3 Substitutes For OSB – Detailed Guide With Prices, Pros, and Cons

Have you ever wondered what you can use instead of an oriented strand board (OSB) for wall sheathing and construction? After all, with the rising demand and prices of OSB, it might be a nice idea to find substitutes for it. While it’s true that people want the best materials when they are building but not even OSB is free from cons, so why not choose a substitute that better suits your needs? In this article, we will explore 3 substitutes for OSB along with a detailed guide about their prices, pros, and cons.

The three substitutes for OSB that you can consider using are structural sheathing fiberboard, fibreglass-faced gypsum panels, and rigid foam insulation. All of these are viable options if you find the price of OSB too out of reach for your construction projects. But just like OSB they have their weaknesses, so choosing one that will suit your needs is the best option.

OSB is a material usually used for wall sheathing purposes, which is a crucial part of the building. It provides a layer of protection against the elements and also provides a base for siding that needs to be applied on the outside. From our research, these three materials are the most popular when it comes to construction. There are other materials as well like plywood for instance, which can be used for the purpose of wall sheathing. But they are not as good and are weaker compared to these three substitutes for OSB. 

What is the Purpose of OSB?

OSB or oriented strand board is an engineered material that is designed for the purpose of load bearing and structural integrity. It is specifically used for construction, and used as part of the building frame. People use it often for wall sheathing, and thanks to its manufacturing, it does a great job at insulation. It is more favoured than plywood in the region, often considered superior to it. OSB has more applications other than just being used for wall sheathing. Some people also use it for roof decking purposes and subflooring, as it improves soundproofing thanks to its construction.

1. Fiberboard as Alternative to OSB

Fiberboard is a great alternative for OSB as it is almost similar in terms of manufacturing. OSB uses longer strands of wooden shavings along with the chips that are glued together with resins by applying pressure. On the other hand, fiberboard does not use longer strands of wood but wood fibre. These are pressed and glued together to create a board of sufficient strength.

Depending on the density of the board, these are categorised into 3 categories. Low-Density Fiberboard is the weakest of them all. MDF or medium-density fiberboard is the most commonly used in wooden furniture. Then there is HDF or high-density fiberboard, which is comparatively thinner compared to the two above. Brands manufacture fiberboard suitable for wall sheathing specifically that has just the right amount of density and thickness to hold siding and to give that added layer of protection. 

It is the closest to OSB in terms of a substitute since it is manufactured in a similar process. It is also priced pretty cheap and can be readily bought from most online and local hardware stores. You can buy a fiberboard sheathing material for around 15-20USD per piece depending on the brand and store.


  • Second cheapest substitute for OSB.
  • Readily available.
  • Structurally stable and resistant to shrinkage or expansion.
  • Eco-friendly option.
  • Great thermal resistance.
  • Does not trap water inside walls.


  • Weaker compared to OSB.
  • Does not hold screws well and is heavier making it difficult to handle.
  • Can release an odour when under direct sunlight due to chemical adhesive.

2. Rigid Foam Insulation

When it comes to insulation in buildings nothing beats rigid foam insulation. This foaming material is being used more and more alongside other wall sheathing options to improve insulation between the exterior and interior. It does a great job of creating a moisture and air barrier that does not allow air to pass through inside the walls. Although it is a slight challenge to install rigid foam insulation compared to the other substitutes.

Firstly it requires you to tape the spaces between the boards so that no air may pass or escape from between them. This is the basis of the air barrier that we spoke about earlier. Also, it needs to be additional bracing in case you are not installing any wooden boards on the wall. This is because rigid foam is very weak and cannot stand up to strong winds or seismic loads.

To tackle that issue, additional bracing can be installed which helps in holding the board with more stability. Other than the air barrier we spoke of earlier, rigid foam also prevents moisture build-up between layers of walls by providing warmth. Not to mention it protects the wall frame from moisture coming in from the outside. It is very cheap considering its great insulation properties. A good rigid foaming insulation board will cost you around 13-18USD depending on the retailer and brand.


