Labor and materials costs reduced by 25% or more. Faster, easier installation. Materials arriving on the jobsite as much as three weeks faster.

When it comes to roof decking and wall sheathing, a little extra length can go a long way.

For decades, 8-foot-long OSB panels have been a go-to product for roof decking and wall sheathing, but a growing number of homebuilders are making a simple change to realize significant savings. They’re making the switch to extended length OSB panels, such as TuffStrand XL panels from RoyOMartin.

Available in lengths of 9 feet and 10 feet with span ratings for wall and roofing applications and use in areas prone to high winds or seismic activity, the panels deliver the versatility, strength and performance of their 8-foot-long cousins but cost less, are faster and easier to install, reduce waste, are more readily available from manufacturers, and help contractors avoid protracted delivery schedules during the peak building season.

With fewer panels to place and fasten, and no blocking needed on sidewalls, extended length panels significantly streamline the installation process. That’s invaluable to homebuilders in today’s tight labor market.

Nine-foot-high ceilings have become the norm on the first floor of new American homes, replacing the 8-foot-high ceilings that had been standard for decades. A single extended length panel will connect the top plate with the sole plate on these taller walls, eliminating the need for blocking and creating a stronger wall.

“The savings on labor and materials are huge, 25% and maybe as high as one-third,” said Tim Clark, senior buyer with Allied Building Stores, a co-op with 250 locations serving homebuilders in 12 Southern and Plains states. “You avoid doubling-up on the labor for cutting and seaming and the waste of having a partial panel left over that’s not good for anything.”

In roofing applications, the area covered by a single board jumps from 32 square feet to 36 square feet or 40 square feet. That means less cutting and less waste, saving time and, according to Bobby Byrd, director of OSB sales and marketing for RoyOMartin, shaving at least 10% off the cost of the boards alone. Fastening is quicker, too. The nailing pattern requires that mechanical fasteners be placed every 6 inches along board edges and every 12 inches in the interior; with fewer ends, there are fewer joints needing fastening every 6 inches.

Of course, all work comes to a screeching halt if the necessary products aren’t on the jobsite when needed. Shortages of 8-foot-long panels are common in spring, when construction activity heats up and demand spikes. (In the May 2018 survey for the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, 20% of respondents who purchase OSB reported product shortages – up from 13% the previous year.) Delivery schedules can swell from the typical seven days to as long as four weeks until supply and demand regain balance, Byrd said. Extended length panels are in much more ready supply, he continued, helping builders avoid the delay and stay on schedule.

Lower materials costs. Faster and easier to install. Less waste. Confidence that materials will be on the jobsite when needed. An extra foot or two really do go a long way.