If you’ve ever been frustrated by the limited selection of plywood available at your local lumberyard or home center, or if you live too far from a good source of sheet goods options, there’s new reason for hope. Columbia Forest Products and The Home Depot are partnering to give woodworkers a dozen plywood veneer species options and more convenient panel sizes than ever before. Even better, you don’t have to go to a Home Depot store to pick it up. Just visit Home Depot’s website and select what you need. It will come shipped to your door in about three to five days, straight from a Columbia Forest Products facility in North Carolina.
“It’s our goal to make woodworking more convenient, enjoyable and rewarding,” says Todd Vogelsinger, director of marketing at Columbia Forest Products. “Now, professional quality, domestically made, formaldehyde-free American hardwood plywood panels can be shipped right to your home, in sizes that are easy to handle and that reduce waste.”
The new product line, called PureBond® Project Panels, will be offered in 12 different unfinished, prefinished and primed hardwood veneer species, including alder, aromatic cedar, cherry, hickory, mahogany, maple (unfinished and prefinished), red and white oak, unfinished and pre-primed poplar and walnut.
The variety of face veneer species, Vogelsinger points out, should make PureBond panels well suited to refacing cabinets, as well as building all sorts of case goods projects, furniture and other furnishings. The plywood contains all-wood plys, instead of composites like MDF, which also make the sheets about 30 percent lighter than composite-core options. For bathrooms, laundry rooms and other damp environments, its wood composition and water-resistant properties will help PureBond panels resist swelling and delamination better than particleboard or MDF.
Aside from more species choices, there are air quality advantages with PureBond, too. The sheets contain no formaldehyde, which can be an irritant as it offgasses for those with respiratory sensitivities.
Columbia Forest Products (CFP) began developing formaldehyde-free plywood back in the early 2000s in order to make its sheet goods products comply with the United States Green Building Council’s LEEDS (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Program. Formaldehyde-based resins, which were the typical basis of both plywood and composites at the time, made wood panels ineligible for contributing credit points within the LEEDS scoring system.
“The writing was on the wall,” Vogelsinger says. “If Columbia was to supply a hardwood plywood that would be of interest for use in LEEDS projects, it had to re-engineer the way it had been making decorative plywood for nearly 50 years.”
That required an evolution in adhesives chemistry, so the company invented a soy-based resin that did away with the old urea-formaldehyde formulation. It’s a proprietary mix of soy flour and water, plus some other ingredients that provide increased water resistance. The development was named “PureBond Technology,” and CFP began to convert its mills to PureBond nine years ago. In 2007, it won the Environmental Protection Agency’s Presidential Green Chemistry Award.
“So, our new PureBond Project Panels are also healthier because of their formaldehyde-free construction. They’re particularly well suited for anyone who is concerned about maintaining good indoor air quality for themselves and their families.”
Vogelsinger says CFP has supplied The Home Depot with sheets goods products for many years, and when the United States Green Building Council began calling attention to the issue of urea-formaldehyde in building products, The Home Depot pressed their suppliers for new innovations that would comply with stricter requirements. “When they turned to CFP, they found the answer in PureBond.”
In addition to offering more options and “greener” choices for plywood, these PureBond Project Panels are also conveniently sized in smaller proportions than the standard 4 x 8 sheet. You can buy them in 2 x 2-, 2 x 4-, 2 x 8- and 4 x 4-ft. panels, and in 1/4-, 1/2- and 3/4-in. thicknesses.
“From working with leading DIY bloggers like Ana White and Shanty-2-Chic, we learned that conventional 4 x 8-ft. panel sizes can be cumbersome and intimidating, even for people that have pickup trucks and workshops,” Vogelsinger points out.
More panel sizes, CFP reasons, will help woodworkers and DIYers waste less because panels will more closely match the part sizes they need. Prices will range from $5 to $30 for 1/4-in. material, depending on species and panel size. For 1/2-in. stock, expect to pay from $7 to $49; 3/4-in. panels will range from $9 up to $59.
Some of the PureBond Project Panel options will be available in Home Depot stores, starting in 2015, but not the full selection. The initiative is intended to be primarily an online program, with product shipped directly from CFP to the consumer. Vogelsinger says that orders will be packed in sturdy cardboard boxes with thick cardboard edge protection. Orders under 500 lbs. will be shipped via small parcel UPS. However, defective sheets can be returned to the closest Home Depot store or sent back to CFP, using an included mailing label.
“There is serious value, pride and satisfaction that can come with making a quality piece of furniture for your family or friends, and Columbia Forest Products intends to make it an even more popular endeavor,” Vogelsinger says. “By eliminating the barriers to accessing the right materials, we feel we’re moving in the right direction.”