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What is Waferboard?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Also known as oriented strand board or OSB, waferboard is a wood panel composed of flakes that are compressed to create a sturdy and workable building material. This type of chipboard is classified as one example of particleboard and can sometimes be used in building projects in the place of conventional plywood panels. While normally known as particleboard in the United States, panels of this type are often referred to as Sterling board in the United Kingdom.

The creation of waferboard involves compressing individual flakes into a flat panel. In order to achieve the shape and consistency desired, the wood flakes are joined with the use of resins that effectively bind the flakes or wafers to one another. The panel is subjected to a high degree of heat and pressure, which helps to seal the bond and also compress the surface of the board until it is flat. As a result, the panels are relatively strong and can be used for a number of building projects.

One of the more common applications of waferboard is in the creation of inexpensive but functional pieces of furniture. Items such as television stands, computer desks, and various types of shelving can be created using this type of board. The pieces are often covered with some sort of laminate designed to mimic the appearance of wood grain. Furniture of this kind is often sold in easy to assemble kits, and is often sold at discount retail stores.

Just as with plywood and MDF, waferboard can be manufactured to any degree of thickness desired. Thinner boards may be ideal for use in creating temporary walls within an edifice, such as the preparation of a stage set in a theater. The thicker boards can be used to create functional shelving that can be mounted directly on a wall and support an equitable amount of weight. Most products made with this type of board are graded, allowing consumers to know how much stress the board can stand up to and remain functional.

While waferboard is a versatile product, it is not always the best option for various building projects. Furniture created with the use of this type of board is less likely to last for extended periods of time than solid woods. Water can damage the integrity of waferboard, and in some cases even cause the flakes to begin separating. Fortunately, people who purchase inexpensive furniture made with this product usually are looking for an item that will be useful in the short term, while they set aside resources to purchase something that is more likely to last for many years.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including About Mechanics, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By jmc88 — On Apr 15, 2012

@titans62 - I agree with you when choosing OSB vs plywood. As far as the material OSB is made of, I am pretty sure it is made from aspen and poplars grown in the northern US or similar colder climates. I don't remember where I heard that.

Has anyone here ever used OSB as a subfloor before? I have heard people say it is okay to use it instead of plywood, but I don't know. I'm not really all that concerned about the weight load. OSB should be strong enough to support whatever I put on it. I guess what I am wondering about is the expansion that the article talked about.

If you live in a humid climate like I do, is there the possibility that the water in the air will make the floor start to rot sooner than it would with plywood? We are planning on remodeling our bathroom, and part of the floor will need replaced. I'd like to use OSB if possible, because it is cheaper.

How do floor coverings go down, too? Can you put tile straight on top of OSB, or do you need to use a liquid leveler first?

By titans62 — On Apr 15, 2012

I love using OSB as a lower cost alternative to plywood. A lot of people don't like using OSB because of the texture, but as long as you aren't going to have it on a visible surface, it is a great material to work with.

My wife is in charge of the drama club at the school, so I help make a lot of the props and sets for the plays. A lot of times, I just use OSB because it is cheap, and you can't tell what kind of wood it is from a distance, especially after it's been painted.

Another one of the benefits of OSB I have found is that it is a little bit lighter than plywood. That usually isn't much of a problem, but if there is a large prop, it helps the kids who have to set up the stage. As far as the strength goes, it is a little weaker than plywood, but for all that I use it for, it is fine.

Out of curiosity, does anyone know what wood they use to make OSB? I always thought it was pine, but now I'm not so sure.

By kentuckycat — On Apr 14, 2012

@Izzy78 - I actually just bought some treated waferboard a few weeks ago. We had a really bad windstorm where I live, and it blew over our little metal shed. The shed was nailed into a waferboard floor, but the boards had gotten rotten and the nails just lifted out with the wind.

When I went to the hardware store to replace it, I asked them what the options were to replace it. They said I could either get treated plywood or OSB, but the OSB was quite a bit cheaper, so that's what I went with. They said that even being out in the elements, the boards should last for at least 7-8 years.

I don't know what they are treated with, but they suggested I buy galvanized nails to install it, so I would assume it is treated with a chemical that is similar to what they use on regular lumber.

By Izzy78 — On Apr 13, 2012

@orangey03 - Interesting story. I guess I never really thought about paint being able to seep into a piece of OSB board and ruin it. I have painted a lot of plywood and never had a problem, but I guess the way it is made doesn't leave much way for liquids to get in from the flat surfaces.

I wonder if they make any types of OSB that have a special coating on it to protect the board from liquid. I am pretty sure that I have seen people use OSB for outdoor purposes before, so I have to image that there is some sort of weather resistant board that you can buy. Has anyone ever seen anything like this or know how it is treated? I'm wondering if they use the same stuff that they use for treated lumber where you need special nails.

By shell4life — On Apr 13, 2012

I eat a lot of meals in my living room so that I can watch TV. My coffee table is too low to eat over, so I started using some waferboard I found in my husband's shop as a tray.

When I have a hot plate, I cannot sit it directly in my lap. I put the waferboard tray underneath it, and then it is safe. This is how I like to eat cereal and soup.

I also use the tray to carry items from the kitchen to the living room. If I have a plate of food, a drink, silverware, and napkins, I can avoid making several trips by using the waferboard. It is strong enough to handle the weight of the food, and as long as I wipe up any spills quickly, the board won't be destroyed.

By orangey03 — On Apr 12, 2012

@seag47 – Yes, water is bad for waferboard. I found that out after trying to use a piece of it as a palette.

I had just taken up painting, and I didn't have a lot of money for expensive supplies. I bought good quality paints and canvases, but that did not leave much for other things, like palettes and easels.

So, I got a cheap piece of waferboard. I figured that since it was a flat surface like a real palette, it should do well.

What I didn't know was that the moisture in the paints would make the waferboard disintegrate. I didn't figure it out until I started noticing brown flakes in my paint. I had to throw out the waferboard and get a real palette.

By seag47 — On Apr 12, 2012

My computer desk has a backing of waferboard. Even though it doesn't look very substantial, it did last for several years before succumbing to the elements.

It probably would have lasted longer if my roof hadn't started leaking while I was on vacation. The leak just happened to be right above the waferboard of the desk, and it got soaked.

When I got home, the desk was totally warped. The water had stained the board, and it had changed shape. It reacted almost the same way as cardboard responds to moisture.

By Perdido — On Apr 11, 2012

My husband and I settled for whatever we could get in the way of furniture when we first got married. We didn't have much, and any gift, no matter how cheap, was appreciated.

One friend gave us his old entertainment center. The back of it was made of waferboard, and it was pretty unattractive. The waferboard had several holes in it to allow cables to run through, and it just didn't seem very stable.

Our TV was too big to go on the entertainment center, so we just put various lightweight objects on it. It served as a shelf, but it just didn't look good. As soon as we could afford to get some nice shelving, we got rid of it.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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