  • Provides better insulation against elements than OSB.
  • Is the cheapest of the substitutes for OSB.
  • Prevents air from escaping or infiltrating, which creates a great air barrier.
  • Prevents water seeping or leaking inside and prevents moisture by providing warmth.
  • Very lightweight material and easy to carry.


  • Not very stable and requires additional bracing.
  • Weak against direct sunlight and requires proper siding for protection.
  • Installation can be an issue, improper installation allows air to escape and infiltrate.

3. Fibreglass-Faced Gypsum Panels

One of the best substitutes for OSB is fibreglass-faced gypsum panels. It does an excellent job at insulation, even better than most OSB substitutes out there. It also has more stability and is very durable compared to some other materials. Both the fibreglass facers that encase the gypsum core and the gypsum core itself are resistant to mould.

It is also resistant to harsh weather conditions, whether it is rain or gust, these panels can hold their own against them. The gypsum core is moisture resistant, so it does not hold any moisture inside the facers. It is also very resistant to fire and combustion, both the materials used in the construction of these panels do not catch fire.

Thanks to their ease of installation, more and more people are switching to these fibreglass-faced gypsum panels. Another factor that contributes to people preferring this over OSB is its pricing. It is cheaper than OSB, so both the ease of installation and reasonable pricing make it a great substitute. It is often used as insulation and wall cladding. Densglass is a branded product that is basically a fibreglass-faced gypsum panel. It costs around 23-25USD online and in local hardware stores.


  • Resistant to mould.
  • Weather-resistant.
  • Resistant to combustion and fire.
  • Easy to install.
  • Durable and rigid construction.


  • Not designed for exterior cladding with a nail base.
  • Panels cannot be installed below grade.
MetricsFiberboardRigid Foaming InsulationFibreglass-faced Gypsum Panels
Resistant to WaterNoYesYes
Heat ResistantYesNoYes
Fire ResistantNoNoYes
Water ResistantNoYesYes
Easy to InstallNoNoYes
Air BarrierNoYesYes
PriceCheapCheapestSlightly Expensive

Cheapest Alternative to OSB

For insulation purposes, the cheapest alternative to OSB is rigid foaming insulation. It is very cheap and provides great protection against outdoor elements when used for that purpose. However, OSB is used for more than just insulation, it also provides stability, and rigidity, which rigid foaming insulation cannot. It is not as durable and requires additional bracing if you want to install it.

Not to mention it is not easy to install in the least as you need to tape it properly to create air insulation as well. But if money is what you are trying to save, then you can’t find a cheaper substitute for OSB.

Best OSB Alternatives for Walls

While not the cheapest alternative, plywood is a great option if you want to substitute OSB for walls. Plywood is constructed out of thin sheets of wood that are glued and then pressed together. It is slightly cheaper than OSB so there is that advantage for it. Not to mention plywood is equivalent in strength to OSB, so both of them have the same durability.

But since plywood sheets are made from thinly sliced veneers of trees, it also means that the deformations in that tree will be passed on to it. So for instance there are knots in the wood that are being shaved off to create the sheets of plywood, then those knots will be present in a few sheets of the plywood that are glued together. The inconsistency of plywood makes it somewhat disadvantageous when compared to OSB.

OSB is manufactured through a consistent process and is always going to be the same quality throughout. This means although both have similar strengths, an inconsistency in the plywood sheet can make it less durable. This is why OSB is the preferred material for walling compared to plywood. But with the rising price of OSB, it is not a bad idea to consider plywood as an alternative.

What are the Disadvantages of OSB

When wood absorbs moisture, its grain swells up, and too much exposure to water can even crack wood due to expansion. Not to mention it makes wood susceptible to rot and mould. On the other hand, OSB has all the same qualities as wood so it also carries its disadvantages. This means that when exposed to moisture OSB can swell very easily. Not to mention it is susceptible to mould as well, which can be a health hazard.

