Are you considering installing a subfloor in your home?

If so, you may be wondering if OSB or Plywood is the better choice.

In this blog post, we’ll compare OSB and Plywood to help you decide which option is best for your needs. Keep reading to learn more!


OSB vs. Plywood Subfloor: Which Is Better?

A standard wood-framed house flooring system is more complicated than you would expect. Often, builders use underlayment first, followed by a subfloor, which acts as the floor’s foundation and structural support. A structural layer of sheet excellent material, like plywood or oriented strand board (OSB), is often used as the subfloor.

Builders sometimes discuss whether Plywood or OSB is the best of the two most prevalent flooring materials. Most people are familiar with plywood, a kind of sheet material. Manufacturers construct plywood of wood layers oriented in opposing directions.

The sheet material OSB (oriented strand board) is one-of-a-kind. While the word may be new to you, the idea is almost probably not. OSB, often known as chipboard, is formed from substantial flat wood flakes piled and held with phenolic resins to create sheets.

Upkeep and Durability

A well-installed subfloor should endure the whole life of the home. Because of its inherent stiffness and rigidity, plywood is a better choice for flooring under ceramic or stone tile.

While a well-built subfloor should endure the lifetime of the house, OSB is more flexible than plywood, making it unsuitable for use under heavier flooring such as ceramic or stone tile.

Which Is More Durable and Requires Lower Upkeeping?

Plywood is the most durable and low-maintenance material. Plywood and OSB should endure as subfloor materials as long as the house construction is correct. The only thing left is to keep the floor as dry as possible. On the other hand, plywood is a more durable material that works well with really heavy flooring, such as ceramic or stone tile.

Visual Presentation

Plywood is made by bonding many layers of wood veneer at alternating right angles. The layers are visible when you see the sheets from the edge, but the surface veneer gives the sheet the illusion of solid wood when viewed from above.

OSB is a solid sheet composed of numerous flat wood chips glued together. These flat parts are visible above, suggesting that OSB is not a solid wood sheet.

Which Has a Better Visual Presentation?

They are equal in this aspect. Neither material is visible due to the total concealing of the subfloor once the construction of the whole flooring is complete.

Resistance to moisture and heat

While plywood has a more significant potential for moisture absorption, it also dries out faster. Plywood, in general, is more resistant to persistent swelling. Unlike sheathing (find out the ideal roof sheathing thickness) or roof decking, the subfloor does not shed water. Long-exposure specialized panels are often the best choice for rainy locations.

While OSB is somewhat more moisture-resistant, it absorbs and holds moisture longer once wet. When wet, the untreated edges of OSB make it more prone to expand. Severe spills and floods should be dealt with as soon as possible. Keeping the material dry and covering it as quickly as possible may reduce these worries.

Which Has More Moisture and Heat Resistance?

Plywood is the most resistant to water and heat of any material available. Plywood is more resistant to permanent swelling, which is desirable for a subfloor material since it maintains consistent flooring. However, both Plywood and OSB will burn in a home fire.

Structure and Installation

OSB and plywood sheathing are structurally equivalent. In most structural applications, the Engineered Wood Association (APA) does not differentiate between these two materials, and building standards do as well.

Builders install both materials similarly. The sheets are butted together and nailed over the joists, long seams parallel. To avoid row alignment, you should use offset end joints. Between each sheet’s “field,” six-inch-apart screws or nails fasten the sheets to the joists. Many installers apply construction adhesive to each beam before laying the flooring sheets.

Construction teams choose plywood because it is easier to install and offers a more solid and lasting floor.

Some builders choose to position fasteners closer because OSB has lower screw and nail holding strength than plywood.

Which Is Easier To Install?

Plywood is superior for installing tile or hardwood flooring over a subfloor. OSB is a denser, more brittle material than plywood, having a lesser nail and screw retention capacity. OSB has much weaker adhesion to construction adhesives when you bond the panels down.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Plywood is a concealed building material that needs no upkeep or cleaning.

OSB is also a concealed building material that needs no upkeep or cleaning.

Which Is Easier To Clean and Maintain?

Because builders conceal Plywood and OSB underlayment, they do not need frequent maintenance or cleaning. However, if there are significant spills or floods, you should remove the flooring and get the room ventilated as quickly as possible to allow the subfloor to dry. Both materials are equal in this aspect.

Sound and Comfort

Because plywood is typically 10% stronger over the joist span than OSB, it may flex less underfoot. However, only a few people are aware of this.

Because OSB is more flexible than carpet or sheet vinyl, it may bend underfoot, although this is seldom visible when installed with ceramic tile or wood flooring.

Which is more comfortable and sound?

Both materials are equal in this aspect. The performance qualities of Plywood and OSB subfloors are almost the same most of the time. When installed beneath carpet or vinyl flooring, OSB may bow underfoot in rare cases; this is most common when joist spacing is a wide 24 inches rather than the standard 16 inches.


Plywood subfloors should endure the lifespan of the house.

OSB subfloors, like plywood, should endure the lifespan of the house.

Which will last longer?

Their longevity is a tie. Both OSB and plywood subfloors should last the lifespan of the house if properly built and maintained dry.


With plywood, a four by 8-foot sheet of 3/4-inch-thick subfloor-grade plywood costs around $21.50 at home improvement shops.

OSB costs $3 to $5 less per panel than plywood, resulting in considerable cost savings when constructing an entire home. At a big home improvement shop, a four by 8-foot sheet of 23/32-inch OSB costs around $16.50.

Which is more cost-effective?

The most cost-effective alternative is OSB. OSB flooring sheets are much less costly than plywood flooring sheets.

Today’s Homeowner Tips

Some previously described moisture difficulties might arise when choosing hardwood flooring. Before installation, it is necessary to monitor the subfloor’s moisture level. A significant difference might cause the flooring to cup or buckle.

Choosing a subfloor for your next project can be an overwhelming decision, but we’re here to help. With the information provided in this blog post, you should have all of the knowledge needed to make an informed choice about which material is best for your space! 

If you want more details on any specific point or something else that needs clarification, please comment below, and our team will get back to you as soon as possible. We hope these ideas are helpful and informative, so feel free to like them too!

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Editorial Contributors
avatar for Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield is an experienced writer specializing in home improvement topics. He has a passion for educating and empowering homeowners to make informed decisions about their properties. Matt's writing focuses on a range of topics, including windows, flooring, HVAC, and construction materials. With a background in construction and home renovation, Matt is well-versed in the latest trends and techniques in the industry. His articles offer practical advice and expert insights that help readers tackle their home improvement projects with confidence. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or a seasoned professional, Matt's writing is sure to provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

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