Plywood Vs OSB Subfloor [13 Differences To Know]

Although plywood and OSB or oriented strand board are both referred to as “structural panels” by building rules, their compositions are very different.

Solid wood expands and contracts in response to temperature changes. On the other hand, Plywood doesn’t expand or contract since it’s cross-laminated, which means it’s more stable than solid wood because it’s layered at 90-degree angles.

On the other hand, OSB is made up of 3- to 4-inch-long fibers of wood that are glued and compressed after being layered and structured in a cross pattern.

Initially, builders were wary about switching from solid-board sheathing to plywood for subfloors and decks, which eventually became the industry norm.

When OSB was introduced as a substitute for plywood, critics were eager to point out its shortcomings. Its low cost fueled its rise in popularity but did it overtake plywood as builders’ preferred choice for home construction?

This is a comprehensive guide to choosing any one of them based on your purposes.

About Plywood

It is a by-product of engineered wood comprised of multiple layers of veneered wood. Plywood The material’s name comes from the term “ply,” which refers to a layer.

Plywood is made by gluing together two neighboring ply’s grains. You can do this in order to keep it from sagging or expanding. Manufacturers use different types of wood-based on where they are located.

Most companies in Australia employ fir, eucalyptus, ash, pine, beech, or birch for their products. Some plywood manufacturers may also use mahogany, maple, oak, or teak.

There are numerous kinds of plywood to pick from. Each one has distinct traits that make it better suited to a particular set of circumstances.

Due to the distinct characteristics of the wood veneers used to make plywood, each ply may be somewhat different in-depth and thickness.

This means that the structural integrity of plywood is not always consistent.

About OSB

Engineered wood composites include OSB, which is an acronym for OSB. Particleboard is more like this than plywood, however.

Poplar, Aspen, southern yellow pine, and black poplar are some of the trees used to construct OSB. The logs are broken down into flakes, which are wood threads.

After that, they use high heat to dry the strands. In order to make the board more resistant to moisture, the flakes of wood are mixed with a resin and wax mixture.

After that, the strands are layered on the mat and machine-pressed. After that, the boards are aired out to get rid of any dangerous odors, and then they are cut to size.

OSBs can be tailored to meet a specific need in some situations. The addition of low emission aluminum foil to a single side of a radiant barrier serves as an example of such a modification.

OSBs with tongue-and-and-groove cuts, on the other hand, interlock to make installation simpler.
OSB, like plywood, is available in a variety of grades.

The grades are based on the board’s mechanical performance and water resistance.

Difference Between Plywood Vs OSB Subfloor

Oriented Strand Board vs. Plywood: Which is better?. Roofs, walls, and floors can all be supported by either material. Let’s compare the two and see which one is better for your endeavors.

Moisture

More moisture-resistant but also more time-consuming to dry out, OSB is an alternative. A moist edge of OSB can be seen through materials that are later laid over it if it is left wet for long periods of time.

As a result of this issue, production can be delayed, adding costs for sanding or replacing materials. Before installation, it is important to keep the material dry and cover it as quickly as possible.

Plywood can delaminate if exposed to moisture for an extended period of time because it absorbs moisture quickly but also gets dried out quickly.

As long as the project is completed in a reasonable amount of time, both materials should be fine. If water seeps through a building’s foundation, the most vulnerable subfloor.

Rain-prone areas of the country are best served with panels that can be left outside for long periods of time.

Structure

OSB and plywood are comparable in terms of structural integrity. Both the Engineered Wood Association and building codes treat these two types of wood as interchangeable in most structural applications.

It’s possible that plywood is a better option for installing tile flooring over a subfloor than other materials. For tile installations, the experts recommend a tongue and groove plywood subfloor.

The moisture problems with OSB that have already been mentioned can resurface if you choose hardwood flooring. Moisture content in a subfloor must be carefully monitored prior to installation. Because of the significant differential, the floor may cup or buckle.

Usage

OSB and Plywood are used for sheath roofs, walls, and subfloors. For these purposes, they function just as well, are easy to drill into, and retain nails just as well as the competition.

As a general rule, plywood is preferred over OSB for roofing and subfloors because it is more water-resistant. OSB panels’ pre-printed grid lines make it easier for some builders to measure, mark, cut, and fasten.

When installing plywood, it is recommended to utilize grid-marked sheathing because of the time-saving benefits. In comparison to plywood, panels made of OSB can be made in lengths of up to 16 feet.

As a result, OSB is the material of choice for projects requiring panels that are both longer and broader. If you’re looking for a high-quality OSB panel, it’s worth noting that certain manufacturers use modern technology to produce moisture-resistant items.

Because of their endurance and performance, these boards are costlier than ordinary oriented strand boards.

User-Friendliness

There are advantages and disadvantages to working with the two materials. When installed on a slanted roof, OSB is less slippery underfoot.

Also, the face is free of core voids or knots, which makes it more dimensionally uniform. Compared to OSB, plywood is a little tougher and lighter, and it’s less likely to split.

Popularity

OSB is becoming more popular than plywood because it is cheaper and more durable than plywood. The 1970s saw the introduction of OSB, which overtook plywood in market share and manufacturing in 2000. Currently, OSB has a market share of 70-75 percent, whereas plywood holds a 25-percent share.

Cost

When choosing a building material, the cost is always a factor. Plywood, on the other hand, is typically more expensive than OSB. As a result, the total cost of a major expansion or new home might be significantly reduced.

A wise client may be more satisfied with a project if they choose plywood because of its perceived value as a high-quality building material.

Many aspects must be taken into account when deciding the material to use. Is it personal choice or trade, or regional norms determining the final outcome?

Look

As the name suggests, Plywood is made by gluing many coats of wood veneer together at an angle of 90 degrees. When you look at the sheets, the layers will be clearly evident.

While the veneer appears to be solid wood when viewed from above, it is actually a laminate. Solid wood chips are bonded together to create the OSB’s solid surface.

When looking at the sheet, you can see the flat chips.

Heat And Water Resistance

While plywood has a higher water absorption capacity, it also dries more quickly. It’s also more resistant to swelling over time.

It is less resistant to heat and water than OSB, which is why it is less commonly used in construction. Also, it retains moisture for a longer time.

The edges of OSB, which are untreated, can quickly swell if the board is exposed to water. If there is a significant amount of flooding or spillage, you should take care of it immediately.

Plywood comes out on top in this area due to its ability to withstand swelling over time. However, if a fire breaks out in your home, both materials will burn.

Cleaning

OSB and Plywood are both common building materials that are not readily visible. It indicates zero need for any sort of maintenance or upkeep whatsoever. In the event of a large spill, you should, nevertheless, expose the flooring and ventilate it immediately.

Durability And Maintenance

If you select plywood for your subfloor, you may expect it to endure as long as the home. Plywood is more durable than OSB.

Both OSB and Plywood are more resistant to water damage, although neither is entirely impenetrable and can still decompose in the presence of moisture.

Therefore, plywood would be a superior underlay for a ceramic or stone tile floor than linoleum. Even though OSB subfloors can last like plywood, they are a little more flexible.

Because of this, it is necessary to utilize a subfloor that is thicker than plywood. When it comes to heavier flooring like stone and ceramic tiles, OSB isn’t the ideal choice.

As a result of its superior strength and versatility, plywood has emerged as the clear winner in this comparison.

Installation

The installation technique for both materials is the same. Most construction workers choose plywood because it is faster to install and provides a more stable subfloor, but it is also more expensive. Nails and screws have a harder time sticking to OSB. On top of that, it’s sturdier and heavier.

Comfort And Sound

It is possible that Plywood will flex less underfoot because it is 10% stiffer throughout the span between joists. It’s a fact that very few people are aware of.

Installing OSB under carpet or vinyl will allow it to stretch more than plywood will. With ceramic tile or wood floors, you won’t even notice this.

Woods such as plywood and OSB fall into this category since they are both sound and comfortable. There is no one better than the other.

Resale Value

Plywood, on the other hand, is a more durable option. As a result, plywood subfloors command a little premium from many homebuyers.

In comparison to plywood, OSB is less valuable because of its lesser strength. As a result, OSB isn’t a popular choice among homeowners.

Plywood is better in all other categories, including the structural integrity of the building. Consequently, for underfloor applications, it is the material of choice.

Moreover, it’s also the most widely used and favored material in the business. It’s not like there is a huge difference between the two. OSB is a viable option for underfloor applications because of its low cost.

And, The Winner Is

OSB may be a good option if you’re trying to keep construction costs to a minimum. Even if you place the board over a vast region, it won’t cost you a fortune.

OSB’s durability and strength make it an excellent choice for a wide range of applications. The only thing to watch out for is selecting the proper humidity-grade board.

A wet or bloated subfloor could be the result otherwise. Plywood, on the other hand, is an excellent long-term solution. Although it is thinner and lighter than OSB, it is not any weaker or less durable in comparison.

It can even outlast its thicker cousin in terms of durability in many circumstances. Floors can be finished with any sort of floor covering or surface treatment.

True, plywood does cost more than OSB, but it doesn’t mean it’s better. However, the increased level of toughness and adaptability is well worth the price.

High-quality materials aren’t really a factor in subfloor construction. There isn’t a clear winner in the plywood vs. OSB dispute. Aside from the case of tiles. The obvious choice is plywood.

In the end, the decision between plywood and OSB comes down to personal preference and budget. How much money can you afford to spend on flooring? Ultimately, it’s up to you.

Photo of author

Shelley Stevenson

Shelly Stevenson is the full-time editor responsible for painting, flooring, bathrooms & home climate coverage at StyDomIo. She is a home improvement expert with an eye for design and the skills to get the work done. She knows what turns a house into a home and has the advice and ideas to make upgrades easy and fun.

Leave a Comment

Explore Us

About Us

StayDomIo Logo

At StayDomIo.com, we have a team of professional industry experts to help you find guides on painting, finishing, flooring, bathroom & kitchen to make your home look stunning. We have tested, researched & written hundreds of buying guides to help you select the top notch & affordable product out there!

Disclosure

StayDomIo.Com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.