ACX Plywood [What Is It, Benefits, and Uses]

From exterior wall sheathing to boat construction, ACX plywood has many applications. What is ACX plywood? What are its benefits and uses? Can you use ACX plywood for building boats? 

ACX plywood is a type of high-grade and softwood plywood. It has layers of thin veneer sheets with perpendicular grains. The plywood uses high-quality glue to connect the layers. This plywood is ideal for both indoor and outdoor applications that require weather and water resistance.

Read on to learn more about ACX plywood, including its benefits and uses. 

What Is ACX Plywood? 

acx plywood

While there are many types of plywood, ACX is one of the best in terms of its grain, strength, and versatility. It is softwood, but that does not mean that it is less durable than others. ACX plywood is the best type of softwood with a smooth face surface that you can paint or varnish, depending on the intended application. 

What Does “A” Stand for in “ACX”? 

In any plywood, the first letter is the grade of the face veneer. It indicates how smooth the surface is, affecting its overall appearance and workability. 

  1. A: This is the highest grade in plywood, indicative of superior quality. The veneer in this plywood is flawless. This is also the reason why it is the most expensive. It has a smooth surface that you can paint or varnish easily. It is defect-free and does not contain fillers that will hide its problems. 
  2. B: While it has a solid construction, it is not as smooth as A-grade plywood. Minor flaws are visible, but they are often easy to repair. Tight knots of up to one inch and small splits might be present as well.
  3. C: It has several knots with a diameter of up to 1.5 inches. Discoloration and splits are also evident. 
  4. D: This is the lowest quality and cheapest plywood grade. The knots and flaws are highly visible with a diameter of up to 2.5 inches. 

What Does “C” Stand for in “ACX”? 

The second letter in a plywood rating stands for the grade of its back sheet or veneer. It is not visible, so it isn’t always a concern amongst users. Most of the time, it is rough and has visible damages. The designation and meaning are the same as those mentioned above – A, B, C, and D. 

What Does “X” Stand for in “ACX”? 

While most plywood will only have a two-letter designation, a third one can also be added. X stands for the waterproof adhesive in the plywood’s exterior. It protects against moisture and water, making the plywood applicable for outdoor applications. This is also why you can use it for a boat, such as for the hull and transom. 

However, even if the plywood has an X rating, many people are still wary of using it for outdoor applications, such as patios. Constant exposure to extreme heat and water makes the wood weak over time. 

What Is an ACX Plywood Made Of? 

Most people assume that plywood is always made of wood from trees, such as maple, mahogany, birch, and hickory. Nonetheless, not all plywood is from wood. Some are made of other materials, including particleboard and medium density fiberboard.

ACX is made of veneers, which are thin slices of wood grains. Every layer of this veneer is perpendicular to the two other surrounding layers. You will find a vertical or lengthwise veneer layer outside. These also represent the odd-number plies. The even-number plies, on the other hand, are running horizontally or widthwise.

The base material of an ACX plywood will differ depending on the application. One of the most common core materials is Douglas fir. It is ideal for projects that require a professional appearance and longevity. From doors to windows, Douglas fir is one of the premium woods that you can use. 

Pinewood is another possible material, which is great for projects that need lamination. It is lightweight and inexpensive. This is a great wood of choice if you need light colors. The latter, however, is also a disadvantage since it is easily prone to dirt and discoloration. 

ACX Plywood Benefits

acx vs bcx plywood

Looking for compelling reasons to use ACX plywood in your next project? Below are some of the benefits worth noting: 

1. Has a Smooth Side

One side of this plywood has an A grade, which means that it is smooth. It has almost no imperfections. Because of the texture of the surface, you can stain, varnish, or paint the plywood as you desire. 

2. Aesthetically Pleasing

This is one benefit that we can tie to having a smooth front side. This plywood is beautiful even with minimal work, adding character to any DIY or professional woodworking project. 

3. Repels Water and Moisture

If you need plywood for outdoor applications or exterior projects, ACX is a great option. It is built to avoid water and moisture penetration, making it more durable despite exposure to such elements. 

4. Affordable

While it is high-grade plywood, ACX is affordable. It is economical because it is softwood. This is a cheaper alternative compared to hardwood plywood. Even if it is cheap, this does not mean that it compromises quality. 

5. Eco-Friendly

Because ACX is softwood, it is not as dense as hardwood. This means that it uses less wood compared to its solid counterparts. It is a great way to conserve a finite resource. 

ACX Plywood Disadvantages

Despite the good things about ACX Plywood, it also has some cons, including the following: 

Not for Curving or Bending

ACX plywood is not for projects that will require you to curve or bend the material. It has voids, which can cause the plywood to break. It is best only in applications that require flat wood. 

