How to Install OSB Wall Sheathing


Oriented strand board (OSB) consists of small criss-crossed flakes, or strands, of wood, pressed tightly together and laminated into a solid panel. Available in large 4-by-8-foot panels, OSB is the standard sheathing used for exterior walls in wood frame construction. Installed after the wall frame is in place, the OSB panels form a boxing perimeter around your home, providing structural integrity between the studs and your home’s siding

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Circular saw
  • Chalk line
  • Nail gun
  • 1¾-inch nails
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Place the first OSB panel horizontally at the bottom corner of an outside wall -- unless the OSB panels display vertical nailing lines, in which case you should install them vertically.

  • Align the bottom of the OSB panel flush with the sill plate. The sides of the OSB should “break” on the center of a wall stud. This means that the edge of the panel will extend to the center of a stud. You’ll probably need at least one assistant to hold the sheet in place while you attach it to the studs.

  • Nail the first sheet into place with a nail gun, fitted with 1¾-inch nails. Unless your local code specifies a different nailing pattern, insert one nail every 6 inches along the sides of the OSB sheet and one every 12 inches in the studs that run beneath the middle of the sheet. Use the nailing lines on the sheets as guides.

  • Position the next OSB sheet beside the first, but leave a 1/8-inch gap where the two sheets meet to allow for future expansion.

  • Nail the second sheet into place as you did the first, with the bottom of the sheet flush with the sill plate.

  • Continue mounting OSB panels along the bottom row and then start on the row above, maintaining a 1/8-inch gap between rows.

  • Cut the top row of OSB to fit, if necessary, positioning the cut edge up away from the row beneath it. Cut OSB to fit around large windows and doors. For small windows, install the OSB over the window and cut out the hole later from the inside with a reciprocating saw.

Tips & Warnings

  • On a home where the studs are on 16-inch centers, a 4-by-8-foot sheet will fit evenly between the studs, breaking on center, when installed either horizontally or vertically.
  • In communities that suffer frequent hurricanes or earthquakes, building code may specify a different nailing pattern for OSB sheathing.

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