Plywood Siding: A Guide to Installation, Comparison, and Cost

Plywood siding is made from thin sheets of wood veneer glued together to form a panel. The panels are 4 feet wide and 8-10 feet long, but this type of siding is also available in tongue and groove boards or shiplap planks. It comes in various thicknesses ranging from ⅜ inch to ¾ inch. 

Plywood Siding

Plywood siding is an expensive exterior cladding that holds up well when stained and sealed. If not well-maintained, plywood siding can rot.

Cost of Plywood Siding

Plywood siding costs between $1 to $3.50 per square foot for material only. Professional installers charge from $1 to $4 per square foot in labor, so total costs for material and installation run from $2 to $7.50 per square foot. You should also account for paint or stain in your cost estimates if you won’t be using prefinished plywood.

Factors Affecting the Overall Cost

  • Type of plywood siding: T1-11 plywood siding is less expensive than other types due to its simple design.
  • Quality and thickness of plywood: ¾-inch thick panels are more durable, heavy, and expensive. You can save money by option for thinner plywood, but it will offer less protection and less insulative properties.
  • Local labor costs: Depending on the location, plywood siding installation costs range from $1 to $4.
  • Additional materials required: Besides the siding plywood sheets, installation requires fasteners, trim, insulation, and more.
  • The complexity of the installation: Complex house designs take more time to install the siding. The number of windows, doors, and unique architectural features impact the complexity of the installation.
  • Surface preparation and repairs: Repairing holes, cracks, or signs of rot adds $50- $70 per hour to the final cost. Removal of old siding costs $1- $4 per square foot.
  • Finishing and painting or staining: Painting or staining protects the siding from weather damage and adds visual appeal. It adds to the materials cost and labor charges.
  • Geographic location and regional price differences: Local wage rates vary with every location. The cost of materials and shipping may be high or low depending on availability in a specific region.
  • Potential permits and fees: There may be fees associated with obtaining permits for your projects. Depending on your area’s building codes and regulations, you may incur $150- $700.

Pros and Cons of Plywood Siding


  • Affordable and cost-effective: Compared to brick, stone, or stucco sidings, plywood is less expensive to buy and install.
  • Easy to install: Plywood is lightweight and easy to cut using a circular saw or jigsaw.
  • Versatile design options: Plywood siding has various joint styles, including shiplap, tongue and groove, and butt joint.
  • Can be painted or stained for customization: You can paint or stain plywood siding to complement your home’s exterior.
  • Available in various textures and patterns: Plywood siding can be smooth or textured. Lap, bevel, and shiplap are some common siding patterns.
  • Durable and long-lasting: With proper maintenance, plywood siding lasts for 35 years.


  • Susceptible to moisture damage and rot: Untreated plywood absorbs moisture, leading to discoloration and decay. Applying a sealer before installation prevents rotting and delamination.
  • Requires regular maintenance: Regular cleaning and inspection extend the lifespan of plywood siding. Re-painting or restaining is necessary every 5-10 years.
  • Can be prone to insect infestations: Termites, carpenter ants, and wood-boring beetles can tunnel through plywood gaps or cracks. They cause structural damage to the siding.
  • Less environmentally friendly: Plywood production contributes to deforestation and negative impacts due to chemical treatments.

How to Install Exterior Plywood Siding Panels

How to Install Exterior Plywood Siding
Buffalo Lumber Company

With the right tools and steps, installing exterior plywood siding isn’t challenging.

