How Thick of Plywood for Shelves

How Thick of Plywood for Shelves- 5 Unique Grades

You can use endless types of wood for shelves of any kind. But plywood is one of the cheapest and most durable shelves you can pick for yourself. But, how thick of plywood for shelves should you use? Well, if you are worrying about the thickness, you are at the right place. Here we have details on all the different …

You can use endless types of wood for shelves of any kind. But plywood is one of the cheapest and most durable shelves you can pick for yourself. But, how thick of plywood for shelves should you use?

Well, if you are worrying about the thickness, you are at the right place. Here we have details on all the different grades of plywood. Also, other details of plywood are also included here, so check the details below to learn how thick plywood you should use. 

How Thick Plywood Should You Use for Shelves?

How Thick of Plywood for Shelves

The plywood thickness depends on what kind of shelf you are using. Also, what are the things you are going to put on the shelf? The standard thickness of plywood is ¼ inch, ⅜ inch, ½ inch, ⅝ inch, and ¾ inch. 

But for shelves, it’s better to use ¾ inch or thicker plywood. If you need thicker than ¾ inch of plywood, in most cases you need to special order them. Or, you can also use thinner sheets of plywood and glue them together for thicker plywood. The thicker the shelf is, the higher the load-bearing capacity is

The thickness of the plywood depends on how long the shelf is. And if you want your shelves to look right, you need to have proper span distance and shelf spacing for your shelves. 

Depending on what you are going to put on the shelves and how long it is, the thickness matters. If you are going to put heavy or fragile things such as glass framed pictures it’s better to use thicker plywood. Also, if the shelf is longer than 34 inches, it’s better to use plywood thicker than ¾ inches. But what is plywood? And how are they made? Let’s get into that. 

How are Plywoods Made?

Plywoods are nothing but wooden sheets glued together. There are multiple layers of wooden sheets which are attached with glue which also increases the shelf strength of the board. And the outside layer of the board is covered with the most attractive layer. The outer layer is also known as Veneer. 

How Thick of Plywood for Shelves

More exotic woods can be used on the outer layer to increase the aesthetics of the board. Plywood also creates less wastage. There can be a mix of weak and strong wooden sheets which can increase the durability of the weaker wooden sheets. And after gluing the sheets, plywood can be tremendously strong. 

This is why plywood is really cheap in comparison to other hardwoods. Plywood can also be stained, drilled, painted, glued, or treated like any other wood. Plywood can also be water repellent after using a water repealing coat. But there are different grades of plywood in the market. Let’s look into the difference of the grades of them. 

Different Plywood Grades

There are different types of plywood grading you can get your hands on. And the types are regarded as different grades of plywood. There are a total of 5 grades of plywood you can find in-store. Depending on the plywood grade, shelving design will vary, so it’s a really important part. Let’s get down to the details about them. 

A Grade

The “A” graded plywoods have a smooth surface. Because the surface of the plywood is sanded thoroughly. This grade of plywood is also paintable with some minimal preparation. 

Although, you can find some gaps which can be repaired really easily. But it’s not that difficult to find one which has minimal damage. Usually, the “A” grade comes in the thickest size. This grade also brings the best structural integrity.

B Grade

The “B” grade needs a bit more repair than the “A” grade. The surface of this plywood is solid but you may need to do some repair before you start using it as a shelf. There will be some splits and tight knots but chunks of wood won’t be missing. 

C Grade 

The “C” grade has some color defects and there can be splits on the surface and between the sheets. You can also find a few knot holes by 1 inch and tight knots by 1 and ½ inches. If the aesthetic of the shelf doesn’t matter to you, this plywood can be great. 

This grade of plywood is cheaper than the “A”,” and B” grades. Also, if you are going for a more rusting look, this can be the one for you. 

D Grade

In comparison to other grades of plywood, we have mentioned here, the “D” grade is the least pretty. There will be splits, knots, and knot holes up to 2 and ½ inches. 

Like the “C” grade, if aesthetic doesn’t matter to you, this is the plywood for you. 


If you are looking for shelves to use outside of the house, this is the one to get. The exterior graded plywood is made for exterior uses. These plywood are chemically treated to stand against harsh weather conditions such as rain and heat. 

If you are cutting exterior-rated plywood, it is suggested to use protection. The sawdust from this plywood can cause irritation on the skin and eyes. Use long sleeves, breathing protection such as musk, and eye-protecting goggles. 

The above mention grades are all the available grades of plywood you can find. The “A” grade is the best in durability, strength, and appearance. And the “D” grade is the least aesthetic but has the strength of an “A” graded plywood. 

Alternatives of Plywood for Shelves

If plywoods are not in your choice by now, there are other wooden boards you can use for shelves. These are similar to plywood and have similar characteristics. So, let’s get down to the details about them. 

Wood Boards

How Thick of Plywood for Shelves

Wooden boards are made from a single span of a tree. These are known for their strength and this wood also has grains that can look really cool. But one drawback of this wood is, it can twist or move over time. But this can be avoided if the board is treated right. Also, this wood can be stained and painted to your liking. 

The cost of this wooden board depends on the length and thickness. Depending on that, the price can get really high. Since the board is made of a single tree, sourcing longer and thicker boards is harder. So, you may need to pay a higher price if you want a thicker one. 


How Thick of Plywood for Shelves

The name of this wooden board stands for, oriented strand board. This wooded board is made of small pieces or chunks of wood being pressed and glued together. Although this wooden board is used for the subfloor, you can use them for shelves. 

This wood is stainable and paintable to your liking. But having a smooth surface is really difficult because the chunks or pieces of wood make the surface rough. But you can sand the surface and have some level of smoothness to it. 

OSB boards can come in many different thicknesses. And you can get this in any shape or size because of its versatility. 

Particle Board

Among all the other wooden boards we have mentioned, this has the least strength. The wooden board is made similar to OSB boards which are made from particles of wooden chips. 

Although, the surface of the board is really smooth due to the veneer. This wood is not strong under harsh weather and it will swell from water contact. If you are thinking about making shelves of them, make sure not to nail them. Nailing this wooden board can cause chipping. 


MDF stands for medium-density fiberboard. This type of wooden board is made of, small wooden fibers, and binder. Both of those are then compressed under high heat to put them together and give shape. The wood density is higher in comparison to other boards as well. 

This wooden board has a really smooth surface and can be found in many different sizes and thicknesses. But this does require a good sealer and the wood can puff up from exposure to water. But this wood can be stained and painted. 

Are Plywood Shelves Durable?

Material selection is a really important step. Plywood is really cheap and widely available. But cheap doesn’t mean the wood is not durable. Moreover, plywood can bring a lot o strength when done right. There are different types of plywood that can have different looks and durability. 

If you are planning to make shelves out of plywood, that is a really good option. Cause with the proper thickness, shelves made out o plywood are really durable. 

FAQs on How Thick of Plywood for Shelves

For Garage Shelves, How Thick Should Plywood Shelves Be?

Most garage shelves range from 24 inches. Also, garage shelves have to have the strength to hold heavy tools. So, you need to use ⅝ or ¾ inches of thick plywood.

How Thick Plywood to Use for Bookshelves?

For books, you need to have ¾ inch or 1-inch thick plywood. It is mandatory to have this thick plywood because books are particularly heavy. And moreover, if the shelf is too long, it can be drooping in the middle.

How Thick Should Plywood Be, for Floating Shelves?

Plywood for floating shelves needs to be between 44mm to 32mm. If the shelf is any thinner, it can be dangerous to have it on the wall. Also, it’s a good practice not to have anything fragile on floating shelves.

What Thickness of Plywood to Use for Kitchen Shelves?

Kitchen shelves which are made of plywood need to be between 1 inch to ½ inch thick. Kitchen appliances and pantry can be heavy for plywood. Also, heavy items cause drooping in the middle, so it’s better to use thick plywood.

For Closet Shelves How Thick the Plywood Should Be?

Closets consist of lightweight items in comparison to the garage and kitchen or books. But it’s better to use ¾ inch or ½ inch shelves for your closet.


So, that is everything you need to know about, how thick of plywood for shelves

Plywood is a great wood for any kind of shelf. But be aware of using it properly with precautions. Wooden chips can penetrate your skin with a simple poke. So, it’s better to wear gloves while working with plywood. 

Good luck hanging your plywood shelves.

Want to know more pro tips and tricks of How To Hang Shelves Without Nails? Read our different blogs here.

Share the joy

Rachel has a talent for selecting and displaying the latest trends and items in the market, and her writing about home decor and accessories is intelligent and fascinating. Her writing is usually accompanied by wonderful imagery, and she has an uncanny ability to help her readers imagine how various pieces might be combined to create a beautiful living area. She has a profound understanding of color theory and how to use accessories to improve the overall beauty of a room. Rachel's blog is a fantastic resource for anyone seeking to enhance their home's decor, as her writing is both instructive and motivating.

We are financed by readers. When you make a purchase through a link on our website, we may receive a commission. Plus, as an Amazon affiliate, we earn commissions on sales that qualify.

Leave a Comment