½ or ¾ Plywood for Shelves (which One to Pick)

Plywood is very much popular for various purposes. From bookshelves to small wall shelves plywood is a good option. 

Plywood has many types and sizes also. When it is a matter of making shelves, we need to choose the perfect size. As plywood comes in various sizes but ½ and ¾ are more common.

So, it is fair enough to get confused between ½ and ¾-inch plywood for making shelves.

So, the question is ½ or ¾ plywood for shelves, which one is the best?

The size of plywood actually depends on the types and sizes of the shelves. Like ¾-inch plywood actually better for making medium to bigger size shelves. But, for making anything small ½ inch is fine. But for strong shelves, ¾ inch is the perfect one. ½ inch plywood can take a lot of weight.

Now move to the details of ½ and ¾-inch plywood to choose the best one.

½ or ¾ Plywood for Shelves: Quick Comparison

Plywood is a combination of mahogany, maple, redwood, pine, and some others. And the board or sheet of plywood results very well when it is a matter of making shelves. 

We know plywood comes in various sizes. But, with sizes, there are a variety of types too.  So, what thickness of plywood for shelves? All the sizes are not perfect for making shelves. For shelves ½” and ¾” are common and better. But there are many more to know before choosing between them.

Like ½” and ¾” doesn’t define the actual thickness. These are the nominal thickness. We must know their actual thickness, used ply number, and also price.

Another important fact is the weight capacity of the plywood. ½” and ¾ ” plywood won’t be able to hold the same weight

So let’s see these facts in a quick table first.

Facts to Compare ½ Inch Plywood ¾ Inch Plywood
Actual Thickness 15/32 inch 23/32
Number of Ply Used 3-7 7-9
Weight Capacity35 pounds per square feet80 pounds per square feet
Price 37 - 41 $44-50$

Now, let’s know these facts in detail to make the best plywood shelving ideas.

Detailed Comparison: ½ or ¾ Plywood for Shelves

Now that you have seen the quick review, let’s see the detailed one-

Actual Thickness

½ inch or ¾ inch doesn’t define the actual thickness of plywood. These are the nominal numbers of plywood. It is important to know the actual thickness for comparison. 

½ inch Plywood

The Actual thickness of ½ inch plywood is 15/32 inch. This is less than ¾ inch.

¾ inch Plywood

23/32 inches is the actual thickness of the 3/4 ” plywood. As it is more than the ½-inch plywood, it is stronger.

Number of Ply Used

How much stronger the plywood shelf is will depend on the ply number used in a specific sheet. 

So, if we need a stronger one or plan to store stronger things then the shelf plywood has to have more ply. 

½ inch plywood

½ inch plywood has 3-7 ply on it in each sheet. If ½ inch is a preference, for light things 3 ply is enough. On the other hand for medium heavy things buy 5-7 ply numbered ½ inch plywood.

¾ inch plywood

In each ¾-inch plywood, there are 7-9 piles. Because of this, for heavy things on shelves, ¾” plywood is better.

Weight Capacity

Weight capacity is the main thing before choosing plywood. Because if we want shelves for heavy things then the plywood should be capable of holding them.

On the other hand, for any light things or showpieces or small indoor plants, we do not require highly capable plywood

½ inch Plywood

The ply number of ½-inch plywood is less than ¾ inch. So the weight capacity of ½-inch plywood for shelves is also less than the ¾.

½ inch plywood can hold up to 35 pounds.

3/4 inch Plywood

3/4 inch plywood can hold 80 pounds per square foot. So, if you need a shelf that can hold good pounds of weight then go for ¾-inch plywood.


Price and budget are always a matter. So, if ½ inch is enough for us then there is no need to buy the ¾ inch plywood with more price.

½ inch Plywood

The price of plywood is between 37-41 $. 

¾ inch Plywood

As the ply number is more in ¾ inch plywood that’s why it costs more than the ½ inch plywood.

¾-inch plywood costs around 44-50$.

