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bamboo plywood

Bamboo Plywood: A Comprehensive Guide

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
Dec 3, 2018

One of the most abundant and widely used materials in home construction today is also one of the most problematic, compromising indoor air quality and negatively affecting the environment. Even a tiny home of around 1,200 square feet can expect to use upwards of 70 sheets of plywood for the interior wall sheathing and 80 sheets for exterior and roof sheathing.

What if it were possible to make plywood from grass instead of felling millions of trees across the world? Below, we look at the possibilities of bamboo plywood as a sustainable option for home construction.

Problems with Plywood

Since plywood is made from thin layers or "plies" of wood glued together, it drastically reduces the amount of wood needed for the walls of a house. However, there is also an enormous amount of waste produced in plywood production as only 50 to 75 percent of the usable wood volume is successfully turned into plywood. This is a significant contributor to deforestation around the world.

Because of its moisture resistance, most plywood is glued together with phenol-formaldehyde. Formaldehyde in the home is a serious problem as this standard adhesive has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. There is an increasing awareness of the pitfalls of using formaldehyde. Some producers are starting to offer formaldehyde-free options (but this can sometimes come at a premium based on availability).

Plywood is often made from old-growth hardwoods, such as oak and maple. While this can make for an attractive and sturdy veneer option, these hardwoods usually take upwards of a century to grow to harvestable size.

bamboo plywood from Plyboo
Photo Credit: Plyboo

How Long Does It Take For Bamboo To Grow?

Bamboo is a type of grass and not a tree. In many cases, bamboo can grow to a harvestable size in as little as one to three years. When it takes a Douglas Fir tree (commonly used in plywood production) to grow to harvestable size, several bamboo species could have yielded between 25 and 40 harvests. For hardwoods, you can expect at least 60 harvests of bamboo by the time one tree grew to the proper size.

Is Bamboo Plywood Sustainable?

Bamboo acts as a valuable carbon sink for excess carbon dioxide in the air. Because of its fast growth nature, it can sequester large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in a relatively short amount of time. Unlike many forestry trees, bamboo can grow well in less than optimum soils, degraded and abandoned land. It is possible to grow bamboo successfully in coastal areas, roadsides, canal banks, railway lines, and other areas with marginal soils.

Is Bamboo Plywood Harder Than Maple or Oak?

Bamboo is 30% harder than oak and 17% harder than maple, two of the most commonly used hardwoods for plywood used in house construction.

Where Can You Use Bamboo Plywood?

Bamboo plywood is a non-timber forest product and can be used in place of regular plywood. Bamboo plywood can be manufactured to follow either horizontal or vertical grain making for a beautiful plywood interior. It can be used for interior walls, countertops, cabinetry, or furniture.

Does Bamboo Plywood Need To Be Treated?

It is naturally resistant to molds and termites, thus removing the need to treat the wood with pesticides and other heavy chemicals. Most lumber used in house construction has been treated with chromate copper arsenate. The natural resistance of bamboo can help homeowners avoid pressure-treated lumber sources.

What Color Is Bamboo Plywood?

Natural bamboo plywood is light in color. However, it is possible to apply a non-toxic steam treatment to allow the natural sugars in the bamboo to "carbonize" and create darker, almost amber color tones.

Are There Downsides To Using Bamboo Plywood?

The only real pitfall to bamboo is its availability. Bamboo can grow almost anywhere on Earth; most of the bamboo stock is found in Asia. So if you are based in North America, know that it has to travel a great distance to get here, adding to the overall footprint/impact of the product. Be sure to ask or check with the manufacturer or supplier you're using where their bamboo products are sourced.

Bamboo products are similar to wood products. A suitable identifier for a trusted manufacturer is FSC certification - ensuring that the bamboo used came from sustainably managed forests.

Companies Offering Bamboo Plywood

As bamboo grows in popularity as a sustainable construction alternative, the number of bamboo plywood companies, panels, and flooring products continues to grow. Below, we look at three of the leading companies in the bamboo market.


Plyboo has perhaps the most diverse and varied collection of bamboo products for the North American market. They offer bamboo ceiling systems, wall systems, plywood and veneer, flooring and trim molding, underlayment systems, and even dimensional plywood lumber. The majority of the bamboo products they offer are completely free of formaldehyde. They also provide possible LEED credits for rapidly renewable materials, certified wood, and low emitting materials. 

While Plyboo has a wide array of bamboo products to choose from, their Neapolitan Strand bamboo flooring is undoubtedly unique. It is three times as hard as traditional red oak flooring. Zebra-like streaks that run through the flooring panels offer an aesthetic touch that is hard to replicate. Depending on the building or remodeling project you are considering, you can request a quote from PlyBoo here.  

Pacific Western Wood Products

Pacific Western Wood Products specializes in a wide range of bamboo products, including bamboo plywood, which is Pacific Western Wood Products. This company offers bamboo panels, bamboo sheets, and regular-sized bamboo plywood in both vertical and horizontal grains. All of their bamboo products qualify for LEED credits MR 6 and EQ 4.

Pacific Western also offers bamboo decking that combines durability and ecological sustainability. Their bamboo decking is treated with natural borate and hydrogen peroxide to help protect against water damage, pests, and mildew. It is one of the only decking alternatives that can claim to be waterproof, fireproof, sun-proof, and rotproof.

Northwest Bamboo

Northwest Bamboo is another company that offers high-quality bamboo plywood. This Portland, Oregon-based company manufactures and distributes dimensional bamboo lumber, plywood panels, veneer and countertops, and more.

Their 4x8 plywood panels come in different types of layering, including single-ply, cross-laminated, micro-laminated, that come in a wide range of thickness options.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-06-19T19:34:07+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.