Exploring Alternatives to Waterproof Plywood

Exploring Alternatives to Waterproof Plywood

Waterproof plywood has long been the go-to material for projects requiring resistance to moisture and water exposure. Its durability and reliability in wet conditions have made it a staple in boat building, outdoor construction, and various other applications.

However, as sustainable and eco-friendly practices gain traction and new materials and technologies emerge, there is a growing interest in exploring alternatives to traditional waterproof plywood.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into several viable alternatives to waterproof plywood, their unique characteristics, and the applications where they excel.

1. Oriented Strand Board (OSB)

One of the primary alternatives to waterproof plywood is the Oriented Strand Board (OSB). OSB is a versatile engineered wood product made from strands of wood that are compressed and bonded together with adhesive resin. 

It offers several advantages over traditional plywood, including cost-effectiveness and sustainability. OSB is often used in construction for sheathing walls, roofs, and floors, and it can also be an excellent choice for projects in moisture-prone environments.

One of the key benefits of OSB is its resistance to moisture when properly treated or coated. By applying a waterproofing sealant or a moisture-resistant coating, OSB can become a viable substitute for waterproof plywood in applications such as subflooring, sheathing, and even some outdoor uses. 

2. Marine-Grade Plywood

For applications where the waterproof feature of traditional plywood cannot be compromised, marine-grade plywood is an excellent alternative. While it shares similarities with standard plywood, marine-grade plywood is specially designed to withstand the harshest marine conditions, making it an ideal choice for boat building, dock construction, and other water-related projects.

Marine plywood is constructed using high-quality wood veneers and adhesive formulations that are resistant to water and moisture damage. It typically comes with a guarantee against delamination and other water-related issues, ensuring long-lasting performance even in constant contact with water. 

The key to its success is the use of waterproof adhesive, which is free of voids and gaps, preventing water from seeping into the core layers.

3. Fiber Cement Board

Fiber cement boards are a non-wood alternative to waterproof plywood that offers exceptional durability and resistance to moisture. Composed of cement, sand, and cellulose fibers, these boards are renowned for their ability to withstand harsh weather conditions, making them an excellent choice for exterior cladding, siding, and wet area applications.

One of the advantages of fiber cement boards is their resistance to rot, decay, and pests, which often plague traditional wood products. They can be used as a waterproof and moisture-resistant alternative for exterior wall sheathing, especially in areas prone to heavy rainfall or high humidity. 

Additionally, fiber cement boards come in various textures and finishes, allowing for versatile design options.

4. Plastic Lumber

Plastic lumber, also known as recycled plastic lumber or plastic wood, is an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional wood and waterproof plywood. It is made from recycled plastic materials, such as HDPE (high-density polyethylene), which is derived from items like plastic bottles and containers. 

Plastic lumber is known for its resistance to moisture, insects, and rot, making it an ideal choice for outdoor applications.

One of the standout features of plastic lumber is its sustainability. By using recycled plastic, this alternative not only prevents plastic waste from ending up in landfills but also reduces the demand for virgin wood. 

Plastic lumber is often used for outdoor decking, picnic tables, benches, and other outdoor furniture, where it can resist the harshest weather conditions without deteriorating.

5. Cement Board

Cement board is a highly durable alternative to waterproof plywood, particularly in applications that require resistance to moisture, such as bathroom and kitchen installations. 

It is composed of a mixture of cement, cellulose fibers, and other additives, creating a board that is both rigid and moisture-resistant.

Cement board is frequently used as a tile backer board in wet areas like showers and bathrooms. It provides a stable and waterproof substrate for tile installations, preventing moisture from reaching the underlying structure. 

When properly sealed and installed, cement board ensures a long-lasting and moisture-resistant surface that can endure the rigors of wet environments.

6. Engineered Wood Products

Engineered wood products, such as laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and glued laminated timber (glulam), provide alternative options for structural applications where waterproof plywood is traditionally used. These products are manufactured by bonding layers of wood veneer or lumber together using adhesives and heat, resulting in highly durable and strong materials.

LVL and glulam are suitable alternatives for beams, columns, and other load-bearing elements in construction projects. They can be engineered for moisture resistance by using appropriate adhesives and protective coatings. While they may not be entirely waterproof, they can perform well in applications where moisture exposure is limited or controlled.

7. Cementitious Coatings

In some cases, it may be feasible to transform traditional plywood into a moisture-resistant material through the application of cementitious coatings. These coatings are typically made from a mixture of cement, sand, and bonding agents. When applied to plywood surfaces, they create a protective layer that enhances moisture resistance.

8. Treated Wood Products

Treated wood products, such as pressure-treated lumber and wood composites with water-repellent additives, offer another option for achieving moisture resistance in wood-based materials. Pressure-treated lumber is treated with preservatives to protect it from decay, rot, and insects, making it suitable for outdoor applications.

Pressure-treated plywood and lumber can be used in decking, fencing, and outdoor structures where moisture resistance is essential. Additionally, some wood composites incorporate water-repellent additives during manufacturing to enhance their moisture resistance. While these options provide a degree of protection against moisture, they may not be as durable as some of the alternatives mentioned earlier.


In conclusion, waterproof plywood has been a reliable choice for moisture-prone environments for many years. However, as sustainability, durability, and performance become more critical considerations, exploring alternatives to traditional waterproof plywood has become essential. 

Each of the alternatives mentioned in this blog post offers unique advantages and is suitable for specific applications, allowing you to choose the best option that meets your project’s requirements and aligns with your sustainability goals. 

Whether you opt for Oriented Strand Board, marine-grade plywood, fiber cement board, or any other alternative, careful consideration and proper installation will ensure your project’s success in moisture-prone environments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *