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I was wondering if I created a base that was sturdy and the braces were fairly close together, would it be possible to use drywall as my base instead of plywood? If so, would there be any benefits to this? If not, what would be the downfall?

I will be gluing everything down, not nailing or screwing it, which makes me think that it would work pretty well. I would have braces under it that would not be farther apart then 1.5'. I would think that the benefit would be that it wouldn't warp. The downfall would be that it may not be as sturdy, which is why I would put additional 2x4s under it to brace it more.
 

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Brad,

I'd only offer two observations. The first is that eventually, you may want to use screws to attach some accessories or track, and you already know how it eventually crumbles and the screws work loose. The other is that the train will create constant vibration, the drywall is an excellent vibration conductor, and that will speed up the process. That said, no screws, no problems other than moisture. Best of luck with it, and send us pics so we can see how it's coming!
 

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Hey Brad,

Why drywall? Cost? I think you run a significant risk with drywall. It can be quite brittle with any sort of impact, and once cracked, you've essentially got a fractured layout surface.

If cost is a concern, you might consider MDF ... medium density fiberboard. I'd estimate $20 for a 1/2" 4x8 sheet, maybe $28 for a 3/4" 4x8 sheet. A very smooth surface. It's also extremely dimensionally stable, and won't warp or twist with changes in humidity like many plywoods will. Downside? You shouldn't get it really wet. You can screw-fasten into it, but it doesn't have quite as much holding power as plywood.

(And drywall, on the other hand, has essentially no screw holding power.)

Plywood comes in a wide array of grades / quality, as you likely know. Cheap (and knotty with voids) 4x8's for maybe $18 or so. Really top quality hardwood-veneered stuff might be in the $70 to $80 range.

Good luck!

TJ
 

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Brad...

Moisture would be my concern too. You might be in a moisture-safe environment, but mine is in my shop, where occasionally some moisture can strike the surface if it rains hard enough (leaks, hard winds, heavy rain). I am just thinking that by the time you buy the extra 2 x 4's needed to brace it more solidly, you could just as well buy plywood. I have thought about trying to use particle board before....I just haven't had opportunity to try it out. Good luck!

Chad
 

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Another cheap option is OSB -- oriented strand board ... much stronger than particle board, but much cheaper than plywood. Essentially a pressed sheet of wood chips (not sawdust), with the chip grain all running in a uniform direction. Used often for house sheathing.

Probably quite adequate in strength and stiffness for a train layout deck.

TJ
 

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I used blonde wood,its about $28 for a 1/2in 4x8 sheet and is finished on one side so it is really smooth and has a clean feel... as mentioned above drywall is a lot more fragile than any type of wood and is easily damaged by moisture and once it cracks then it has to be replaced...I can see what your saying about drywall as far as a smooth surface but its at least twice as heavy and 10 times more damageable
 

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Why do you need a smooth surface? I'm asking; I don't know. By the time you add scenery, it seems to me the smooth surface will be covered.

As a material, drywall is not a good choice; it has practically no structural strength. Same for the cheap particle board you get at a home center; there are better grades of it but they are not readily available to a homeowner.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
all good points... it wasn't necessarily price... I was just thinking out loud.

Thanks all!!!
 

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Some people have said they had warping problems with Homosote. Others have said that if you paint (seal) it, there will not be any warping. I had a large layout with unsealed Homosote on L-girders and never had a problem with warping (maybe my basement was relatively dry?) but you might want to research using Homosote before committing to using it.
 

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With the Homosote I have had the corners were I did not support it enough start to droop. The way I built my support was to firs make two 36 inch wide saw horses to use as the legs. Then place two 2x4x8s lengthwise between them. Filled the space one the saw horses between the 2x4x8s with scrap 2x4s so that they could perform double duty as the cross braces. The sawhorses are set in about 24 inches on each side so that the legs do not get hit accidentally. Issue is that the corners have no additional support. All other areas are fine.
 

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I used Dow Blue Board with a covering of 1/4" luaun. The luaun gave me a solid surface to attach my rail(read nail), and glue my cardboard matrix for elevations. Under the table switches have a small piece of luaun glued to the Blue Board to attach the tortoises.

Bob
 
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