What is the difference between MDO (medium density overlay) and HDO (high-density overlay) plywood?

Are you looking for the differences between MDO and HDO? In this article, we will provide a brief overview of what makes them different.

Various demanding applications include exterior siding, industrial containers, and concrete forming. These applications require tough building materials. Medium Density Overlay (MDO) and High-Density Overlay (HDO) plywood have the toughness required for exterior-type plywood. Moreover, both have superior wear of an overlaid surface. That is why both MDO and HDO plywood are among the most durable construction materials out there in the market.

MDO and HDO feature resin-impregnated, highly durable faces. These are bonded under heat and pressure, thus forming a strong and tough surface. Such a surface can easily resist moisture penetration, abrasion, deterioration, and chemicals. However, high-density overlay plywood is made with more resin as compared to MDO. Still, both of these are more durable than the standard plywood. You can use both of them for the most punishing applications as well. High strength to weight ratio, dimensional stability, rack resistance and design flexibility provides them an edge for use in various applications. Their panels are available in larger sizes at the same time.

When it comes to graded plywood, HDO has two grades, concrete form and industrial. On the other hand, MDO plywood has concrete form and general grades. Under the harsh conditions of concrete formwork, concrete forming grades are ideal for reuse. Moreover, HDO has a smooth steel-form finish, but MDO has a matte finish. You can reuse both these overlay plywood for concrete forming many times, but it seems like HDO has a longer life. Highway panels and industrial tanks are the demanding applications of industrial-grade HDO panels. On the other hand, general grade MDO is commonly used for structural siding because it is manufactured to be an ideal paint base. This type of MDO is best for exterior applications where coating performance or long-lasting paint is mandatory.

What is overlaid plywood?

Overlaid plywood refers to high-density overlay (HDO) and medium-density overlay (MDO). Both MDO and HDO plywood have the same structure when it comes to regular sheets. In this structure, veneers are glued together tightly. It has an overlaid face which gives a finished appearance overall. The exterior of overlay plywood may not necessarily serve the purpose of aesthetics, but the higher durability of the material strengthens the panel and gives it a smooth surface. It prevents water or other particles from sticking or damaging it. Such plywood comes up with a coating in order to protect the surface against scratches. Remember, such scratches can happen during transport and construction. For high-quality overlay plywood, it is necessary to choose a reliable plywood supplier.

Heat and pressure processes are followed in order to bond the exterior surfaces to the rest of the veneers. Moreover, high-density overlay plywood panels have more resin as compared to MDO panels. This is why such panels are available at a bit higher price tags. Both MDO and HDO plywood have high durability and more strength as compared to traditional plywood.

Difference between MDO and HDO plywood

Despite the similarities, there are some major differences in terms of surfaces, thickness, painting, and application & cost that you need to know about.


Medium-density overlay plywood and high-density overlay plywood fall in the category of hardwood, where a resin is soaked between the veneer layers. The top veneer layer is regarded as an “A” grade of both sides. It provides a smooth surface without any void. With the help of resin-soaked fiber overlays, an engineered wood product is produced. Such a wood product is extremely strong, flat and smooth due to pressure and heat. Do you know what makes them different? It is all about the density of the exterior fiber layer, which is comparatively higher in the case of HDO as compared to MDO. Moreover, there is more resin content in HDO as well. A reliable HDO plywood supplier can provide you a high-quality product.


There is a huge difference between HDO and MDO in terms of thickness. Both of these materials come in a range of thicknesses (such as 3/8”, 1/2″, 5/8”, and 1), which provides you the flexibility to purchase one that best suits your construction needs. Moreover, standard sheets have different lengths such as 8’, 10’ and 12’, and these have 2 to 4 feet widths.


MDO panels are ideal when used for cabinetmaking because of their excellent and flat surface. Such a surface accepts paint very well. Moreover, this plywood has a resin impregnated fiber layer that adheres perfectly to paint. It also eliminated the need for priming at the same time. Moreover, the cut edges of this material are more water-resistant as compared to any other materials. These can be easily painted and completely sealing the edges against water.

Application & Cost

Overlaid plywood can be used in various applications due to the strength, smooth surface and high durability. When it comes to high-density overlay plywood, it was first created for use in signboards and for the reflective material attached to highway signs. More resins are used in order to provide a better surface for attaching the reflective material. Similarly, MDO plywood has major applications in exterior siding, concrete form, and signboards.

