plywood or osb structural panels

Plywood or OSB Structural Panels Pros and Cons

In today’s construction world, almost all structures are built with panels for at least part of the infrastructure. Builders have two widely available options in plywood or OSB structural panels, which both have advantages and disadvantages to their use. 


OSB, or oriented strand board, is a rigid panel made by grinding logs into thin strands that look somewhat like wood chips. The strands are arranged in crosshatch orientation and mixed with materials to bind them together, then finished in a hot press. The finished OSB board has a consistent density throughout the panel and can be made into sheets as long as 16 feet or higher. Historically, OSB’s key advantage comes from its cheaper manufacturing cost. For most uses such as subfloor and wall sheathing, it is rated equivalent to plywood. However, it’s a performance in moist climates can be questionable, as it is prone to retaining moisture that can result in the swelling of the board’s edges.  


Plywood is a strong panel made by stripping thin veneers in layers from a log. The veneers are pressed together in perpendicular layers, creating a solid panel, typically manufactured at 8- or 10-foot lengths. Plywood’s primary advantage is in its moisture resistance. Many flooring contractors refuse to use anything else as subfloor as it is perceived as more consistent and reliable. Plywood is generally more expensive than OSB, which is a key disadvantage. 

Overall, the two types of structural panels are rated very similar by agencies that specialize in building codes and material quality. Plywood can be perceived to be of higher quality, but many believe that fact comes from its long history, more consistent appearance, and higher cost. OSB is very commonly used in wall sheathing as well as roofing and flooring.  

In closing, builders have a choice of materials they can safely and responsibly use in construction planning. Both plywood or osb structural panels are reliable, strong options for roofing, sheathing, flooring, as well as many other applications. The renewability of wood makes either product widely available, therefore a good option for almost all buildings. 

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Oriented Strand Board on Wikipedia

Low-Grade OSB Panels

Low-Grade OSB Panels for Your Projects

Oriented strand board, or “OSB”, is manufactured all over the world as a panel alternative to plywood. Like many other building materials, OSB sheathing is subject to very particular grading requirements if it is going to be used in construction. When a given Oriented Strand Board panel doesn’t make the grade, it can’t be used in residential or commercial buildings…as a result, low-grade OSB panels can be put to many other cost-effective uses.

Below are five ways Oriented strand board can be used in construction projects.

1.) Packaging

Low-grade OSB is used to make crates and pallets for shipping. Oriented strand board panels are a cheaper alternative to other boards with similar strength features, making them ideal for heavily used shipping containers.

2.) Furniture Frames

Traditionally the frames that form the base of upholstered furniture have been made with hardwood lumber. However, in the last decade, wood panels, and in particular industrial-strength OSB wood panels, have been incorporated into furniture manufacturing for many major furniture brands.  As a result, furniture manufacturers are seeing a higher return on investment in the construction of furniture designs.

3.) Outbuildings

Different building code regulations allow for low-grade OSB boards to be used in constructing sheds, barns, and storage buildings. OSB is believed to be more water-resistant than plywood. Because so, landscaping sheds, workshops, and other popular outbuildings are often constructed with OSB which saves on cost and can extend the life of the structure.

4.) Concrete Forms

Off-grade OSB is a great economical alternative for forms need in a concrete building. A thicker OSB board, greater than 1/4 inches, is ideal for concrete form construction. Thinner forms can be used, but may require additional support to hold the form.

5.) Industrial Equipment

Manufacturers use OSB panels for other things as well, like dunnage, slip sheets, and crane mats. 

Oriented strand board has many uses outside of wall sheathing. Low-grade OSB panels can be the cheapest alternative for a wide variety of applications, from the farm to the factory! 

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More about OSB on Wikipedia