OSB vs. Drywall: Which to Choose?

OSB vs. Drywall: Which to Choose?

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If you are building walls, whether sheathing or finishing, there are various materials you may use, with OSB and drywall being two of them. Now, both are popular building materials in their own rights, but they are very different. Today, we want to figure out what both OSB and drywall are, what makes them similar and different, and what they both excel at. Let’s figure out which one to use for your next project.

OSB and Drywall: The Basics

Before we talk about similarities and differences, let’s first figure out what both OSB and drywall are.

What Is OSB?

OSB stands for oriented strand board, and this is a type of engineered wood. It is made by taking strands of wood taken from either softwood or hardwood trees and then placing them on a screen.

There are then subsequent layers of these wooden strands put on top of each other, with each layer being perpendicular to the last. This creates what is known as a cross-grain pattern, therefore allowing for great durability, weight-bearing capabilities, nail and screw holding strength, and more.

Those layers are then mixed with special adhesives and resins, and then pressed together with great amounts of heat to form solid panels.

Oriented strand board is most commonly used for wall, roof, and floor sheathing, although it may also serve other applications. What does need to be said is that OSB is not very good in terms of water. It tends to absorb moisture and swell at the edges.

What Is Drywall?

We then have drywall, which is completely different from OSB. Drywall, also known as gypsum panel, is made by mixing together a slurry of calcium sulfate dihydrate with other substances, which are then placed in between sheets of backer paper and facer paper.

In other words, it’s a type of plaster sandwiched in between a special type of paper. This mixture is allowed to dry and harden into a solid panel.

Drywall is generally used just for decorative purposes, mainly with interior walls and ceilings. Drywall is not structural or weight-bearing in nature, and is not overly durable or moisture resistant either. However, it is lightweight, easy to cut, and easy to paint as well.

Similarities of OSB and Drywall

Now that we know what both drywall and OSB are, let’s figure out what makes them similar to one another. As you are about to see, they are two totally different things and really don’t share many similarities at all.

1. Some Common Applications

Really the only similarity shared by these two building materials is that they may be used for some common applications, mainly for interior walls and ceilings. That said, on that front, drywall is the far more popular option.

Differences Between OSB and Drywall

Now that we know what makes drywall and OSB similar, let’s talk about the plethora of differences between the two.

1. The Material Itself

The primary difference between these two materials is that OSB is a type of engineered wood, made with strands of wood and various adhesives, whereas drywall is a gypsum panel made by sandwiching a calcium sulfate slurry in between two pieces of backer paper. One is engineered wood, the other is gypsum, and are therefore two fundamentally different things.

2. Overall Durability

Another big difference is that OSB is far stronger and more durable than drywall. Your average piece of OSB is quite durable and can handle a good bit of impact, traffic, and general wear and tear. It’s something you can use for sheathing without having to worry about it crumbling after a few years. Drywall on the other hand is totally decorative and is not durable at all. In fact, your average drywall panel is so weak that you could punch it and snap it right in half.

3. Structural Integrity and Weight Bearing Capabilities

Another huge difference here is that OSB can be structural in nature, and it can bear a good bit of weight too. For this reason, OSB can be used for wall and roof sheathing, as well as to make subfloors. Drywall, however, is not structural at all, and it can’t bear any weight. If you step on a piece of drywall being supported on either side, it will break under your weight. You cannot actually build anything out of drywall.

4. Thickness and Weight

The next difference is that OSB can be pretty thick. It comes in thicknesses ranging from1/4” to 1-1/8”, and it is also fairly heavy. In fact, OSB is so heavy that when installing large panels, two people may be required. On the other hand, drywall usually tops out at ½” in thickness, and is far lighter too, therefore making it easier to work with due to its lightweight nature.

5. Flexibility

What can be said about OSB is that it is somewhat flexible. It’s not super rigid, so it has a bit of give to it, which is why subfloors made of OSB often feel a bit soft and springy. Drywall, on the other hand, is totally stiff and cannot flex. Instead of flexing, if pressure is applied to drywall, it will just snap.

6. Moisture Resistance

Another difference here is that, while both products aren’t super moisture resistant, regular OSB is a bit more moisture resistant than regular drywall. Yes, OSB does absorb some moisture, which causes it to warp and swell, but so does regular drywall. That said, there are special types of drywall, mainly fiberglass-faced drywall, that are designed with moisture resistance in mind. In this case, fiberglass-faced drywall is more moisture resistant than OSB.

7. Pest Resistance

Another thing worth noting here is that drywall is superior in terms of pest resistance when compared to OSB. OSB is made with real wood, which means it’s more likely to attract pests. However, pests really have no reason to infest a gypsum panel, therefore making drywall the superior option on this front.

8. Fire Resistance

Although both aren’t overly resistant to fire, drywall is the more fire resistant of the two. Drywall is made with materials that can resist combustion to a certain degree. OSB on the other hand, because it contains real wood, is much more flammable than drywall.

9. Ease of Cutting and Painting

One big benefit that drywall has over OSB is that it is far easier to work with. Due to its nature, cutting drywall with a saw or even a utility knife is easily done. On that note, drywall is totally smooth, which means that it is very easy to paint or cover in wallpaper.

Because of this, drywall also looks quite nice. OSB on the other hand, due to its construction, can be hard to cut without causing it to splinter and come apart. Moreover, because it is not smooth at all, it is also rather difficult to paint and just doesn’t look all that nice.

OSB vs. Drywall: Which Should You Use?

Seeing as OSB and drywall are two totally different things, they are also used for different purposes. If you are doing subflooring or wall or roof sheathing, then OSB is the material of choice. It can also be used to make low-grade furniture. However, drywall cannot be used to actually build anything, but it does make a good choice for making interior walls and ceilings, particularly because it is easy to paint, and looks nice too.

Can You Use OSB Instead of Drywall?

If you are doing walls and ceilings, then OSB is not a good option to go with. It’s far too heavy, it doesn’t look nice, and it’s not easy to paint either. There would be no point in using OSB instead of drywall.


The bottom line here is that both OSB and drywall have specific uses they excel at, but they are not at all the same things.

How Does Drywall Compare with Other Materials?

You might also be interested in seeing how drywall compares with: