Sheet Goods: The skin that tightens up a frame and keeps it stable

While dimensional lumber handles downward pressure, and engineered lumber braces against push/pull forces, sheets of plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) fight side-to-side movement by spanning and connecting framing members.

Less-expensive OSB is wood shavings glued together with resins. Plywood is thin sheets of veneer or "plys" glued together in layers (typically five), with the grains perpendicular to each other. This maximizes strength and minimizes shrinking and swelling, and makes plywood the stronger of the two. But both are used for exterior sheathing, subflooring, and sometimes even interior wallboard.

Tom uses plywood sheathing—minimum 5/8-inch and more often 3/4-inch—on the houses he works on. For extra strength he glues down corner sheets and roof sheathing, as well as all floor sheets (he may use OSB here), which are tongue-and-groove for added strength. "I pay a lot of attention to lateral movement," he says. "On a windy day, I don't want a house to even creak once."

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