ACX vs. BCX Plywood: Which to Choose? - Handyman's World (2024)

ACX vs. BCX Plywood: Which to Choose? - Handyman's World (1)

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Did you know that plywood comes in different standards?

A lot of people that don’t work with the material assume that it is all the same. In fact, there are a lot of different types of board, veneer, and the standard of the faces.

So you have a project that needs plywood and you’ve got two choices: ACX and BCX plywood. Which one should you choose?

ACX vs. BCX Plywood: What Are the Differences?

ACX and BCX are gradings. The first, second, and third letters correspond to the quality of different parts of the board.

The first two letters grade the board’s faces, which are veneered. Faces are graded from A to D, with A the best and D the lowest standard. So now, if we look at ACX and BCX:

  • ACX has one A-graded face and the other that is C-graded.
  • BCX has a B-graded face and a C-graded face.

What is Veneered Plywood?

A veneer is a thin layer of wood that is glued onto a substrate. For instance, a board of MDF could have an oak veneer laid on its surface, so the board looks like oak, not MDF.

This is the same with veneered plywood. Thin layers of wood are glued together on top of each other, with each layer running perpendicular to the one beneath. This adds strength to the board and reduces movement, warping, and twisting.

The very top layer can either be the same wood as the center of the board if it is cheap timber. Or, usually, this is a decorative layer where more expensive timber veneer is used.

What Are the Gradings on Plywood?

Veneer comes in different qualities. Because it is thin slices of natural wood, it contains the same defects and knots the tree it was taken from had. Some veneer is better than others.

To understand the difference between ACX and BCX plywood, it’s important to understand what the different grades mean and how they look:

  • A Grade Faces: These are the highest quality. The face will be mainly free from defects, such as tears, large knots, plugs, and glue. The veneer will be consistent and well laid. You might sometimes hear people refer to ‘furniture grade’ plywood – this is A grade. This means that the veneer is good enough to be on show and finished with a varnish, lacquer, oil, or wax.
  • B Grade Faces: The second best quality. A lot of the time, this face is still good enough to show, particularly if you are selective with where you cut. There will be more defects, such as small knots and the occasional plug too.
  • C Grade Faces: This grade is structurally sound, however, there are visual defects on the face. For example, knots, filler, tear-out, glue stains, splits, and discoloration could all be present on a C grade face.
  • D Grade Faces: Again, this grade is for structural work. The defects can be large and numerous.

What Does the ‘X’ Stand for in ACX and BCX Plywood?

The third letter of ACX and BCX plywood tells you whether the board is suitable for interior or exterior use. The ‘X’ means that exterior grade adhesive is used in the construction. An exterior-grade adhesive can withstand a small amount of moisture without delaminating.

This means that boards with an X on the end of the label can be used for a small period of time outside, but not for extended periods without further protection.

When to Use ACX Plywood?

ACX plywood has one high-quality face and one low-quality. So it is best suited for applications where only one face is visible. If you were building a tabletop, the A face would point upwards and the C downwards. The A face is visible and the B face is hidden out of view.

Because A-grade faces are the most expensive, you want to use A-grade only where it is absolutely necessary. So this means areas where the timber is highly visible and likely to be touched a lot.

When to Use BCX Plywood?

The B face of plywood is still high quality and can be used in furniture and cabinetry. Similarly to ACX plywood, you want to hide the C face and use the B face in areas that will be seen.

For example, if you are building a cupboard for an alcove, the interior face of the side panels is visible when the door is open. The exterior face is not visible as it is against the alcove wall. In this situation, the B face would point inwards and the C face outwards.

Alternatives to ACX and BCX Plywood

In case neither of the two types of plywood are suitable for your job, consider the following alternatives:

1. Veneered MDF

MDF is created by compressing wood dust together and joining it with a resin. As a material, it is very easy to work and is cheaper than plywood. The decorative veneer on the face is graded similarly to plywood.

MDF is not as strong as plywood, so should not be used in structural situations.

2. Hardwood and Softwood

Hardwood and softwood are what plywood is created from. It is the natural material that has been milled from a tree.

Depending on the species, it can be more difficult to work, prone to defects, and movement. However, the quality of a product can be much higher, when hardwood is used in the right circ*mstances.

For example, a tabletop or bar made of solid timber will last much longer than a plywood or MDF top. This is because any defect, dent, or stain can be sanded out. Whereas with veneer, there is only a thin layer that can’t be sanded extensively.


It can sometimes be difficult when choosing between ACX and BCX plywood. Both types of plywood are structurally sound. The main difference comes down to the quality of one face. ACX has a better veneer than BCX.

Although both of these boards can be used in furniture applications, it is about using the right face at the right time. This is not just for visual appearance, but to save on costs too. You might also read how BCX compares with CDX in case you feel like ACX is too good for the task at hand.

ACX vs. BCX Plywood: Which to Choose? - Handyman's World (2024)
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