Plywood used to be king for wall sheathing and flooring material, but oriented strand board (OSB), introduced in the late 70s, is now the most popular. But both have their advantages and disadvantages — so which should you use for your project?
Both products can be used interchangeably by builders as roofing material, exterior wall sheathing, and floor underlayment. Each may be more common in certain areas and some builders have long-standing personal preferences to one or the other. DIYers will typically use plywood as it has a natural wood look.
Plywood is manufactured from thin layers of wood veneer that are glued together with adjacent layers, having their wood grain rotated up to 90 degrees to one another.
Certain grades of plywood may be more susceptible to moisture, and less expensive veneers can have inconsistencies in the surface due to knots in the wood. Plywood is available in various thicknesses with ½” being the most popular for general construction.
Plywood is popular for construction for many reasons: it’s less likely to split when nailed or screwed at the edges due to its cross-grain construction, and it’s also lighter than solid wood, making it easier to manoeuvre and hang. It’s also less likely to swell, contract or warp due to the balanced tension across the grains of adjacent veneers. For all those advantages, though, it is more expensive than OSB.