What's up with Awful-Smelling Plywood from HD

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Forum topic by JohnMcClure posted 05-03-2019 10:55 PM 8421 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1096 posts in 1523 days

05-03-2019 10:55 PM

I needed some 1/2” plywood for shop drawers so I picked up “sanded ply” from HD. It was cheaper than their hardwood plywood, which I typically use for such things; but I’ve used the “sande-ply” before and never noticed this… the smell was AWFUL. Bringing it home in the minivan, I had to roll the windows down. Walking into the garage where it had sat overnight, the smell hit me in the face again.
I’m using a mask when cutting it, but this is ridiculous. Sticker says “made in Ecuador”. I’m wondering if anyone knows what chemicals or foul softwood is involved here, or just wants to vent about terrible box store lumber products in general.
Should this be avoided at all costs?

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

14 replies so far

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2664 posts in 788 days

#1 posted 05-03-2019 11:09 PM

I’ve gotten some odd smelling plywood at HD before as well. My guess was the glue used. It was for some jigs and the smell went away after a few weeks.

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1422 posts in 609 days

#2 posted 05-03-2019 11:55 PM

You must of gotten some chitty wood.

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401 posts in 842 days

#3 posted 05-04-2019 12:44 AM

It’s not the chemicals its the wood itself.

I picked some up a few months ago and wondered what happened. Ive used it before and the old stuff it smelled like fresh cut fruit wood (apple actually). Really a pleasant smell.. the new stuff was like a burning belt on a vacuum

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134 posts in 1313 days

#4 posted 05-04-2019 04:00 AM

I have noticed the same. Although to me it smells like the animal stalls in the 4h barn at the fair. That damp hay smell. Ugh. I figured it would make an affordable paint grade plywood but the outer veneer is so thin it really chips up easily.


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6450 posts in 1457 days

#5 posted 05-04-2019 06:47 AM

Haven’t been to Home Cheapo in years, used to buy Behr paint there, Have a brick house now, so only need interior paint. Menards has some really nice paint, Lowes doesn’t, so I’m at Menards. I can say the plywood there doesn’t stink either, but come to think of it, doesn’t at Lowes either.

Yep you got some chitty wood

A lot of stuff from Harbor Freight stinks to high heavens too. I just throw it in the shed till the skunk part leaves, then it’s ok to come into the shop.

-- Think safe, be safe

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John Smith

2725 posts in 1045 days

#6 posted 05-04-2019 10:42 AM

not just HD: I got some from Lowe’s that must have been
from the same factory. I made my new pantry cabinets and
drawers from it and even after it is primed and painted,
it still smells bad. I’ve had a 4×8 sheet standing in the corner
for the past two months to acclimate – but it still smells.
so – don’t expect the aroma to subside anytime soon.



-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

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Fred Hargis

6502 posts in 3376 days

#7 posted 05-04-2019 10:47 AM

I’ve had some of the awful smelling plywood from Lowes and HD. No idea why (other than the origin country) but it does really stink.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

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1092 posts in 1061 days

#8 posted 05-04-2019 11:22 AM

The import stuff usually stinks. Not just the borgs, every import I used does.

One of the reasons I switched to all American ply. (Except for backs)

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680 posts in 1631 days

#9 posted 05-04-2019 01:39 PM

I used to work in a plywood plant, while I was in college. At one time or another I worked about every job in the “dry end” of the plant. Plywood is just layers of veneer and glue, so unless the manufacturer used a different glue, the smell must be from the wood. I remember the glue had an odor, but not a particularly bad odor.

I do remember that a combination of wood scraps and hot hydraulic fluid smelled a lot like vomit, but it never got on the plywood.

I worked there for two years and two days, but hey…who’s counting. It wasn’t my favorite job ever.

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6450 posts in 1457 days

#10 posted 05-04-2019 05:06 PM

Every time I read anything about Plywood, seems they always refer to Formaldehyde, either it has it, or doesn’t with the doesn’t coating more $$$$ Funny how all kinds of products WITHOUT something cost more that with it. Anyhow there are a lot of articles about the smell of Formaldehyde. Most of them pointing out how awful it is. My understanding is the cheaper the plywood, the more Formaldehyde they use in it. Maybe a commentary itself about HD plywood.

About Formaldehyde, and it's use in plywood

I guess I don’t hang out around it at Lowes, hardly ever in there anyhow.

-- Think safe, be safe

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364 posts in 2701 days

#11 posted 05-04-2019 05:16 PM

I wonder if the plywood is treated to kill any insects coming into the country?
I’ve read where some pallets are treated…

-- "I cut it twice and it's still too short"

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1096 posts in 1523 days

#12 posted 05-04-2019 08:23 PM

Interesting possibilities. FWIW the plywood I got, which says “made in Ecuador,” is INCREDIBLY soft. I mean you could dig a thumbnail in deep easily, and probably just pick it apart into bits.
Anyway shouldn’t be a big deal, I’m going to paint over it anyway and it doesn’t need to look good – just some shop drawers.

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

View farmfromkansas's profile


220 posts in 497 days

#13 posted 06-18-2019 02:59 AM

I used to work in a shop that bought cheap ply for backs and drawer bottoms. Think it was chinese, and after I sawed a cottonwood tree realized that they make ply from cottonwood, except for the finish layers. Cottonwood has a odor unlike any other tree I have sawn.

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3118 posts in 2908 days

#14 posted 06-20-2019 04:52 AM

Yes, Mt. Baker Plywood in Bellingham, WA uses cottonwood for cores. I do believe you are onto something in identifying the source of the smell.

Here’s something I don’t get: any wooden boat builder is likely to want good quality plywood, not only from good species (okoume, sapele, etc.), but also with a reasonably thick face veneer—ideally, but not always. The best plywoods of this type seem to come from countries that have no tropical hardwoods—England and Israel, for example, though admittedly England may still be getting hardwoods from former colonies (they stole most of the Honduras mahogany from Belize when it was theirs). And yet, somehow no American plywood maker seems to be interested in making this high quality plywood. Mt. Baker plywood just makes the usual junk you see in the big box stores.

I suppose it’s the economics; but high quality plywood sells for a premium price. My local Windsor Plywood sells some nice quality stuff, though the face veneers are beginning to look suspiciously thin. I guess that’s why we now have fiberglass boats.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

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