Another health hazard is the adhesive used in OSB to adhere the strands and chips of wood together. One of the resins which are used for durability and structural integrity of OSB contains formaldehyde. This is just one of the chemical components that are used to adhere to wooden strands and chips. When exposed to sunlight and heat, the board releases fumes that can be hazardous to health as well.

It has a lot of weight to it, and with all that durability, it is bound to be heavy. This can be a huge hassle when transporting and installing these to the frame of the house. So working with OSB is not easy either. Also, OSB looks unappealing, it gives off the look of low-grade material. It looks similar to fiberboard and similar engineered boards. Which makes people perceive it to be low grade, cheap, and weak.

Is it Worth Substituting OSB?

In this day and age, when the demand and price of OSB are skyrocketing, it is definitely worth considering replacing it in construction. But it all depends on the situation and condition because if the condition is not suitable for a type of material, it is best to opt for its use entirely. In comparison to that, OSB is much more stable, it is a well-rounded material that can be used in multiple situations. Although these days in larger constructions that contain a lot of metal, people are steadily moving towards gypsum core panels.

They are cheaper, and easier to install, not to mention have a lot of insulation advantages over OSB. But it is not a standalone material and has its limitations in terms of installation. So is it worth substituting OSB in this day and age? Absolutely, but if the price of OSB was to drop, then it is one of the best materials to work with when it comes to wall sheathing.

Why is OSB so Expensive Now?

During the pandemic, many people got into different hobbies. This included hobbies like woodworking, taking up instruments, and even constructing homes. Many DIY enthusiasts took to building homes using OSB as structural support and framework. It was already being used for home construction throughout the states. This became the reason why the demand for the material increased exponentially. With a rise in demand, prices always end up raising regardless of how cheap it is to manufacture a material.

While the rise in demand kept increasing, the process of making OSB didn’t speed up. Creating OSB is a tedious and time-consuming task, so you cannot force it if you want to maintain quality standards. There is no way to manufacture it faster without compromising quality. With that in mind, the price of OSB rose during the last few years. This is why people are looking to substitute this material with others.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Why substitute OSB at all?

Due to the skyrocketed prices of OSB people are looking to substitute it to save up on a budget. Construction costs have significantly increased and to reduce those costs, it is often a good idea to use alternatives.

What substitute is best for OSB?

Depending on the conditions being used, either fiberboard, plywood, rigid foaming, or fibreglass-faced gypsum panels all are best substitutes for OSB. Each material caters to different conditions, so using the most suitable material to cater to that is the best option.

What conditions to consider when choosing a substitute for OSB?

The weather condition is one of the most important factors when choosing an alternative for OSB. Depending on how much rain a region gets, or how much humidity is in the air will affect what choice you make. Wind conditions are another factor to consider, as wall sheathing usually gives wooden frames rigidity, so a windy region would require a strong and stable substitute.

Are OSB and Fiberboard the same?

OSB is created using strands of wood and chips glued together in a certain formation, similar to plywood, to create a strong and durable material. On the other hand, fiberboard uses wooden fibres instead of chips and strands which are then processed through chemical processes, and joined using glue and applied pressure.

Is OSB stronger than plywood?

OSB is not exactly stronger than plywood. Both have similar strengths, but due to the inconsistencies in the manufacture of plywood, OSB has the advantage of having consistent strength throughout a board.

Is OSB water resistant?

Depending on the conditions and material from which the OSB was manufactured, along with the quality, it can be either water-resistant or almost waterproof. This is why OSB is in demand with construction workers as it provides solid structural support for house frames.

Final Thoughts

If you are planning on substituting OSB then using any of the alternatives we mentioned in our article will do the job for you. Just remember, the conditions will affect your choice of the material for your insulation and walling needs. Though OSB prices are skyrocketing at the moment, with the pandemic slowly subsiding and people returning to their normal lives, the price of OSB might reduce gradually. 

Not to mention some people are making it the norm to use materials like gypsum panels for construction which will reduce the high demand for OSB and ultimately reduce its price. But most people still enjoy using OSB and that is not going to change anytime soon. So for now checking out substitutes is not a bad idea in the least.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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