Plywood Sheeting: How Thick for My Roof?

Plywood sheets are one of the most common building materials used in home construction.

16-Inch Rafters

Roofs have decking requirements just like floors.Roofs have decking requirements just like floors.
They are used in the construction of subfloors, as coverings for decks, bases for walls and siding, and as a base for any roofing material installed on top of the home. Just as with any other load-bearing area, there are minimum requirements for the thickness of plywood sheeting, depending on the spacing of the rafters and the type of material you are using for the roof itself.

As a general rule, any basic shingles require a minimum of 1/2-inch-thick plywood to be used. However, this only holds true for rafters that are no greater than 16 inches on center. This means the rafters are 16 inches apart from the center of one rafter to the center of the other rafter. The sheets need to be installed so that any termination points rest halfway across a rafter so that the adjacent piece can also attach to the rafter, rather than float in between rafters.

24-Inch Rafters

The wider the spacing in the rafters, the thicker the material needs to be to stand up to the weight of the finish shingle material and to avoid deflection, also known as flexing. Plywood that is 5/8 inch thick is preferred for rafters that have 24-inch spacing. However, if you know you are working with a heavier type of roofing material, you may want to use a 3/4-inch material for safety’s sake.

Slate Tile Shingles

Given the fact that slate tile shingles are one of the heaviest types you can install, it is recommended that you use at least a 3/4-inch-thick plywood sheet material for the base. Some professionals will actually recommend that you use double layers of 3/4-inch material, similar to what is used in slate tile installations on floors. However, slate shingles don’t have the same deflection requirements as tile floors, so a single sheet is generally sufficient.

Asphalt Shingles

If you are working with a typical shingle type, such as asphalt shingles, 1/2- or 5/8-inch material is general sufficient. However, you should always check with the shingle manufacturer to determine its recommendations. Always follow manufacturer recommendations to preserve any warranties attached to the products. If you install shingles with plywood that is too thin, you void any warranties associated with your roofing products and may have issues insuring your home.

About the Author

Tim Anderson has been freelance writing since 2007. His has been published online through GTV Magazine, Home Anatomy, TravBuddy, MMO Hub, Killer Guides and the Delegate2 group. He spent more than 15 years as a third-generation tile and stone contractor before transitioning into freelance writing.