Type of Plywood Used on Roofing eHow

Type of Plywood Used on Roofing eHow


Traditional plywood is the most expensive sheathing material for roof construction. Oriented strand board (OSB) has replaced plywood use in the United States for the majority of roof applications. It is more affordable and much more uniform, though it must be protected from water and moisture. Fiberboard is even more affordable, but is not as strong or durable and plywood and OSB. Fire-rated plywood is still used in areas where fire is a major concern.


When choosing between types of plywood and wood sheathing products, there are a number of factors to consider. OSB is used on the majority of homes because of its low cost and uniform surface. It must be protected from moisture however, and homeowners should consider paying extra for plywood to avoid future roofing problems. While most building codes consider OSB, plywood and fiberboard to be identical for sheathing purposes, some codes may require use of one of these materials over others. It is also important to consider the weight of roofing materials and the wind levels. Plywood will work better with heavy roofs, while fiberboard will not hold up against heavy materials or high winds.


Roof sheathing products come in a variety of different thicknesses, which are chosen based on the weight of the roof and the distance between joists. For most lightweight roofing materials, use 5/16-inch plywood for spans up to 20 inches, and use 1/2-inch sheets for spans up to 32 inches. Spans up to 48 inches require 3/4-inch plywood. All heavier roofing materials like clay, concrete or slate require plywood at least 1/2-inch think, with joists be set no further than 16 inches. Fiberboard must be nearly twice as thick as OSB or plywood to cover the same span.

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