When you need the right type of plywood, BCX is one of the more popular. But what makes BCX plywood so desirable? The answer starts with understanding what BCX plywood is, what it is made from, and the advantages and disadvantages of using this ply for your project.
What is BCX Plywood?
BCX Plywood is a construction grade softwood plywood suitable for exterior applications.
Before you can understand what BCX plywood is, it pays to know what the “B” and “C” stand for.
Plywood comes in four different grades.
- A: Highest Quality
- B: Exception Quality
- C: Solid Quality
- D: Lowest Quality
BCX Plywood Meaning
This means that BCX has B-quality veneer on the outside and C-quality wood at the back. The “X” stands for exposure or exterior which means that it can be exposed to the exterior elements during construction. However, it will need to be protected with waterproofing once the project is completed.
BCX plywood is a solid quality engineered wood that normally has a finished surface on one side and a rough surface on the other. Despite being slightly lower quality, usually the show face is sanded and can be painted to make it look better.
However, if you are going for a clear finish, then consider getting a higher-grade plywood.
BCX plywood comes in a wide variety of sizes, but the most common are 5/8”, ¾” and ½” in terms of thickness.
The width and length of the plywood varies as well, but you can find them in sizes large enough to cover most projects.
What Is It Made Of?
Most BCX grade plywood is made of Southern Pine wood. Some suppliers also carry the ones made of different hardwood and softwood species.
For the most part, the plywood is made from the following woods.
There are other types of wood used as well depending on where it was manufactured. Keep in mind that this is an engineered wood which means it was created from different wood and glued together. The result is a strong piece of plywood that can be used in a wide variety of projects.
Advantages of BCX Ply
The heart of the benefits that BCX plywood offers begins with its overall quality.
Quality Show Face: While BCX is not as perfect in terms of presentation compared to ACX, it is quite smooth and has a solid foundation.
Affordable: For most uses, BCX is just as good compared to ACX and costs considerably less.
Can be Painted: BCX has a front face with very little flaws, though not quite as perfect as ACX. The surface tends to be easy to paint or stain and will look quite attractive.
Strength: The BCX plywood provides considerable strength, durability, and flexibility in terms of the different projects that it may be used.
Water-Resistant: This is an exterior grade ply that offers good water resistance. You will often find BCX used for projects in which the wood itself will be exposed.
In and of itself, BCX plywood has no disadvantages in terms of how it can be used compared to other grades of plywood. However, it does not have the highest quality compared to ACX plywood and may be overpriced for jobs that do not require the facing to be shown.
BCX is more expensive compared to CDX which is quite common and more available. For jobs in which you do not see the facing of the plywood, such as to support flooring for example, CDX is a better, less expensive choice.
Another downside is that BCX will need to be protected from moisture at some point or it will affect the plywood in a negative manner. While it offers water resistance, this is not a marine grade plywood.
The “X” basically means that the adhesives used to bond the different particles are only resistant to moisture for a short time. This means that when used outdoors, it needs to be protected by waterproofing it, especially the edges and ends.
BCX Plywood Uses
There are many uses for BCX plywood, but the most common include high quality subflooring for homes that are being constructed.
- Used for Subfloor: The overall quality and resilience make BCX quite suitable for subflooring that will last for decades.
- Cabinet Making: In fact, the quality of BCX makes it well suited for use as cabinets and other exposed woods for interiors. Because the B-quality of the exterior is mostly free of knots and imperfections, it can be easily painted or stained to create a pleasing appearance.
- Plywood Furniture: You can also use BCX plywood for furniture and other indoor creations. The plywood is quite strong, durable, and can be painted or covered assuming that moisture will not touch the surface.
- Sheathing and Interior Walls: It can also be left unprotected in certain applications, such as the interior walls of a barn or shed that also does not have excessive moisture present. It also works well as a sheathing material since it is usually covered by shingles, siding, or bricks to shield it from harsh weather.
Can You Use BCX Outdoors?
Yes, you can use BCX plywood on outdoor projects, but only if it becomes protected at some point. For example, you can apply BCX to exterior walls and then cover it with bricks or siding which prevents moisture from contacting the material.
Otherwise, BCX is not recommended for outdoor use unless it can be protected by a waterproof layer such as a seal or paint. OSD plywood is generally recommended for exterior uses. An exception is BCX plywood that has been pressure treated for outdoor use. Pressure treatment seals up the gaps in the interior of the wood so it becomes resistant to termites, rot, and fungus. Such BCX plywood will normally have a green tint and be advertised for outdoor use.
BCX vs. CDX Plywood
It is true that BCX is better overall compared to CDX which represents the two lowest quality forms of plywood. For applications that will be seen such as cabinets or need extra strength and durability, BCX is generally preferred.
However, for applications in which the plywood will not be seen and does not require considerable strength, CDX may be the better option because it is cheaper. This includes the following uses.
- Exterior Surfaces: Covered by siding, bricks, or shingles
- Interior Surfaces: Places where quality does not matter, such as garages or storage areas
CDX is considerably less expensive compared to BCX, so you will want to account for the price difference when starting your project. It may be that you can save a considerable amount of money and get the same results when using CDX instead of BCX.