Tools and Materials Required

  • Siding panels
  • Flashing
  • Primer or wood sealer
  • A roll of house wrap
  • Tape measure
  • Chalk line
  • Nail gun
  • Circular saw/ Jigsaw
  • Stainless steel/ galvanized nails
  • Level
  • Caulking gun
  • Exterior caulk
  • Exterior stain
  • Utility knife
  • 1” x 4” wood trim

Step-by-Step Installation Process

  1. Prepare the walls: Inspect the walls for any damage or rot. Repair any damaged areas before installing the new siding. Cover the walls with a layer of house wrap or building paper. Add flashing around windows, doors, and other openings. Seal the backs of the panels using a primer or wood sealer.
  2. Measure and cut the panels: Measure the height and width of each wall, and mark the measurements on the siding panels. Cut the panels to size and prime the edges.
  3. Install the corner trim: Nail the first panel to the corner of the house, across the top, on the center studs, and the bottom. Leave the joining side free. Using a level, ensure that the panel is plumb.
  4. Install the remaining panels: Overlap the previous panel by 1/2 inch to 1 inch, and secure using nails. Use a chalk line to ensure that the panels align. Leave a gap of about ¼-inch at the corners to allow for expansion and contraction.
  5. Install wood trim: Add a 1” x 4” board at the joint between the siding and roof soffit and along the bottom to cover the ledger. Add wood trim around all walls and windows.
  6. Apply caulk or sealant between each panel: Caulk around windows, doors, and corners to prevent water from getting behind the siding. Then, apply stain and sealant using a staining pad or rag.

Safety Precautions and Best Practices

  • Install the exterior plywood siding in dry weather conditions.
  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including safety goggles, a dust mask, and gloves.
  • Have an assistant to help hold the panels in place and assist with installation.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper siding installation and maintenance.
  • Hire a professional if inexperienced or lacking the necessary tools and materials.


Common Plywood Siding Materials

Common Plywood Siding Material

Plywood siding is available in smooth or textured finishes. Textured plywood is ideal for exterior applications.

T1-11 Plywood

Also known as rough-sawn or texture T1-11 plywood, this is a type of siding with a vertical groove pattern. It’s popular for its rustic or traditional appearance and affordability. T1-11 plywood needs priming and painting to prevent water damage. You can also stain it if you prefer a natural look.

Smooth Plywood

Smooth plywood siding is sanded and finished to create an even surface. The plywood is often pre-primed or pre-painted to prevent weathering and moisture damage.

Smooth plywood siding is ideal for modern and contemporary style homes. It offers a clean, streamlined look that complements various architectural styles. The downside is that it’s more susceptible to weather damage than rough-hewn varieties. If you use smooth plywood, take the necessary precautions, like painting or staining every few years.

Uses and Applications of Plywood Siding

Plywood siding has several indoor and outdoor applications.

Uses and Applications of Plywood Siding
Prentiss Balance Wickline Architects

Residential Construction

Exterior plywood siding is inexpensive and easy to install DIY. It’s available in smooth or rough-hewn varieties, depending on the desired finish.

Commercial Buildings

MDO plywood is ideal for outdoor signage and displays in commercial buildings. It has high resistance to moisture damage and a smooth surface for painting. The plywood creates custom signs, billboards, and exterior siding.

Sheds and Outbuildings

Most builders use exterior-grade plywood as a roofing material for sheds and outbuildings. Adding roofing felt or other waterproofing materials creates a durable and weather-resistant roof. It’s also used for exterior shed siding and creating shed doors and windows.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

How long does plywood siding last?

Plywood siding has an average lifespan of 35 years. Proper maintenance, like repainting and sealing, extends the lifespan of the siding. Some manufacturers offer pressure-treated plywood siding, which is water-proof and protected from insects and rot.

Is plywood siding environmentally friendly?

Plywood is sustainable and durable as a siding material. Biodegradable materials from cedar, pine, fir, and redwood trees make siding plywood sheets. Check for the FSC or the SFI certification, which guarantees responsible wood harvesting.

What maintenance is required for plywood siding?

Paint or stain the siding to prevent weathering and extend its lifespan. Regular inspection and cleaning are also necessary. Install the siding at least 8 inches above the ground. Also, trim any nearby bushes and overhanging trees.

How do I paint or stain plywood siding?

First, clean and sand the surface to create a smooth, even surface for painting or staining. Use a paintbrush or roller to apply a primer, and allow it to dry before painting.

Apply the paint or stain in the direction of the wood grain using thin, even strokes. If you’re using a stain, apply a sealer to protect the wood from moisture and UV rays.