How to Paint or Stain OSB

How to Paint or Stain OSB

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If you are working with OSB or oriented strand board, then something that you need to be aware of is that it is not overly resistant to the elements, especially when it comes to sun and moisture damage. However, with that being said, oriented strand board is a fantastic building material for many other reasons, not to mention that it is also very affordable.

This limited durability and resistance is a problem. With that being said, it is possible to make OSB more durable, as well as to just make it look much better, by either painting or staining it. Today we’re going to figure out whether it is better to paint or stain your OSB, and then we will take you through step-by-step tutorials for both processes.

Painting vs. Staining OSB: Which Is Better?

First and foremost, you probably want to know whether you should paint your OSB, or if you should stain it.

Staining OSB

First off, let’s take a quick look at the advantages that stain has over paint. For one, staining usually costs a lot less than paint does. What can also be said is that stain is very easy to apply, as it usually does not require the application of a primer before it can be applied.

Moreover, when you are using stain, you usually only need to add one coat or maybe two at the most. What is also beneficial about staining OSB is the fact that it really pulls into the wood and therefore makes it look very nice.

It allows the natural texture and looks of the wood underneath to stand out (although OSB really doesn’t look that nice to begin with). Another bonus that you get with stain is the fact that it usually doesn’t crack or peel like paint does. However, do keep in mind that OSB can be quite absorbent, which means that you might need to use a whole lot of stain to get the job done.

Painting OSB

Now, while it is true that you will probably need to apply a few coats of paint in order to properly protect the OSB, in terms of overall protection, it is the far better option to go with. When it comes to protection from UV damage, from insects, and especially in terms of waterproofing, paint is the far better option to go with.

For one, paint sits on the surface of the wood instead of absorbing into it, and therefore it creates a much thicker and better layer of protection against moisture and weather. Paint is the far better option to go with if you want to prevent the oriented strand board from becoming wet, rotting, and disintegrating.

Of course, the big downside here is that when you go to paint OSB, you do first need to apply a primer, which ends up being costlier and takes more time, not to mention the fact that paint by itself is more expensive than stain to begin with. There is also the fact that paint can crack and peel away, which means that you will probably end up repainting the surface after a few years depending on the conditions.

The Verdict

So, what it really all comes down to here is that stain is generally much easier to apply and much more cost-effective, and also doesn’t require much maintenance. However, on the other hand, paint is the far better option to go with if you are looking for long-term protection from the elements.

There is of course also the fact that if you paint OSB, you won’t be able to see the oriented strand board underneath, which in some cases can be a good thing because let’s face it, it’s not the most beautiful type of engineered wood out there. We definitely recommend using paint.

What Type of Paint or Stain Should You Use for OSB?

Oil-Based Paint for OSB Alright, so first off, if you happen to be using stain, then any type of stain that is ideal for engineered wood should do just fine. However, the choice is a little more important when it comes to painting oriented strand board.

The most important thing to remember here is that the only kind of paint that you want to use on OSB is oil-based paint. Using water-based paint can actually make the OSB peel over time, and that’s definitely not a good thing.

Moreover, another option that you have at your disposal here is very high-quality acrylic latex house paint. If you are painting the OSB for interior purposes, you probably want to go with the acrylic latex paint, but if you are painting outdoor OSB then oil-based paint is best.

How to Paint OSB

Now that we know what the deal with staining and painting oriented strand board is, let’s figure out how to paint it. It’s actually a very easy process, all things considered.

We have already talked about the best types of paint to use for this purpose, so we aren’t going to do a “gather your materials” section.

Step 1: Prepare the Area

Before you can apply the primer, you do first need to prepare the area, which means that you want to use a damp rag, but not too damp, to wipe down the OSB so that there is no debris on it.

At this point, you may also want to use a vacuum just to make sure that there is absolutely no debris present. Next, if you are painting inside of your home, then you definitely want to use some drop cloths or tarps to cover up anything that you don’t want paint getting on.

Step 2: Apply the Primer

The next step here is to simply apply the primer using either a paint roller or a paintbrush. Whether you use a paint roller or paintbrush really depends on the size of the surface that you are painting.

Be careful to apply a very even layer of the primer and then let it dry. If the OSB is very porous, it might be a good idea to apply a second layer of the primer, but remember to not do so until the first layer is virtually dry.

For the best results you do of course want to paint both sides of the OSB, as well as the edges. Once you have applied the primer, let it dry until it is no longer tacky. It’s going to take about two hours for each layer to dry. Keep repeating this priming process until you can no longer see the flaky pattern of the OSB.

Step 3: Apply the Paint

Just like you applied the primer, all you need to do now is to use either your paint roller or paintbrush to apply the paint of choice. Just like with the primer, you will also want to apply either two or even three layers of the paint in order to achieve the best results.

Make sure to apply the paint in even layers so that there are no high or low spots and also make sure to not apply layers too thick or else they will take forever to dry.

Remember, you want to apply a few layers here, so having each layer dry relatively quickly is important. All you need to do now is to let the paint on the OSB dry.

How to Stain OSB

We are not going to do a step-by-step instructional for this process because quite honestly, staining OSB is about as foolproof as it gets. All you first have to do is to prepare the OSB surface by wiping it down and making sure that there is no debris present.

Afterward, take your paintbrush or paint roller, get your stain, and apply it evenly to all sides as necessary.

For the most amount of protection, you will probably want to apply at least two layers of the stain, as it does really absorb into the OSB. All you need to know here is that you need to wait until one layer of stain is dry until you can apply another.

As we said before, staining OSB is about as easy as it gets.

Will Painting or Staining an OSB Make It Waterproof?

Staining oriented strand board will make it somewhat water-resistant but not waterproof. If you want to make your OSB as water-resistant as possible (or even borderline waterproof), then you do need to use waterproof paint.

Do keep in mind that even the best waterproof paints won’t make OSB 100% waterproof, but it will be about as water-resistant as possible.


Now that you know what you are doing, you can get to either staining or painting that oriented strand board so it not only looks better but also lasts longer.