OSB: Pros, Cons of Using Oriented Strand Board Out in the Open

OSB: Pros, Cons of Using Oriented Strand Board Out in the Open

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Dabney Frake
Mar 28, 2015
(Image credit: Bolig Magasinet)

Oriented Strand Board (OSB) is a man-made product created from wood bits, which are pressed and bound together by adhesive resin and glue. It’s like the turkey loaf of building materials. This humble stuff is mostly used as a substrate during construction projects, leaving other materials to bask in the spotlight. Some prefer prettier plywood, but others have managed to use it as a visible, finish material that is modern and beautiful. Is it for you? Read on....

Above, an accent wall in a bedroom, created from OSB, that manages to look high-end and budget at the same time. As featured in Bolig Magasinet.

Pro: OSB can be manufactured in large, tall panels (unlike plywood, which is usually only 8-10 feet), which makes for few if any horizontal seams, depending on the project. You can reach from floor to ceiling with one sheet.

(Image credit: InsideOut via Poppytalk)

Above, a bedroom with particle board headboard from August 2014 issue of InsideOut magazine, a seen on Poppytalk. The texture of the board stands out from the smoothness of the wall behind the bed.

Pro: OSB is more affordable than other regular hardwoods used for building, and even plywood. This makes it a great choice for experiemental DIY projects.

(Image credit: LifeSpace Journey)

This simple and minimalist kitchen was designed by LifeSpace Journey. It's part of a renovation of a 100-year-old workers cottage in Australia.

Con: OSB can be difficult to paint, but it's not impossible. Be sure to use a primer and oil-based paint if you go in that direction.

(Image credit: 47 Park Avenue)

47 Park Avenue's latest bathroom DIY was temporary fix until a full renovation down the road. One of their ideas was to clad the existing bathtub in particle board panels, creating an affordable and industrial looking skirt.

Con: Although some OSB comes with a water resistant covering, every subsequent cut opens up the new edges to moisture, making it prone to swelling when wet. It dries a lot slower than plywood as well. Make sure to waterproof every newly exposed section.

Debbie and Olivier's Venice, CA home, which we featured in 2008, in a tribute to minimalist and thoughtful living. Their modest renovation includes kitchen cabinets made out of OSB.

Pro/Con: OSB is more efficient than plywood to produce and uses tree farms instead of forest growth. However both are made with PF resins, which do emit low levels of formaldehyde. If you are concerned, there are companies that make formaldehyde-free OSB.

(Image credit: Leigh Righton)

Photographer Leigh Righton used OSB flooring in her London headquarters. It looks appropriately industrial and edgy for the space.

Pro/Con: Although OSB is stronger and more dense than plywood, it is also more pliable. This means that, when used underfoot, it can produce some squeaky floors.

For those of you that have worked with OSB, what can you tell us?

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