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Guide to Buying Plywood

OSB vs Plywood: What’s the Difference

Knowing the differences between OSB vs plywood can help you to make the right decision on which to use for your specific needs. In this guide, we’ll be explaining all you need to know about the differences between the two, including how they are made, their pros and cons and choosing the right material for your project.

What is the Difference Between OSB and Plywood?

While both plywood and OSB are similar and can often be used interchangeably, they do differ when it comes to their strengths and weaknesses.

Both oriented strand board (OSB) and plywood are panel products that are created by compressing and glueing pieces of wood together but that is where their similarities end. Let’s go into more detail about how each material is manufactured.

How is OSB Made?

OSB is made from wooden chips that are arranged in cross-oriented layers. To glue the pieces in place, heat-cured adhesives are added, which then creates a panel.

The wood chips used in the manufacturing process can either be hardwood or softwood, though they are typically manufactured with both. OSB is highly popular for various projects as it comes in large, continuous panel sheets that have a consistent quality with very few gaps or voids.

OSB Pros and Cons

When it comes to choosing the right material for your project, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of both.

Oriented Strand Board (OSB) Pros

  • OSB can be made into larger panels than plywood.
  • OSB is less expensive than plywood.
  • OSB has fewer voids, soft spots, or gaps.
  • OSB is more environmentally friendly as it can be made from scrap and smaller trees, rather than old-growth trees.

Oriented Strand Board (OSB) Cons

  • OSB weighs more.
  • OSB doesn’t hold screws, nails, and fasteners as firmly as plywood.
  • OSB swells more than plywood.
  • While both OSB and plywood off-gases formaldehyde, OSB off-gases more harmful gas

How Is Plywood Made?

Plywood is manufactured with several layers of very thin wood which are cross-laminated and then glued together. Each one of these layers is called a ply (hence the name ‘plywood’!)

The outside sheet of plywood is typically made from a hardwood veneer and the inner layers are often softwoods.

Plywood Pros and Cons

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of plywood to help you make the right decision for your project.

Plywood Pros

  • Plywood weighs less than OSB.
  • Nails, screws, and fasteners are more likely to remain more firmly in place in plywood.
  • Plywood panels swell less than OSB.
  • Plywood off-gases less harmful gases.
  • Plywood is 7% stronger.

Plywood Cons

  • Plywood is more expensive.
  • Plywood doesn’t come in as large sheets like OSB does.
  • Plywood can sometimes have voids or gaps in the plys.

Plywood vs OSB: Which Is Better for My Project?

When it comes to choosing the right material for your project, you should be mindful of how the two absorb moisture. For example, if your project is exposed to high levels of water, it’s often better to opt for plywood as it dries quicker and returns to its original shape once dry.

OSB is ideal for:

  • Roof sheathing
  • Subfloor material
  • Exterior Walls
  • Sheds
  • Other structural projects

Plywood is perfect for:

  • Structural projects
  • Woodwork projects

OSB & Plywood: Custom Cuts at Fleetsmart

Still not sure which material is right for your project? For more advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of experts at Cutsmart. We’re happy to help!

OSB and Plywood FAQs

Is OSB stronger than MDF?

Typically, OSB is stronger than MDF, however this depends entirely on the thickness of each material and the manufacturing quality.

Is OSB waterproof?

While OSB is water resistant, it isn’t waterproof. Any cut edges allow water to enter the untreated wood fibres inside which can swell and pull apart. TO avoid this, make sure to apply paint or a waterproof sealant to stop the moisture from entering.

How do you prevent plywood tear out?

To avoid splinters on the edges of your plywood, it’s important to use sharp saw blades and support the underside of the wood with a sheet of foam or scrap plywood.

How long does plywood last?

The lifespan of plywood is dependent on its quality and the amount of moisture it is exposed to. Thankfully, with Cutsmart’s high quality products, you can expect our plywood to last a long time.