So, now you know the main differences between ½-inch plywood and ¾-inch plywood.

But there is more to consider. The thickness, strength or weight capacity depends on the shelf we want to make.

So, let’s get into this fact.

½ or ¾ Plywood for Various Types of Shelves

Not all types of shelves required the same weight capacity.  For this reason, specific types of shelves require a specific thickness of plywood. Remember to use stains on your oak ply to give it a better look.

So, let’s know whether ½ or ¾ is perfect for our shelves.

For Bookshelf 

For a bookshelf, usually, ¾-inch plywood is better. But ½ inch plywood also can be used if we put less weight full books on one shelf.

But, ¾-inch plywood is considered ideal for making a bookshelf.

Floating Shelves

Usually, we keep light weighted showpieces on the floating shelves. So, for floating shelves ½” inch plywood will be enough. 

Suspended Corner Shelves

Usually suspended corner shelves are seen in the kitchen. We keep many jars of cooking items there. So we need enough space on the shelves. Also, the shelves should be capable of taking in enough weight.

Because of this, we prefer ¾-inch plywood for the suspended corner shelves.

Right Angled Corner Shelf

Right-angled corner shelves are usually used in our living room for decorating small interior plants or light weighted showpieces.

So, we can use ½-inch plywood for this. Right angled corner shelf requires cutting the plywood in the right angle shape. To cut the plywood you may need wood tools and to stick it together you can use wood glues or construction glue.

You can check out these wood glues.

Hanging Shelves

If we want to make DIY hanging shelves, it is great. But, as the shelf will be hung, the plywood weight should be less. Also, we should keep lightweight things on the hanging shelves.

So, for hanging shelves, ½-inch plywood will be good.

Freestanding shelves

We usually keep lightweight things to weighted things on the free-standing shelves. So, for this reason, ¾ ” plywood is good. As it will be capable of taking up to 80 pounds psf. 

So, now you got the idea right? If lightweight things are to keep on the shelf then ½-inch plywood will be enough. But, for standard weight ¾ is the best choice for shelf plywood.

There is one more thing to know. Also, the strength of the plywood depends on the type of wood used in it.

½-inch and ¾-inch plywood types

Plywoods are usually 2 types. One is softwood plywood and the other is hardwood plywood.

Hardwood plywood is made of strong types of wood like oak, birch, maple, etc. Hardwood type is the best plywood for storage shelves.

And softwood plywood is made of softwood.

So, in some specific cases, ½-inch hardwood plywood is better than the ¾ inch softwood plywood.

½ ” or ¾ ”  Plywood for the Shelves: Best One

So, we know now, that ¾-inch plywood is considered the ideal one for making shelves.

But, we also know that for some shelves like hanging or floating shelves ½ inch plywood is better.


How, Should Plywood for Shelving?

¾ inch is the most common size used for making shelves. As it is strongest and also capable of taking much weight, that’s why ¾ inch is suggested for making shelves. For some specific shelves like floating shelves, ½ can be good. 

Is ½-inch Plywood Strong Enough for Cabinets?

 For cabinets, ½-inch plywood will be good. But ¾-inch plywood will be better as it can hold more weight. ¼ inch or ½ inch plywood will be better for drawer sides. Also for the front and back sides ½ and ¼ inches will be good.

Can you use ⅜ inch Plywood for Shelves?

Yes, you can. But, for shelves ¾ inch plywood is ideal. Using hardwood plywood will be better. So, try to buy hardwood plywood. The lifespan of your shelves will be more if you use ¾ or ⅜ inch hardwood plywood.


Now you know all the main facts and differences between ½  and 3/4 plywood. 

Also, you know better one between ½ or ¾ plywood for shelves.

Compare your needs with the facts of ½-inch and ¾-inch plywood. And then make a decision. In short, if you want shelves for lightweight things then ½ inch will be enough. But, as ¾-inch plywood is ideal for making shelves, you can choose this.

Kevin Smith

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