OSB and Plywood: importance for a house construction

Oriented strand board (better know as OSB) is one of the main materials used in parts of our house construction. It is a type of engineered wood, formed by adding special adhesives and then compressing many layers of wood strands, in specific orientation. OSB looks like (and is) a bunch of wood chips glued together.

APA panels with trademark
OSB panel (photo from APA website: https://www.apawood.org)

Many constructors talk a lot about the differences between OSB and plywood, another important product that can be used in sub floors and walls. Building codes typically use the phrase “wood structural panel” to describe the use of plywood and OSB. Codes recognize these two materials as the same. Likewise, APA the Engineered Wood Association, the agency responsible for approving more than 75% of the structural panels used in residential construction, treat OSB and plywood as equals in their published performance guidelines. And wood scientists agree that the structural performance of OSB and plywood are equivalent.

Nonetheless the composition of each material is different. Plywood is made from thin sheets of veneer that are cross-laminated and glued together with a hot-press. Imagine the raw log as a pencil being sharpened in a big pencil sharpener. The wood veneer is literally peeled from the log as it is spun. Resulting veneers have pure tangential grain orientation, since the slicing follows the growth rings of the log. Throughout the thickness of the panel, the grain of each layer is positioned in a perpendicular direction to the adjacent layer. There is always an odd number of layers in plywood panels so that the panel is balanced around its central axis. This strategy makes plywood stable and less likely to shrink, swell, cup or warp.

Related image
OSB production (Wikipedia photo)

In order to produce oriented strand-board logs are ground into thin wood strands. Dried strands are mixed with wax and adhesive, formed into thick mats, and then hot-pressed into panels. Don’t mistake OSB for chipboard or wafer-board. OSB is different. The strands in OSB are aligned. “Strand plies” are positioned as alternating layers that run perpendicular to each other. This structure mimics plywood. Wafer-board, a weaker and less-stiff cousin of OSB, is a homogeneous, random composition. OSB is engineered to have strength and stiffness equivalent to plywood.

Performance is similar in many ways, but there are differences in the service provided by osb and plywood. All wood products expand when they get wet. The Structural Board Association (SBA), a trade association that represents OSB manufacturers in North America, has issued a technical bulletin outlining a plan to prevent this phenomenon. SBA correctly indicates that dry storage, proper installation, adequate roof ventilation and application of a warm-side vapor barrier will help prevent roof ridging, for example.

For the majority of the sub floor applications, both plywood and OSB are fine. Take care if you are thinking about using OSB as a sub-floor for tile. For wall sheeting both are good materials, and different builders will have different preferences. We prefer the use of OSB.

OSB products are improving a lot. Many companies are now reaching an excellent level of manufacturing, and you can avoid the problems from the past because of the new techniques involved in the process. But, until now, the worst enemy for the wood will continue to be the same: moisture and wet climates always will represent a threat for your house if your builder do not control the water exposure during the building process.

Reference: https://bct.eco.umass.edu/publications/articles/choosing-between-oriented-strandboard-and-plywood/

Do we have a bubble in real estate market?

Many people are asking this question, and for me we are not in a situation like that. At least in New England. Normally a bubble happens when you have prices going up without the demand going up during the same time. This is not happening (yet).

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In a country perspective, some data released yesterday was and indication of some relief. After falling for two straight weeks, mortgage application volume rose 2.5 percent in the week of July 2nd (seasonally adjusted) compared to the previous week. The increase was driven entirely by purchase applications. But the total volume is 4.3 percent lower than a year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, due to continuing weakness in loan refinancing.

For this year the average mortgage rate will be around 4-4.5 percent, but we expect that the number will be around 5% next year, and after this period we maybe expect some decrease in mortgage application. Because of prior regulations the banks are siting in a lot of cash now, and if we don’t have more houses in the market it can be a problem in the near future.

The strong economic growth is one of the responsible for that situation, fortunately. More jobs mean more money available for people to apply for a mortgage, but the home inventory available in the market is very low.

That’s the biggest problem we have now: the low inventory of houses in the market. But also we have the inflation of some important products for building. Prices are going up in a lot of sectors. Last week I talked to a well-known lumber vendor that told me some prices went up more than 30% since last year.

Economic cycles are normal, and up and downs are expected every 8 to 10 years. We are now approaching this time in the US economy. Let’s see what the future brings.



Use standard dimensions to save money

Home design is a complex process that sometimes lead you to hundreds (or thousands) of decisions. But if you are a more practical person and would like to save some money preferred the standard dimensions while planing your house building.

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Ceiling Height

Normally in the US the standard ceiling height is about 8 feet. You also have standard materials to build a 10 feet ceiling but other that that you can have trouble finding some materials for framing. For the basement are a 8 feet height is pretty comfortable, but in some old houses you will see a lower height.

Doors and windows

Doors have a standard height of 80 inches and also have various standard widths. Windows are the big issue here, because you have a lot of variations depending on the brand you will chose. Take care during the windows selection, this one is an important item that have implications also in the comfort of your house during extreme weathers.

Interior doors usually will be hinged swing doors. These doors are limited to a maximum of 36 inches. Remember that if a person with disability will be living there the minimum width is 32 inches. With swing doors the effective opening normal is about 2 inches narrower than the door itself. Door to walk in closets have to respect a distance of 24 to 28 inches.


The minimum corridor width is 36 inches, but a more convenient width is 44 to 48 inches.


Kitchen counters normally have a standard height of 36 inches. Cabinets, ranges, ovens and dishwashers are standardize to this height. The width increments normally offered are 3 and 6 inches. If you are thinking about a unique kitchen cabinet with different measures be prepare to spend more money.

Understanding this process is really important if you want to save money while designing your new house. This decision, among many others, can help you to be align with a budget, and you have to think about that during the preparation phase. You can use this concept in other places of the house. Size the rooms, for example, to be align with the furniture. Identifying the appliances and furniture that you want to fulfill the kitchen and all other rooms will save a lot of money.


How your house works?

Today we are just in the flow of the 4th of July holiday week, so we decided to be soft on the technical aspects of our blog. The tip of the day is about a great reading if you are curious about HOW YOUR HOUSE WORKS.

This is the title of a book that will help you understand the anatomy of your house systems (plumbing, electrical, foundation, etc). It is also a great book in terms of illustrations. The author is Charlie King, a home building expert that also specialized in writing great books with great visual art.

The book has 10 chapter, from Plumbing and Wiring to Windows and Framing and Foundation topics. In the day we are writing this post, At Amazon.com you can find it for $13.00 (Kindle Edition) – not a big price in terms of the content that is really good and easy to understand.

Of course it will not be a substitute of a professional help if something big is happening in your dishwasher, but at least you will not be completely lost when the repair team says that you are having a problem in the flapper of your toilet.

Enjoy the reading, and have a nice weekend.

Happy 4th of July

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Photo credit: https://planetbell.me

This day is a special day for USA, and our family is proud to live here. The values of this nation are unique: freedom, democracy and liberty, words that are important for all families and societies to understand.

Let’s remember this date and also the efforts that the founding fathers of this unique nation had in the past. Let’s celebrate, and share the joy of this moment.