Launch Slideshow

Huber Engineered Woods. ZIP System roof and wall sheathing feature built-in protective barriers. Along with ZIP SystemTape to seal the seams, the all-in-one panels eliminate the need for housewrap or felt, the company says, making the installation faster and easier than traditional materials. A stiffer, full-depth -inch roof sheathing board, the ZIP System roof sheathing panel requires no H clips as long as rafters are spaced at 24 inches or less. 800.933.9220. www.zipsystem.com.

Greening the Shell

A selection of 9 sheathing products.

Greening the Shell

A selection of 9 sheathing products.

  • Ainsworth. Thermastrand radiant barrier roof sheathing features an aluminum foil overlaid on micro-perforated OSB panels. The foil blocks up to 97% of the suns radiant energy, and the perforations control humidity buildup in the attic, the company says. According to the firm, the panels are twice as permeable as commodity OSB. The panels are Energy Starcertified and also carry certifications from SFI and/or the Canadian Standards Association. 604.661.3200. www.ainsworthengineered.com.

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    Ainsworth. Thermastrand radiant barrier roof sheathing features an aluminum foil overlaid on micro-perforated OSB panels. The foil blocks up to 97% of the suns radiant energy, and the perforations control humidity buildup in the attic, the company says. According to the firm, the panels are twice as permeable as commodity OSB. The panels are Energy Starcertified and also carry certifications from SFI and/or the Canadian Standards Association. 604.661.3200. www.ainsworthengineered.com.

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    Ainsworth. Thermastrand radiant barrier roof sheathing features an aluminum foil overlaid on micro-perforated OSB panels. The foil blocks up to 97% of the sun’s radiant energy, and the perforations control humidity buildup in the attic, the company says. According to the firm, the panels are twice as permeable as commodity OSB. The panels are Energy Star–certified and also carry certifications from SFI and/or the Canadian Standards Association. 604.661.3200. www.ainsworthengineered.com.

  • Dow. SIS Structural Insulated Sheathing combines a moisture-resistant blue foil outside face, a polyisocyanurate foam core, and structural sheathing. Builders can use -inch (R-3) panels to sheathe entire exteriors or 1-inch-thick (R-5.5) panels as shear panels on corners to match up with 1-inch foam sheathing on the rest of the exterior. Joints between panels are sealed with Weathermate tape. SIS panels contain 80% post-consumer recycled content and are Energy Starrated. 866.583.2583. www.dow.com.

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    Dow. SIS Structural Insulated Sheathing combines a moisture-resistant blue foil outside face, a polyisocyanurate foam core, and structural sheathing. Builders can use -inch (R-3) panels to sheathe entire exteriors or 1-inch-thick (R-5.5) panels as shear panels on corners to match up with 1-inch foam sheathing on the rest of the exterior. Joints between panels are sealed with Weathermate tape. SIS panels contain 80% post-consumer recycled content and are Energy Starrated. 866.583.2583. www.dow.com.

    600

    Dow. SIS Structural Insulated Sheathing combines a moisture-resistant blue foil outside face, a polyisocyanurate foam core, and structural sheathing. Builders can use ½-inch (R-3) panels to sheathe entire exteriors or 1-inch-thick (R-5.5) panels as shear panels on corners to match up with 1-inch foam sheathing on the rest of the exterior. Joints between panels are sealed with Weathermate tape. SIS panels contain 80% post-consumer recycled content and are Energy Star–rated. 866.583.2583. www.dow.com.

  • Georgia-Pacific. Nautilus combines OSB structural sheathing and a water-resistive barrier in one panel, reducing installation time; the panels install like traditional sheathing and seal with Nautilus seam tape. The panels include nailing guides that are visible through the integrated building wrap. The Blue Ribbon OSB is SFI-certified. 800.284.5347. www.builditbetter.com.

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    Georgia-Pacific. Nautilus combines OSB structural sheathing and a water-resistive barrier in one panel, reducing installation time; the panels install like traditional sheathing and seal with Nautilus seam tape. The panels include nailing guides that are visible through the integrated building wrap. The Blue Ribbon OSB is SFI-certified. 800.284.5347. www.builditbetter.com.

