If what you are looking for is a high-quality wood-based building material, then OSB or oriented strand board is something to look into. It is a type of engineered wood closely related to the likes of plywood, particleboard, MDF, and others. However, just like all of those, OSB has its own specific properties that you need to be aware of.
As such, in this article, let’s take a closer look at its advantages and disadvantages. First, though, let’s talk about what OSB is.
What Is Oriented Strand Board?
As mentioned above, oriented strand board is a specific type of engineered wood. For those of you who don’t know what engineered wood is, this is a type of building material made by breaking down raw or scrap wood, and then turning it into panels and various other shapes. Oriented strand board is very similar to both particleboard and plywood.
OSB is made by breaking down wood into small chips and then orienting them in a specific way, mixing them with a lot of adhesive and resin, and then pressing them into specific shapes. The chips are organized into a multitude of layers, with the number of layers depending on the intended thickness of the final product.
Moreover, these chips are also layered in a perpendicular manner to create a so-called cross-grain pattern that is known for having great shear strength. Generally speaking, the composition of OSB is roughly 95% wood chips and 5% resin and adhesives. Some of the most popular uses of oriented strand boards include walling, sheathing, flooring, and roofing.
Advantages of Oriented Strand Board
Let’s first take a look at all of the reasons why you might want to choose oriented strand board for your next building material.
#1: It Is Strong
One of the biggest advantages that you get with OSB is, quite simply, that it is extremely strong. Much stronger than plywood for example. This is the reason why, over the years, it has overtaken plywood in popularity when it comes to applications such as flooring, roofing, and walling. In fact, OSB has about twice the shear strength of plywood. Simply put, breaking, snapping, or cracking OSB is not an easy task. This makes it great for applications that require great structural integrity.
#2: It Comes in Several Types
Something else that stands out about OSB is that there are several types of it. There are types of OSB designed to be used indoors and those designed to be used outdoors. The fact that you can find application-specific OSB is a big benefit no doubt.
#3: It Can Be Very Water-Resistant
If you choose OSB designed for outdoor use, then it is going to be extremely water-resistant and, in some cases, even totally waterproof. Of course, how waterproof OSB is does depend on the specific type. But that said, if you do find the right type, it’s one of the best-engineered wood building materials out there for environments where water and moisture are a problem.
#4: It Is Consistent Across Sides
Another major advantage that you get with oriented strand board is the fact that it is consistent from one side to the other. Unlike plywood which can have holes and knots, the way in which OSB is made ensures that there are none of these defects. If what you are looking for is ease of use and structural integrity, then the manufacturing process which OSB goes through allows for the perfect mix of both.
#5: It Can Be Massive
Unlike plywood panels, which usually top out at around 10 feet in length, OSB panels can reach up to 24 feet in length, thus covering a whole lot of area at once.
#6: It Is Affordable
What is interesting to note is that although oriented strand board is much stronger than plywood, it is also much cheaper. Depending on the size of the panel, you can save up to $5 when buying OSB compared to plywood.
For more information, read my article about how much OSB costs.
#7: It Is Somewhat Eco-Friendly
The wood used for OSB generally comes from small and fast-growing trees. This does allow for a good deal of sustainability, not to mention the fact that the maximum amount of wood fibers possible are used from each tree. No, it’s not made of reused or recycled wood, but it also doesn’t force manufacturers to chop down massive trees that have been growing for hundreds of years.
Disadvantages of Oriented Strand Board
Now that you know why, you might want to choose oriented strand board for your next project, let’s take a look at all the disadvantages that you will be faced with.
#1: It Is a Little Too Pliable for Flooring
Although OSB is stronger than plywood, it is also a little more pliable. This means that it is not the best option for flooring because it will flex quite a bit, which can cause floors to be squeaky.
#2: It May Swell When Exposed to Water
Unless you use waterproof OSB, the edges of it can swell by up to 15% when exposed to high amounts of moisture, which can of course be problematic.
#3: It Looks Unfinished
One of the biggest problems that people have with OSB is the fact that it just doesn’t look very nice and that it is not easy to clean. It’s not something you want to use to finish your walls.
That said, there are several ways to make an OSB look good.
#4: It Comes with Some Health Risks
OSB is usually made with formaldehyde, a very poisonous chemical that you generally don’t want to be around.
#5: It Is Perceived to Be Low Value
For one reason or another, although OSB is actually one of the best types of engineered wood out there, due to its rough appearance, it is usually considered to be very low value. People just tend to assume that it is not a good type of engineered wood due to its look.
#6: It Is Heavy
The other disadvantage of OSB is the fact that it is very heavy and therefore can be quite difficult to install, especially when large panels are involved.
Now that you know everything there is to know about oriented strand board, you can make a well-informed decision about what type of engineered wood building material you want to use for your next project.
How Does OSB Compare to Other Types of Materials?
For a more detailed comparison of particle board with other types of wood, check the articles below: