Photograph of OSB and FRT plywood © Daniel Friedman OSB Oriented Strand Board Sheathing
Definition & Properties

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OSB Oriented Strand Board Sheathing:

This article defines and illustrates the properties of OSB or oriented strand board roof or wall sheathing.

This article series describes wood products used in construction including engineered lumber, OSB, and Plywood products.

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Definition & Characteristics of OSB - Oriented Strand Board

OSB Subflooring (C) D Friedman

"OSB" or Oriented Strand Board wood products is similar to LVL and PSL, but OSB is produced in sheets (typically 4' x 8' in size) and is constructed of shorter strands of wood or even (in the case of 4' x 8' sheets) wood chips that may be roughly rectangular in shape.

Our page to photo shows OSB oriented strand board used for roof decking, and at left our photograph shows OSB subflooring. [Click any image to see an enlarged, detailed version]

Developed in the 1980's, oriented strand board is an engineered wood product in which strands and flakes of wood are cut from straight, low-knot small-diameter logs, usually aspen or white birch.

The wood strands and flakes of OSB are glued (or "bonded") together with a phenol-formaldehyde resin binder (forming a waterproof glue), heated (to at least 120 degF), and are compressed and flattened using pressure. Other chemical binders may be used in OSB products, and the OSB sheathing surface may have a wax coating to improve water resistance of the product.

Our photographs of OSB "plywood" below illustrate that the wood fragments glued together under heat and pressure are deliberately oriented randomly to produce greater strength than would be achieved if these small individual fragments were all oriented in the same direction

Photograph of OSB and FRT plywood © Daniel Friedman

Our second OSB sheathing photo (above right) shows fire retardant treated plywood roof sheathing (below) and OSB roof decking (photo below at right in the image) sheathing the roof of a multi-unit condominium building.

Photograph of OSB and FRT plywood © Daniel Friedman

Properties of OSB Panels & OSB Sheathing Ratings, Markings, Lumber Stamps

In an OSB panel the two exterior surface layers of wood strands are oriented parallel to the long axis of the panel. In the interior OSB panel layer or "core layer" strands are oriented either randomly or across the short axis of the OSB panel. In overall thickness the ratio of face panels to core panel ranges from 40:60 to 60:40.

Photograph of OSB and FRT plywood © Daniel Friedman

According to the Universite Laval and also Timberco, the dimensions of wood strands used in OSB are specified in industry standards; most producers of OSB use a combination of strands that are up to 6" long and 1" wide or from another source, 19-40 mm in width and 90 to 100mm in length.

Photograph of OSB and FRT plywood © Daniel Friedman

OSB is a modern wood product that developed from earlier 1970's "waferboard" product. In 1990 the Structural Board Association was formed. By 1996 there were 38 OSB producers in North America. But unlike waferboard whose composite wood chips were place randomly, an oriented strand board product is made from wood chips that are deliberately oriented with respect to one another to provide greater strength.

As a result, modern OSB products are rated at the same strength as plywood products. OSB roofing panels are available with a perforated (breathable) foil radiant barrier affixed to the pane's interior surface.

Type Variations of OSB Specialty OSB Sheathing Products

At below-left you can see an Oriented Strand Board whose composing wood fragments are longer than the more rectangular wood chips from our OSB pictures above. Still the strands are oriented randomly for strength.

Photograph of OSB and FRT plywood © Daniel Friedman

Below is a cedar OSB product used in construction of cedar-lined closets, a less costly alternative to solid wood cedar planks traditionally used for that purpose.

Photograph of OSB and FRT plywood © Daniel Friedman

Mold Growth on OSB Oriented Strand Board Products

OSB panel with mold growth in an attic (C) D Friedman

Our moldy OSB roof and attic gable end wall sheathing photo (left) illustrates that as with most other wood products, if left exposed in a damp or wet environment, some species of mold will grow readily on this material.

Also see ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT INDOOR MOLD, and because some indoor "black mold" on wood framing may be harmless cosmetic mold, also see Recognize Harmless Black Mold.

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