If you are considering improving your sub floor with either a layer of plywood or chipboard, you may well be debating which would be more effective.  In this article we hope to be able to help you make the right decision for your project by guiding you through various steps.  Here are the things we’ll look at:

ü  What is plywood?

ü  What is chipboard?

ü  Which is cheaper?

ü  Which is best?

ü  Is one better suited to engineered wood floor than the other?

ü  Is one better suited to solid wood floor than the other?

ü  Which is easier to install?

ü  How do you decide?

What is plywood?

Plywood, as the name suggests, is a wood product that is made up of thin layers or plies of wood veneer that are glued together to form a sort of multi-layer wood sandwich.  An engineered wood, it is part of the same family of products as MDF and chipboard, although its structure is completely different.

What is chipboard?

Chipboard, which is often called particle board, as we’ve already mentioned, is part of the same family of engineered wood as plywood, but is made from either wood chips, wood shavings or sometimes even sawdust that’s bound together using a synthetic resin or binder and then formed into boards.

Which is cheaper?

Not surprisingly, chipboard is a cheaper product than plywood largely because it’s a wood product that can be made effectively from what is pretty much wood waste products.  Plywood on the other hand is made from full sized sheets of very fine wood, making it a more expensive product to manufacture.

Which is best?

Plywood and chipboard are completely different; so to say which is best would be foolish.  Each has its purpose, but when it comes to a material that’s good for a sub floor, there’s no getting away from the fact that a number of the characteristics of chipboard make it a less suitable material than plywood for laying under your wood floor.

One of the biggest disadvantages of chipboard is that it has a natural tendency to draw in moisture unless it’s treated against it.  That said, it is possible to buy moisture-treated chipboard, but then of course the price increases.  Because most people fight a battle to keep their new wood floor moisture-free, it seems more logical to introduce a wood product that is less inclined to draw in moisture than one that is known for drawing up moisture.  So from this point of view, if there is any doubt in your mind about significant moisture in the room you’re flooring, it would be logical to use plywood rather than chipboard (as well as treating the cause of the problem).  So in summary, in rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms, as well as any room where dampness might be an issue, it is well worth investing slightly more and choosing plywood.

Is one better suited to engineered wood floor than the other?

For all the reasons outlined above, it is logical to conclude that plywood is most likely to be the best sub floor material for engineered wood flooring.  Because engineered wood flooring is so versatile that you can use it in kitchens and bathrooms, it would be a shame to partner it with a wood-based sub floor that risks drawing up moisture.

Is one better suited to solid wood floor than the other?

If you have chosen solid wood floor for your room, the chances are that you’re confident that there is no moisture issues to be dealt with.  As a result, you should be safe to choose chipboard in such conditions.  This will save you a bit of money, but it’s well worth weighing up the pros and cons carefully before making this decision and if there is any doubt in your mind that saving a few pounds at the start could wind up as false economy, you’re likely to be best to plump for plywood.

Which is easier to install?

Both products come in sheets and are equally easy to install.  That said, chipboard is probably more forgiving to slight errors than plywood, which has the potential to feather at the edges.

How do you decide?

If your budget is very tight, and you have no dampness issues, you should be safe to use chipboard as your sub floor material.  However, if you are in any doubt, make sure you seek advice before making your final decision.  In any cases where dampness may be an issue or could become an issue, you’d be best advised to plump for plywood.

If you’d like to discuss your choice of sub floor, why not get in touch?  We’d be delighted to help you make the very best decision for your project.