    600

    Georgia-Pacific. Nautilus combines OSB structural sheathing and a water-resistive barrier in one panel, reducing installation time; the panels install like traditional sheathing and seal with Nautilus seam tape. The panels include nailing guides that are visible through the integrated building wrap. The Blue Ribbon OSB is SFI-certified. 800.284.5347. www.builditbetter.com.

  • Homasote. 440 SoundBarrier is a nearly 100% recycled nailable structural board made from cellulose fiber, with an insulating value of R-1.2 per 1/2 inch. Originally intended as a soundproofing product, the firm says it withstands jobsite weather and mistreatment better than standard, impregnated fiberboard, and offers shear strength sufficient for many exterior wall-bracing applications.  800.257.9491. www.homasote.com.

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    Homasote. 440 SoundBarrier is a nearly 100% recycled nailable structural board made from cellulose fiber, with an insulating value of R-1.2 per 1/2 inch. Originally intended as a soundproofing product, the firm says it withstands jobsite weather and mistreatment better than standard, impregnated fiberboard, and offers shear strength sufficient for many exterior wall-bracing applications. 800.257.9491. www.homasote.com.

    600

    Homasote. 440 SoundBarrier is a nearly 100% recycled nailable structural board made from cellulose fiber, with an insulating value of R-1.2 per 1/2 inch. Originally intended as a soundproofing product, the firm says it withstands jobsite weather and mistreatment better than standard, impregnated fiberboard, and offers shear strength sufficient for many exterior wall-bracing applications. 800.257.9491. www.homasote.com.

  • Huber Engineered Woods. ZIP System roof and wall sheathing feature built-in protective barriers. Along with ZIP SystemTape to seal the seams, the all-in-one panels eliminate the need for housewrap or felt, the company says, making the installation faster and easier than traditional materials. A stiffer, full-depth -inch roof sheathing board, the ZIP System roof sheathing panel requires no H clips as long as rafters are spaced at 24 inches or less. 800.933.9220. www.zipsystem.com.

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    Huber Engineered Woods. ZIP System roof and wall sheathing feature built-in protective barriers. Along with ZIP SystemTape to seal the seams, the all-in-one panels eliminate the need for housewrap or felt, the company says, making the installation faster and easier than traditional materials. A stiffer, full-depth -inch roof sheathing board, the ZIP System roof sheathing panel requires no H clips as long as rafters are spaced at 24 inches or less. 800.933.9220. www.zipsystem.com.

    600

    Huber Engineered Woods. ZIP System roof and wall sheathing feature built-in protective barriers. Along with ZIP SystemTape to seal the seams, the all-in-one panels eliminate the need for housewrap or felt, the company says, making the installation faster and easier than traditional materials. A stiffer, full-depth ½-inch roof sheathing board, the ZIP System roof sheathing panel requires no H clips as long as rafters are spaced at 24 inches or less. 800.933.9220. www.zipsystem.com.

  • iLevel by Weyerhaeuser. According to the manufacturer, the proprietary glues and resins used in Edge Gold OSB flooring panels make it more water-resistant and durable when exposed to jobsite conditions and weather. The panels come stamped with a fastener location guide for easier, accurate, and warranty-compliant nailing, and bears the SFI-certified Fiber Sourcing label. 888.453.8358. www.ilevel.com.

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    iLevel by Weyerhaeuser. According to the manufacturer, the proprietary glues and resins used in Edge Gold OSB flooring panels make it more water-resistant and durable when exposed to jobsite conditions and weather. The panels come stamped with a fastener location guide for easier, accurate, and warranty-compliant nailing, and bears the SFI-certified Fiber Sourcing label. 888.453.8358. www.ilevel.com.

    600

    iLevel by Weyerhaeuser. According to the manufacturer, the proprietary glues and resins used in Edge Gold OSB flooring panels make it more water-resistant and durable when exposed to jobsite conditions and weather. The panels come stamped with a fastener location guide for easier, accurate, and warranty-compliant nailing, and bears the SFI-certified Fiber Sourcing label. 888.453.8358. www.ilevel.com.

