Concrete Forms: A Quick Guide to Imported vs North American Engineered Wood

Here are few things to watch out for to make sure the engineered wood you want to use for concrete forms, flooring, roofs, or walls will be able to do what you need.

Concrete Forms: A Quick Guide to Imported vs North American Engineered Wood
Formwork represents close to half the cost of a concrete structure, warranting serious and detailed consideration when sourcing.
APA - The Engineered Wood Association

When ordering concrete forming panels, it’s important to understand what you will get—quality materials or a product that won’t perform. APA certifies engineered wood products to some of the most stringent standards in the world. The standards, PS 1 for plywood only, and PS 2 for all structural wood panels are designed to assess the ability of engineered products to perform in their intended application and are tested for installed attributes such as concentrated load, uniform load, bond performance, and expansion with moisture content. Complementary standards in Canada are CSA-O121 for Douglas-fir plywood and CSA-O325 for all structural wood panels.

Quality Assurance

Once certified, engineered wood products are evaluated based on a strong quality assurance policy that includes reviewing mill quality procedures, APA third-party audits of the mill quality system, and quality testing that verifies the quality and performance of engineered wood products. Finally, APA’s quality assurance policies have proactive steps to ensure quality issues are dealt with promptly.

Concrete Forms: A Quick Guide to Imported vs North American Engineered WoodPlywood panel flexure testing at APA's Tacoma research laboratory.APA - The Engineered Wood Association

Qualified products are then authorized by APA so the products can bear a trademark that clearly identifies where and how they can be installed. Structural panels are evaluated for qualification and quality assurance that results in a trademark for a specific span for roofs, walls, floors, or use such as concrete form. Again, the quality assurance auditing and testing provides assurance the quality of the material matches the grade stamped on the product.

Concrete Forms: A Quick Guide to Imported vs North American Engineered WoodThe glue bond on this imported concrete form panel failed, causing the panel to delaminate.APA - The Engineered Wood Association

Rating, Standards & Source

Imported panels, in comparison, could come in three different categories, and the purchaser needs to be aware of the implications. In one instance, it could be an imported engineered wood product that has similar span rating or grade information as APA uses, but the product quality may not be the same as an APA stamped product.

The imported engineered wood product could be trademarked to a foreign standard. The standard could be legitimate, but a foreign standard will not have a North American span or grade rating. 

The panel may identify the source of the product, the thickness, and the manufacturer, but if there is no standard reference listed in the trademark, there’s no telling how it was made and whether the combination of glue, wood species and manufacturing will result in a product with adequate structural performance. In some cases, the panel might have a clear face with an attractive pattern, and it could look like a 3/4-in. panel that could be used in a structural application.

Concrete Forms: A Quick Guide to Imported vs North American Engineered WoodThe APA trademark signifies a panel passed a rigorous quality verification and testing program and was manufactured in conformance with APA or national standards.APA - The Engineered Wood AssociationWithout a standard in the trademark, the wood species used could have inferior strength and stiffness. The glue could have inferior moisture performance or have high formaldehyde emissions. The degree of quality assurance is completely unknown. An APA trademark provides the assurance of appropriate qualification and quality assurance evaluation that yields a product that provides performance matching the product trademark.

APA has responded to inquiries in the past of questionable trademarks, particularly on structural panels. In certain cases, APA noted that panel stiffness was low in comparison to the product trademark rating. In some of the panels, the bond quality was low, and formaldehyde emissions were higher than normal for North American structural panels. When purchasing engineered wood products, such as concrete form panels, the APA trademark provides the assurance of a quality product that will consistently perform as labeled for span rating or grade.

About the author

Kurt Bigbee is a Senior Scientist with APA’s Technical Services Division. Learn more about North American concrete form panels and how to source them at