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Baltic Birch Plywood, Canadian Birch Plywood, and MDF – What Is The Difference?

Jul 28, 2021Tips9 comments

Baltic Birch Plywood

 Image: Anthony Koithra via Instagram (one of our clients!)


What’s the difference between Baltic Birch Plywood, Canadian Birch Plywood, and MDF?


Good question! And one we get asked a lot…

Let’s start with what they have in common!

All three of these materials come in 4’x8′ sheets, varying thicknesses, and can be ordered cut to any size.

You can refer to this blog post if you want to skip a head to how to order custom cut lumber now!

Otherwise, let’s continue.


Let’s start with MDF!


MDF or Ultra-Lite MDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard, and is compressed sawdust and glue.

It’s flat and smooth and is a good option if you are not as concerned with strength and plan on painting.

MDF also gives you the most options for thickness, we stock 1⁄4” 1⁄2” 3⁄4” and 1”. MDF is also the most affordable option.

It does not have the wood look like the plywood options, but it is very smooth and great for painting. So you can get creative with colors and have fun! 

The most common uses for MDF are closest shelves, shelving units (if you don’t plan to display too much weight, and many artists & galleries use MDF to make pedestals.

Below are samples of all the thicknesses we stock, and you can see the smooth texture…

Ultra-Lite MDF


Here is a stack of 3/4″ MDF in our store! And, don’t forget these large sheets can be cut to any size!


Ultra-Lite MDF


Next, we have Canadian Birch!


First of all we are talking about plywood here, which is classified as an engineered wood, like MDF or Masonite but instead of one solid piece of compressed materials you have thin layers or “plies” of wood veneer that are glued together.

Canadian Birch Plywood is a popular option. It is more expensive than MDF, but also stronger and looks nicer especially if you want your piece to look like wood and do not plan on painting.

Also, plywood furniture has become very popular and many people like the look of the exposed plies. Canadian birch has 5 plies, see image below. It can also be stained for a lovely finish. We often recommend for kitchen cabinets, bookshelves, and furniture like this DIY desk!

The images below are of 3/4″ Canadian birch, but we also stock 1/2″ and 1″.


Canadian Birch Plywood
Canadian Birch Plywood


The edge tape option…


If you prefer a clean finished edge that transforms the plywood into a solid piece of wood, you can opt to have it edge taped, or better yet…do it yourself!

We sell a lot of edge tape or wood band in a variety of sizes (pictured below) and walk you through the process in this post.

You can also see the difference between the edge taped piece of custom cut plywood vs. the exposed ply edge…check it out!


Edge Tape


Last, but definitely not least and very popular with our design clients…Baltic Birch Plywood!


The main upgrade here…more plies! So, definitely stronger and also it’s a look with a lot of design appeal.

There are 13 plies here people…Canadian birch has 5 plies, and Baltic birch plywood has 13 plies.

Baltic birch plywood is our most high-end option and can be used to create unique one-of-a-kind design pieces.

We usually stock Baltic birch in 3/4″, but we can also get 1/2″ and 1″.

Below we wanted to share some recent work using Baltic birch by some of our clients…see for yourself!

Images below by our clients:

1. Sepehr Mokhta via Instagram

2. Anthony Koithra via Instagram 


Baltic Birch Plywood
Baltic Birch Plywood

Update on Baltic Birch as of June 2024


During Covid the industry had a hard time sourcing B/BB grade Baltic Birch, meaning there is a clear face on one side. We can now get B/BB Baltic Birch, which is what we stock in-store. B/BB is the highest grade Baltic Birch sometimes referred to as “triple B” which again means that the front side “B” is clear, no football patches, and the back side “BB” has football patches.  

During Covid, the only Baltic Birch (still 13 plies) we could get in the NYC area was BB/BB meaning it has “football patches” on both sides, so there is no clear face to these sheets. Some people still prefer these, because they are still high quality, but more affordable than the B/BB and they will be covering the face of the Baltic Birch with a veneer anyway. Just ask if you would like us to quote BB/BB instead of B/BB and we will be happy to do so.

Below is a photo of the “football patch” we are referring to.

Always email us for the latest info on what is available in the market as things are always changing! 


Baltic Birch BB/BB 13 ply with football patch


Now, what to do with all these options?


Anything! These three options offer a lot of versatility and are all popular options for custom furniture, custom shelving, floating shelf designs, and more.

If you want to explore our solid wood board options you can read about pine, poplar, and red oak here.

Don’t forget the best part about MDF, Canadian birch plywood, and Baltic birch plywood…they all come in 4’x8′ sheets and can be custom cut to any size you need, by us! If you don’t live in the NYC area, ask your local lumber yard!

If you do live in the NYC area, we guarantee we are the best game in town for precise custom cutting, and we deliver!

For other FAQ’s you can check out this post, if you’re ready to do this…

Head on over to our custom cut order page, and let’s get started on your next project!




  1. David Whitmore

    Baltic birch aka Russian birch is no longer available in the U.S.
    Is it available to you in Canada?

    • Dwayne

      You can buy Baltic birch in US. I buy it all the time in texas

    • Robin Urquhart

      Pretty scarce everywhere. An alternative is dragonply.

  2. Midtown Lumber

    Midtown Lumber is in the US, New York City and we sell Baltic Birch! Thank you!

  3. Dan

    Baltic Birch is available in Alaska but also is a pretty dollar for 1 sheet. So far right now it’s $204.00 for a 8×4 sheet.

    • midtownlumber

      Hey Dan, in Alaska!

      The only Baltic Birch we can get down here in NYC right now is BB/BB meaning it has those “football patches” on both sides, there are no clear face sheets available at the moment those would be B/BB meaning a clear face, on one side.

      The price for the BB/BB 3/4″ sheet right now is around $270 but the price is always changing and just went up again due to the scarcity.

      If anyone is looking for BB/BB please email us for a current price info@midtownlumber.com.

      Thank you!

    • Andy Hastings

      As lumber dealers run out of stock BB plywood will get very scarse or non existant until maybe never. 1/2″ is still widely available asis 3/8″ and 1/4″. Few dealers have any 3/4″ left in stock
      Seems to me the Canadian and Alaska plywood mills have a ready market for 13 ply BB.

      • Adam p Harrison

        Where can you get this? Canadian and Alaskan 13 ply

        • midtownlumber

          Hi Adam,

          We can get Baltic Birch 13 ply BB/BB, which has “football patches” on both sides. There are no clear face sheets available at the moment those would be B/BB meaning a clear face, on one side.
          You can email info@midtownlumber.com for more info, pricing, and a photo of the “football patches” on the Baltic Birch 13 ply BB/BB we can get. Thank you!


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