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Oriented Strand Board vs. Plywood

You want the highest quality structure, right? Of course you do. That’s why you’re reading this tip.

Quality is a major concern for us. That’s why we want to help you make sure that every part of your structure is as good as it can be. Some consumers have questions when they see oriented strand board (OSB) being used in their construction. Some consumers even feel like they are getting a lower quality product. You need not worry; in most application OSB has a comparable quality to plywood.

OSB has these Advantages over Plywood:

  • OSB has excellent moisture tolerance and is much less susceptible to the stress related problems of plywood, such as warping and ply separation.
  • OSB is generally more square and has smaller dimensional tolerances.
  • There are no soft spots such as those that can occur in plywood.
  • OSB is considered by many to be a “green” building material because it can be made from smaller-diameter trees, such as poplars, that are often farmed. Plywood production, by contrast, requires larger-diameter trees from old-growth forests.
  • OSB has greater shear strength than plywood; the span rating, nail pull and screw hold are equivalent.

OSB and Plywood: Both products meet local and national building codes and can be used interchangeably by builders as roofing material, exterior wall sheathing, and floor underlayment. What’s the Difference?

  • Let’s start with the similarities. Building codes use the phrase “wood structural panel” to describe the use of plywood and OSB. Codes recognize these two materials as the same. Both are made by compressing and gluing small pieces of wood together.
  • Plywood is made from thin sheets of veneer that are peeled off a log. Picture a giant pencil sharpener. These sheets are laminated together in a hot press to make plywood.
  • OSB is made from wood ground into thin similarly shaped wood strands. These strands are mixed with wax and adhesive and then hot pressed. Approximately 50 layers of strands make one sheet of OSB.