  • LP. LongLength OSB allows for easier sheathing of homes with higher ceilings, requires fewer total panels, and results in fewer seams, the firm says. Installed vertically, the extended-length panels tie the top plate to the floor joists and eliminate the need to install fillers or blocking material. Several lengths and thicknesses are available. The sheathing is SFI-certified. 888.820.0325. www.lpcorp.com.

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    LP. LongLength OSB allows for easier sheathing of homes with higher ceilings, requires fewer total panels, and results in fewer seams, the firm says. Installed vertically, the extended-length panels tie the top plate to the floor joists and eliminate the need to install fillers or blocking material. Several lengths and thicknesses are available. The sheathing is SFI-certified. 888.820.0325. www.lpcorp.com.

    600

    LP. LongLength OSB allows for easier sheathing of homes with higher ceilings, requires fewer total panels, and results in fewer seams, the firm says. Installed vertically, the extended-length panels tie the top plate to the floor joists and eliminate the need to install fillers or blocking material. Several lengths and thicknesses are available. The sheathing is SFI-certified. 888.820.0325. www.lpcorp.com.

  • RoyOMartin. Eclipse radiant barrier OSB or plywood sheathing has an aluminum foil backing that the company says will block up to 97% of the suns radiant heat when used in a roof deck, significantly reducing attic temperatures. When used as a wall sheathing (OSB only) with approved foil tape to seal seams and corners, the product is redefined as Eclipse Energy Guard and serves as an energy-efficient housewrap. FSC-certified sheathing also is available by special order. 800.299.5174. www.royomartin.com.

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    RoyOMartin. Eclipse radiant barrier OSB or plywood sheathing has an aluminum foil backing that the company says will block up to 97% of the suns radiant heat when used in a roof deck, significantly reducing attic temperatures. When used as a wall sheathing (OSB only) with approved foil tape to seal seams and corners, the product is redefined as Eclipse Energy Guard and serves as an energy-efficient housewrap. FSC-certified sheathing also is available by special order. 800.299.5174. www.royomartin.com.

    600

    RoyOMartin. Eclipse radiant barrier OSB or plywood sheathing has an aluminum foil backing that the company says will block up to 97% of the sun’s radiant heat when used in a roof deck, significantly reducing attic temperatures. When used as a wall sheathing (OSB only) with approved foil tape to seal seams and corners, the product is redefined as Eclipse Energy Guard and serves as an energy-efficient housewrap. FSC-certified sheathing also is available by special order. 800.299.5174. www.royomartin.com.

  • Timber Products. The companys softwood plywood comes in 8-, 9-, and 10-foot lengths; 4- and 5-foot widths; and thicknesses from 5/16 inch to 2 inches. It is available in several grades for sheathing, concrete forms, and underlayment. The panels are SFI-certified and are available with FSC certification. 800.547.9520. www.timberproducts.com.

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    Timber Products. The companys softwood plywood comes in 8-, 9-, and 10-foot lengths; 4- and 5-foot widths; and thicknesses from 5/16 inch to 2 inches. It is available in several grades for sheathing, concrete forms, and underlayment. The panels are SFI-certified and are available with FSC certification. 800.547.9520. www.timberproducts.com.

    600

    Timber Products. The company’s softwood plywood comes in 8-, 9-, and 10-foot lengths; 4- and 5-foot widths; and thicknesses from 5/16 inch to 2 inches. It is available in several grades for sheathing, concrete forms, and underlayment. The panels are SFI-certified and are available with FSC certification. 800.547.9520. www.timberproducts.com.