Medium-density overlay plywood has about half and twice the cost of marine plywood and softwood plywood respectively. On the other hand, high-density overlay plywood is expensive and more costly as compared to MDO. However, you can opt for wholesale plywood in order to cut down extra, hidden costs.

What are the applications of MDO plywood?

Medium-density overlay plywood is versatile and can be used for a range of applications. It is commonly used for:

Outdoor signs

Being used as outdoor signs is the major use of MDO plywood. It has a high resistance to weather and moisture, which makes it perfect for signboard use. Moreover, it has a smooth painting surface. It is ideal for outdoor signs.

Concrete forms

Whether you are laying down concrete for a walkway or patio, pouring the concrete and hoping for the best would not work for you. It is necessary to make a form for the concrete before it gets hardened. Most of the contractors prefer creating concrete forms out of MDO plywood as it is easy to assemble and take down. Moreover, it has a smooth surface that results in the easy cleanup after setting the concrete.

Exterior siding

MDO plywood can also add to the aesthetic value as well due to its attractive appearance. That is why it is commonly used for exterior siding. Moreover, the insulating properties of MDO can keep a certain temperature in your home, making it easy for you to cut down on energy costs. In addition, you can also use MDO for chimney enclosures, garage doors, fences, panels, and many more.

Interior applications

Just like exterior siding, MDO plywood is best for some interior applications as well. A reliable medium density overlay plywood supplier can provide you high-quality MDO that you can use for countertops, shelving, molding, bins, floors, cabinets, panels, walls, and many other applications. You can use it for everything due to its safe nature and high durability.

What are the applications of HDO plywood?

HDO plywood has major applications in construction, industry, concrete forming, signboards, and transportation.


As compared to traditional plywood, HDO plywood is easy to maintain. That is why it is a preferable type of plywood when it comes to many kinds of residential and commercial construction projects, no matter exterior or interior. Moreover, it has high durability and excellent insulation properties of wood, which makes it perfect for siding usage. However, you should make sure to purchase a product of the highest quality in order to use it for exterior applications. Remember, exterior applications require a product that can withstand extreme water and moisture conditions. You can use HDO plywood for privacy fences, exterior walls, portioning, screens, and chimney enclosures.


HDO is the best product that can be used for various industrial applications. You can use it for display shelves, storage racks, and bins due to its resistive nature to dirt penetration and scuffs. However, make sure to keep its surface smooth and shiny with the help of regular cleaning using a piece of a damp cloth. HDO plywood can be used for work tables and assembling benches at the same time. Other industrial applications of HDO plywood include:

  • Countertops
  •  Drying racks
  •  Pallet decks
  •  Humidity chambers
  •  Storage lockers
  •  Trunks
  •  Freezer lockers

All you need is to make sure to purchase a product from the right plywood supplier.

Concrete forming

HDO plywood is, of course, one of the best materials for concrete forming. It has an excellent smooth surface and can be reused several times. For concrete forming applications, you can choose a high-density overlay plywood supplier. Such a product performs well under alkaline exposures. It has the natural insulating quality of plywood that provides more consistency for concrete forming.


It is commonly used for highway signs, large displays, and other signboards. Moreover, it was first created for such applications. HDO plywood is the best option when it comes to signboards, and many highway departments and commercial sign shops prefer this material. There are some properties required for large sign installations, and HDO plywood possesses those properties. Most important, it is highly resistant to extreme weather conditions and vandalism, which makes it an ideal choice for signboards and other similar uses.


HDO plywood has an excellent strength to weight ratio, making it versatile for transportation applications. High durability makes it perfect for trailer and truck linings.


High-density overlay (HDO) and medium-density overlay (MDO) plywood are commonly used for many applications. These are highly durable materials as compared to traditional plywood. Some major uses include concrete forming, exterior siding, construction, and signboards. However, always choose the right plywood supplier to purchase high-quality products.

If you are looking for a high-quality HDO or MDO, look no further than Plywood Logistics. As a reputable plywood supplier, it provides premium products for construction all over the USA. By buying plywood directly, you can cut the price of the agent’s commission. Go to to learn more about high-density overlay (HDO), medium-density overlay (MDO) and other plywood types!

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