Plywood is stronger and more stable than solid lumber, but choosing the right panel isn't always easy.
In addition to all the choices, you have to sort through the confusing labels, like three-eighths AC Exposure 1 1/2-CDX Exposure 2, you'll find on each plywood unit. Here's what the labels mean:
Manufactured in 4x8-foot panels, plywood is often available in precut 2x2-, 2x4- and 4x4-foot pieces. But panels vary widely in species and in a number of quality categories.
Species: Common plywood is fir or pine, while expensive oak or birch veneers are used for cabinetry or fancy interior paneling. For nonspecialty applications, avoid hardwood plywood. It looks great but costs a fortune.
Face quality: Each face is rated A, B, C or D. Front and back can have different ratings, so plywood can be, for example, AC or CD. An A-rated face is free of blemishes and knots. B and C ratings allow some blemishes and D allows for open knotholes. When only one side will show, AC plywood, which has one good side and one blemished one, is fine and costs less than AA. Less expensive CDX plywood has one blemished side and one rough side; the X rates it for exterior.
Thickness: A 1/2-inch-thick plywood panel is sufficient for many replacement situations around the house, such as temporarily covering a broken window or patching a floor, although some floors require 5/8ths-inch plywood. Use 1/2-inch or even 3/8ths-inch plywood for replacing a soffit or making a sign, and you can even drop down to 1/4-inch plywood to back a cabinet or shelving. Most of the time, 3/4-inch plywood is overkill -- expensive and heavy. Avoid it unless you need to match the thickness or support heavy items, like appliances.
Exposure: Plywood is rated for how it handles water and humidity. Exposure 1 is good for applications like a mudroom or an outdoor-porch floor. Exposure 2 should be used only where it's dry.
As for cost, prices for a 4x8 plywood sheet range from $10 for CDX to more than $50 for knot-free hardwood veneers.
Getting the bugs out
Warm weather creates ideal breeding conditions for bees, hornets, yellow jackets and wasps, nuisances to many and a real danger to those allergic to their venom. But, says Tom Ellis, an entomologist at Michigan State University, there are some effective ways to control stinging pests.
Honeybees are harmless unless disturbed. But if bees get inside the walls of your home, they can leave behind honeycombs that stain walls and floors and draw hungry ants, mice and squirrels. Look under "Pest Control Services" in the Yellow Pages for help. A technician might call in an apiculturist to move the hive; professional extermination could also be required. Once the bees are gone, clean out all honeycombs. If you spot a roving bee swarm, contact an apiculturist through your local extension service, who will attempt to capture the swarm.
If you spot wasps in your yard, eliminate them. Wait until evening when the wasps are home, and suit up for battle with loose clothing, gloves, eye protection and a hat. Spray the nest entrance with wasp and hornet spray. Don't plug the hole -- wasp nests often have other entrances that allow escape. Monitor activity for two days and respray if needed.
To deal with yellow jackets, follow the same procedure as for wasps. But this time, plug the nest hole by packing it tightly with moist dirt.
Hornets are harmless unless disturbed. If they are a nuisance, spray the nest with wasp and hornet spray. If they nest inside your home, wait until the first freeze and seal the nest entrance with silicone caulk.
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