Not for Regular Moisture Exposure

While it is moisture and water-resistant, long and frequent exposure can be a problem. The grains can break down over time, which will affect the quality of the wood. It is not a good choice for porches and decks. 

Different Uses of ACX Plywood 

If you are wondering about where to use ACX plywood, below are some of the best projects that will benefit from this material: 

1. Furniture

It is great plywood if you plan to make furniture that should look good on one side and with the other side being not visible. You can use it for a bookcase, wardrobe, and tables, among others wherein the other side of the wood cannot be seen. 

2. Walls

This plywood is also good for paneling on walls. It has moisture resistance so that you can use it even on exterior walls. It is smooth on the other side, which is the part of the wall that you can see. The other portion is rough, but this is the part of the wall that is hidden. Because of the smooth panel, it is also easy to sand, paint, or varnish. 

3. Boats

ACX can resist water and moisture, making it a great material for boats. It is good for the hull and the transom. You can also use it on the deck and other parts that require high-grade wood. Nonetheless, it is not as solid as marine plywood, making some people hesitant to use ACX. 

ACX Plywood Care and Maintenance

what is acx plywood

Over time, ACX plywood is prone to wear. Exposure to outdoor elements, including dust, dirt, and moisture, negatively impacts its overall construction. To retain its peak condition, below are some of the best things to do: 

  1. Avoid direct sunlight exposure. Even if ACX is for exterior use, the extreme heat of the sun will damage the surface. Applying a special UV finish helps to minimize the potential damage;
  2. Sand the surface as soon as you see nicks, scratches, and similar damages. Do not wait before the problem worsens. If it is too late, you might have no other option but to replace the entire panel;
  3. Dust the plywood regularly to keep it clean. Use a microfiber cloth at least once a week. If you live in an area with a lot of dust, you might want to do this more often. If there are crevices, use a soft-bristle brush;
  4. Do not use strong abrasives or stiff brushes when cleaning wood. They can do more harm, than good. If the brush is too stiff, it will leave noticeable scratches. Chemical cleaners, on the other hand, can degrade not just the wood but also paint; and
  5. Use DIY cleaners if you are not a fan of products with harsh chemicals. A good example of this is a mix of two teaspoons of coconut oil, ¼ cup of white vinegar, and a cup of water. Dilute, spray, and wipe the surface with a clean cloth. 

How Is ACX Different from Other Types of Plywood? 

What makes ACX plywood different? Below, we’ll have a quick look at how it compares to some of the most common plywood types: 

ACX vs BCX Plywood 

ACX and BCX are two types of exterior plywood but are different in terms of their construction. What is the difference between ACX vs. BCX plywood? The main difference lies on the front face as designated by the letters A and B.

ACX plywood is smoother and has fewer noticeable flaws. BCX plywood, on the other hand, has more imperfections, although still good quality. The back parts are both C-grade and have some protection against water or moisture because of the X designation. 

ACX vs CDX Plywood

ACX and CDX plywood are different in terms of their front face. ACX has a smoother grade, which is perfect for sanding and painting, among other things, to improve its appearance. In contrast, CDX has a rougher front and back, as designated by grades C and D. CDX is ideal for projects wherein the backside of the wood does not require a good appearance. 

Since they both have an X on their designations, there is a glue that provides moisture resistance. One of the similarities between ACX and CDX plywood is that they are both for exterior applications. 

ACX vs AA Plywood 

AA is the highest designation for plywood. This means that both the front and rear portions have an A rating. They are smooth and have minimal or no flaws. This is against ACX, wherein the front is A grade, and the rear is a C grade. 

The biggest difference is that AA has no protection against water and moisture. This is ideal only for indoor applications. Even the slightest spills can easily damage the wood, especially if it has no protection like varnish or paint

ACX vs Marine Plywood 

Technically, you can use ACX plywood for marine applications. Nonetheless, it isn’t as durable as marine plywood. It uses permanent phenolic glue, creating a strong bond on the veneers. Unsurprisingly, it is the highest plywood grade as it needs to sustain harsh marine environments. Even if you can use ACX on a boat, marine plywood is the best choice. 

One of the most important requirements for marine-grade plywood is to have no defects. This must be the case in both the front and rear portions. This is unlike ACX, where the back portion has imperfections where water can penetrate and eventually damage the wood. 

Conclusion – ACX Plywood 

ACX plywood is high-grade softwood plywood. The three letters indicate the grade or rating of the material. A is for the front face, which is smooth and ideal for painting, staining, or varnishing. C is the backside, which is rough and has some noticeable imperfections. Meanwhile, X refers to its exterior adhesive that protects against water and moisture. 

You can use ACX plywood in many projects, such as cabinets, shelves, tables, and exterior walls. It is also a common choice for boat-making, especially for hulls and transoms. Nonetheless, this plywood is not for applications that require bending or curving since it can easily break. It is not as long-lasting as marine plywood