  • 3TMs&Callouts.ai

    The certification agency stamp will show the following information for panel identification:1-Panel grade2-Span rating4-Bond classification5-Product standard6-Thickness7-Mill number8-APAs performance-rated panel standard11-HUD recognition12-Panel grade, Canadian standard13-Panel markRating and end-use designation per the Canadian standard14-Canadian performance rated panel standard15-Panel face orientation indicatorSource: APA-The Engineered Wood Association

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    The certification agency stamp will show the following information for panel identification:1-Panel grade2-Span rating4-Bond classification5-Product standard6-Thickness7-Mill number8-APAs performance-rated panel standard11-HUD recognition12-Panel grade, Canadian standard13-Panel markRating and end-use designation per the Canadian standard14-Canadian performance rated panel standard15-Panel face orientation indicatorSource: APA-The Engineered Wood Association

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    The certification agency stamp will show the following information for panel identification: 1-Panel grade 2-Span rating 4-Bond classification 5-Product standard 6-Thickness 7-Mill number 8-APA’s performance-rated panel standard 11-HUD recognition 12-Panel grade, Canadian standard 13-Panel mark—Rating and end-use designation per the Canadian standard 14-Canadian performance rated panel standard 15-Panel face orientation indicator Source: APA-The Engineered Wood Association

Back when I started framing houses, subfloor and sheathing choices were limited to solid, spaced sheathing and a still relatively new building product, plywood. The latter was gaining market share, but many old-timers resisted the thin, bendable, sometimes delaminating sheets of cross-grained veneer.

But eventually not a single floor, wall, or roof had anything but plywood over the joists, studs, and rafters, and today the same could be said for oriented strand board (OSB). Just as with plywood, some builders regarded OSB suspiciously before it became well established.

Today, a new generation of sheet materials is pushing this category toward new levels of performance, with products made from more durable raw materials and healthier resins, and panels that combine features that address moisture control, air infiltration, and energy performance in addition to their structural functions.

Before we explore these alternatives, let’s review the pros and cons of the old warhorses, plywood and OSB, as the former has made a comeback among quality-conscious builders, and concerns over deforestation and indoor air quality have muddled the question of sheathing with either plies or strands.

PLYWOOD VS. OSB

Plywood consists of an odd number of sheets of wood, glued together with the grain of each ply in a perpendicular direction, to create a structural panel with shear strength in all directions. Plywood’s cross-grain provides strength and greater holding power for screws and nails than solid-sawn wood.

Oriented strand board (OSB) uses a similar engineering principle, but instead of creating the multidirectional structure with large sheets of wood glued together, manufacturers of OSB arrange small strands of wood (2 to 3 inches in length) into a cross-grain pattern, and then bind them into a solid, structural panel using adhesives, pressure, and heat.

From an environmental perspective, the notable difference between the two panel products comes with the natural resources required to make them. The sheets of lumber used to make plywood are peeled in thin veneers off a log with a sophisticated lathe. The logs are older and larger, and from a more limited number of tree species, than those shredded for strands of OSB. Also, the plywood peeling process leaves a spindle of wood at the center, whereas manufacturers of OSB shred the entire log.

Green building certification agencies recognize the ecological advantage of engineered lumber products, principally OSB, which is used not only to make sheathing, but also joists, rafters, and substitutes for dimensional lumber.

Nevertheless, plywood has maintained its place and has seen some gains because of its greater resistance to moisture, especially around the edges, and slight advantage in nail- and screw-holding power. Many flooring and some roofing manufacturers prefer plywood under their products because of its greater stability versus OSB in humid conditions. Miami-Dade County, Fla., prohibits the use of OSB roof sheathing, given a comparatively high failure rate once wetted during historic storms.

With the exception of Miami-Dade, all national and international building codes regard plywood and OSB as equal, and use the generic phrase “wood structural panel” to clearly denote that the code recognizes these two materials on par. The leading green certification agencies, the USGBC and the NAHB, provide points for both products.

Both products carry similar performance-based certifications, primarily from APA-The Engineered Wood Association, and the U.S. Department of Commerce Voluntary standard for Wood Based Structural Panels (PS1 and PS2) that allow consumers and inspectors to know the exposure (outdoor, indoor, or marine), strength (structural capacity), span rating over framing members (adequate for 16, 24, 32 inches on-center), surface finish quality, and, more recently, compliance with air-quality standards.

But OSB has become the clear leader in construction not so much for its ecological as economic advantages: OSB is generally several dollars per sheet cheaper.