OSB Vs. Plywood: What Is The Difference?

When building a home, you’ll think about OSB vs. plywood: What is the difference? Unless you have construction experience, it’s doubtful you know the difference. 

OBS Vs. PlywoodView in gallery
Nick Noyes Architecture

It’s something you should do by yourself, so you’ll need the right information. And the decision should be made based on your needs.  

What Is OSB?

What Is OSB?View in gallery

Oriented strand board (OSB) was invented in the 70s. It came from waferboard. Unlike chipboard or cork, OSB is made.

Small wood pieces create a new, waste-free, board. OSB also uses wood from plentiful trees. The logs are cut into strands that are fit together with wax. 

What Is Plywood?

What Is Plywood?View in gallery
Nick Noyes Architecture

Although OSB is popular, plywood is more common. Plywood  consists of  small wood pieces piled on top of each other.

As a wood veneer, it is glued to other pieces with formaldehyde. The layers are set in a cross-graining pattern, so the wood won’t split. The better the plywood, the more angles you’ll find. 

What Is The Difference Between OSB vs Plywood?

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A.W. Hobor & Sons, Inc.

OSB has overtaken plywood on the sheathing market. A few years ago, plywood was more popular. Now, OSB has over 70% of the market share, over 20 percent from what it was two decades ago. 

Does that mean it’s better or should be the number one choice? The way to compare OSB vs. plywood is to look at their pros and cons. 

Pros And Cons Of OSB

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Pros

  • Fireproofing Option – One benefit of OSB is that it can be fireproofed. Manufacturers apply a fireproof seal to the wood that makes it fire-resistant. You can’t do this to plywood.
  • Cheaper – No matter how you look at it, a sheet of OSB is cheaper than a sheet of plywood of equal size and thickness. In some cases, OSB is half the price of plywood. But in most cases, it’s about 20-30 percent cheaper.
  • Thicker – OSB is thicker than plywood. It’s no secret that thicker sheets offer many benefits. If you’re paying less for thicker boards, that may be enough to convince you to choose OSB alone.
  • Larger Sheets – Not are OSB sheets thicker, but they come in larger sheets. You can still get them in the standard 4×8 sheets, but you can also get them 24 feet long. This makes large projects even easier.
  • No Knots – Unlike plywood, OSB doesn’t have large knots in the wood. Knots can break off and leave holes in wood and they are impossible to screw through without compromising stability. No knots are a good thing.
  • Stable – OSB is a plywood substitute for joists along with 2x6s or 2x4s due to the extra stability of the thickness and composition strategy. Plywood isn’t recommended for adding stability to joists.
  • Eco-Friendly – OSB is made with renewable trees, it is more eco-friendly. It also can be found without formaldehyde and in chemical-free versions.

Cons

  • Heavy – OBS is heavier than plywood due to the thickness and amount of wood packed into each piece. This can be a hassle with small construction groups or when used on fragile frames.
  • Hard To Waterproof – It’s not waterproof. The ends of OBS swell if cut. Plywood is water-resistant.
  • Not Attractive – You won’t hear of OSB being used for siding or as a flooring option. It isn’t attractive and is for sheathing alone. You will want to find something attractive to cover it.
  • Can Rot – OSB isn’t waterproof, so it can rot. 

Pros And Cons Of Plywood

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Ricchetti Builders, Inc.

Pros

  • Impact-Resistant- Plywood is more impact-resistant than OSB. This is why it’s used in workshops and worktables. It won’t split or dent when under pressure like OSB can, so it’s great for subfloors.
  • Many Variants – Plywood comes in many more variants than OSB. Markerboards, cabinets, and aircraft feature this wood. 
  • Nearly Waterproof – Plywood is water-resistant. It doesn’t swell when exposed to water and is permeable, so it allows water to pass through without absorbing it. 
  • Curves Well – Plywood curves much better than OSB does. It is often used in curved projects like eyebrow windows. Plywood is more pliable which makes up for its thinness and gives the thickness purpose.
  • Solid Wood – Plywood looks better than OSB because it looks like solid wood.
  • Longer-Lasting – Plywood lasts longer than OSB. This is due to its water-resistance unlike OSB, which absorbs and swells when exposed to water. However, the initial price may balance this out. 

Cons

  • Thinner – It’s as simple as that.
  • More Expensive – this is the number one reason people choose OSB. It is much more expensive than OSB for large projects. For small projects, plywood is great. But if you’re investing in building materials, OSB may be a better choice. 
  • Knots – it may not be a dealbreaker, but the knots on plywood can be quite annoying. They can leave holes, be in the way, and force you to play which way you will lay each piece. This isn’t a problem with OSB. 

Unfinished Plywood 

OSB is not good by itself. Unfinished plywood is good for siding, floors, and more. You can varnish it so it looks nice and sleek. 

There are many projects that use unfinished plywood. If you are considering this, then check out the following ideas. 

Plywood Cabinetry 

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Buckminster Green LLC

Plywood makes great cabinets. An expert craftsman can make them look perfect, but even an amateur can take a stab at it. Follow guides online or plan it out beforehand and get creative. 

Full Sheet Walls

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Nick Noyes Architecture

If the studs match, you can use plywood sheets to cover your walls. You won’t find an easier way to cover your walls. It will also save money as you won’t have to pay for wall coverings. 

Pieces Walls With Trim

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Lawrence Architecture

You can also cut the plywood and cover the seams with trim. This gives a more finished look but still doesn’t require an extra wall covering. Finish it out with a soft varnish to transform it into something special. 

Modern Designs

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Prentiss Balance Wickline Architects

You can even create something new with plywood. Piece it together in an eclectic way or paint designs on it. If you get the right paint, you can paint it outright, which isn’t possible with other particle boards. 

Plywood Countertops

Plywood CountertopsView in gallery
Studio Zerbey Architecture + Design

This may be the best idea yet. Using plywood for a countertop is smart. Cover the edges with trim for a finished, modern look that will look nothing like construction plywood. 

OSB Vs. Plywood: Making Your Decision

As with any decision in life, like OSB vs. plywood, the choice is yours. Look over the pros and cons a few times before deciding. If waterproof wood is important to you because you live in a hurricane zone, choose plywood.

OSB is the way to go on any budget. Continue with this strategy until you find what works for you. Consult a professional you can trust to lend a hand in making your final decision when choosing between OSB and plywood

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

OSB Vs. Plywood: Which Is The Greener Wood Choice?

OSB is greener. The reason why is OSB comes from small wood pieces or tiny-diameter trees. Smaller trees grow faster, which replaces OSB wood sources faster.   

What Is The Best Wood To Use For Bookshelves?

Plywood bookshelves are  the industry standard. It is rare when you encounter bookshelves that feature different structure materials.

Is OSB Good For furniture?

OSB furniture is cheap and good for the environment. The wood type is almost as strong a plywood. OSB wood is ideal for tables and cabinets.

OSB Vs. Plywood Conclusion

OSB vs. plywood is important. There are pros and cons for both OSB and plywood. Based on environmental concerns, OSB is the clear favorite. Plywood is popular but it seems its usage will decline.

Until a replacement for plywood emerges, the wood is the most sturdy option for indoor and outdoor construction. Now that you know the difference between OSB and plywood, you can make an informed choice for your home or new tiny house.