painted?

One of the things contractors and homeowners want to know is if they can paint their wood. If they can switch up a look after a while, or maybe they just want a different color from the one they originally found.

Yes, luan can be painted. And quite easily too!

paint tools on plywood

Tips For Painting your Luan Plywood

  • Use water or oil-based pore filler to coat your plywood and fill in any cracks or pinholes. Make a second coat after the first.
  • Add two coats of primer, with sanding in between each coat. This gives it a finished look.
  • Due to the lack of a smooth appearance on the Luan, adding water putty as an additional filler after the above steps is sometimes required.

Is Luan Plywood Toxic?

Luan itself is not toxic since it is not aromatic and does not give off any harmful fumes. However, if the glue used to hold the layers of luan together is toxic, the wood may give off harmful fumes.

In this case, applying a layer of polyurethane on the plywood, air drying it for 4-5 days, and then reapplying a layer of polyurethane will get rid of the harmful fumes.

Differences Between Luan and Plywood

Luan and plywood are similar but they are not the same. One of the most obvious differences between both of them is their thickness, where plywood is the thicker of the two.

 Luan WoodPlywood
OriginLuan originated in the Philippines, the Southeastern part of AsiaPlywood originated from the United States.
Primary Make upLuan wood is obtained from the Shorea tree.Plywood can be fabricated from many trees, both hardwoods and softwoods, such as fir, pine, maple, mahogany, redwood, spruce, etc.
Price ComparisonPrices are less as sheets are very thin and don’t require much wood.The price of plywood varies with thickness. The thickness determines the strength and durability of the wood. So, the thicker the plywood, the higher the price.
How it is MadeThe surface of luan sheets are quite wide, so the wood cannot be milled as one piece. Thin layers of wood are peeled off using a sharp blade. These strips are then taken to the factory where they are combined together using both machine technology and human help.The process of making plywood is quite complicated. A fresh log of wood is first heated and soaked for 10-40 hours to soften the wood. The softening time depends on the size and thickness of the log. When the softening process is complete, the wood is processed in the peeler and then cut into wide sheets of veneer. These veneers are then cut either manually or with a machine. The cut veneers are then glued together in many layers to get the desired plywood size and thickness. They are finally graded and stamped to give information to consumers.
Wood StrengthLuan sheets are generally very soft, easy to work with and malleable. They cannot be used to construct things that require structural strength such as desks, chairs, etc. But, they can easily be sanded and filled in cases of cracks and damages.Plywood is stronger than luan wood and its strength can be increased by increasing the number of veneer layers glued together.
 UsesDue to its soft nature, luan is mostly used for projects that require thin wood. It can be used to make the backing of dressers and chairs, dollhouses, toys, underlayment for different types of flooring, etc.The uses of plywood numerous. It is used for flooring, furniture, doors, cabinets, walls, and many other projects.
man cutting plywood on circular saw

Other Types of Plywood

We have established that luan is a type of plywood used in construction and remodeling. There are other different types of plywood that have various strengths and uses. 

  1. Hard plywood – This is plywood gotten from hardwoods such as maple, oak, walnut, birch, etc. Hard plywood has up to seven layers of wood glued together. This makes it very strong and durable. It is used for making furniture, sports equipment, musical instruments like the guitar, etc.
  2. Soft plywood – This type of plywood is gotten from softwoods like redwood, pine, cedar, etc. It is not as strong as the plywood made from hardwoods and as such, it is not advisable to use it for outdoor construction. It is also known to not be resistant to harsh weather conditions, so it is best used on non-exposed surfaces. It is used for roofing, making sheds, temporary flooring, exterior framing, etc.
  3. Marine Plywood – This plywood type is made from Douglas fir wood or western larch and varnished with an exterior glue that is water-resistant. This makes the marine plywood able to withstand moisture to a certain extent. This quality makes it a good choice for making outdoor furniture, and other outdoor projects. Marine plywood is of very high quality and is very durable.
  4. Overlaid Plywood – This type of plywood is made specifically for its aesthetic purposes. It is made up of different layers of wood like other types of plywood, but it’s top layer is made of an ornamental wood that gives it a decorative look. Their surfaces are resistant to scratches, stains, water, etc.
  5. Aircraft Plywood – This type of plywood is made up of thin veneers which are resistant to heat and moisture. This construction makes them very lightweight and flexible and suitable for constructing boats, airplanes, etc. It is known as the most durable of all plywood types.
  6. Structural Plywood – This plywood has high structural strength and is used for building and framing structures. The glue used is very strong, and it can be used for both outdoor and indoor construction. However, they are not moisture resistant and so are best used in interiors or under moisture barriers.
  7. Lumber Core Plywood – This type is made of thin veneers of hardwood which are glued together. It can easily accommodate screws, which makes it a common choice for projects that requires screws as fasteners.

Luan plywood is a common type of plywood that can be used for many projects. It is not expensive and is easy to work with.

However, if your project requires something stronger, you should consider using other types of plywood like hard plywood or structural plywood.

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