What Is HDO Plywood?


High-density overlay (HDO) plywood is a wood product typically used in heavy-duty applications. The properties of HDO plywood include the strength and lightweight of plywood and the smooth surface of engineered products, such as medium-density fiberboard (MDF). According to APA-The Engineered Wood Association, HDO plywood’s capacity to endure severe exposure to the elements and resist heat, abrasion, deterioration and moisture penetration make it suitable for a variety of applications.

Concrete Forms

  • HDO plywood’s smooth surface allows excess concrete to be cleaned off easily and its durability enables it to be used multiple times. The smooth finish also creates minimal grain transfer from the wood onto the concrete surface and it resists the alkaline properties of concrete. Additionally, the natural insulating properties of plywood add consistency to curing conditions.

Exterior Construction

  • HDO plywood’s durability and low maintenance make it suitable for exterior applications, including siding, accent panels, soffits, facias, fencing and garage doors. Additionally, its smooth surface absorbs paint evenly and it is easily cut with the saws typically used on such jobs.


  • HDO plywood has been used in a variety of containers from vessels to storage lockers. It has even been used to build fish tanks. Its resin-impregnated surface is impervious to water and resistant to chemicals and it is less expensive than stainless steel and other materials used to line containers. APA-the Engineered Wood Association also reports that HDO plywood has also been used in the linings of trucks, trailers and rail cars due to its durability and strength-to-weight ratio.


  • Resistance to moisture is also a consideration for the use of HDO plywood in marine environments. Marine-grade plywood is available with high-density overlay surfaces and is used frequently in boat construction and in areas where high durability is required, like decks and bulkheads.


  • Highway signs as well as commercial signage have been fashioned from HDO plywood. Manufacturers such as Great Northern Lumber promote it as “an excellent base for application of reflective film.” Durability and resistance to weather and vandalism are other considerations in this application. HDO plywood signs can be stripped and re-used once the sign has outlived its usefulness.

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