While hardwoods are generally favoured over softwoods for a range of applications like furniture making and construction, not all hardwoods are the same or have similar properties.
Maple and oak, two of the most popular hardwood species in the world, are quite different from each other in terms of properties and appearance.
Both maple and oak are considered suitable for both indoor use and outdoor applications, including flooring, decking, cabinets, and furniture. However, the two kinds of wood differ greatly from each other, including the trees from which they are sourced.
When it comes to choosing between oak vs maple wood, understanding the differences is crucial. From appearance & texture to strength and cost, there are many factors to consider before making a decision. In this blog, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the differences between oak and maple wood to help you make an informed choice for your project.
What is Maple?
Maple is a hardwood that comes in many varieties. The two most common species of maple are soft maple and hard maple. Hard maple is the most commonly used variety of maple because of its strength. Soft maple is a term used to represent multiple maple species that are softer than hard maple.
Unlike most other hardwood species, Maple is sought after for its sapwood rather than its hardwood. The maple sapwood is almost white or off-white colour, often with a golden hue. The reddish-brown heartwood is almost perishable and has no commercial use. Maple wood is also prized for its figured patterns, which include curly, quilted and birdseye maple.
What is Oak?
In comparison to maple, oak is a superior wood in every term. It is harder, stronger and very durable. Oak has many varieties, such as red oak, American white oak, black oak, and others. White oak is the most popular.
Even though hard maple is harder than oak, it is oak that has greater durability. Oak has a light to medium brown heartwood, often with an olive cast. The grain is straight but the texture is coarse and uneven. Because of its excellent durability and rot resistance, oak is favoured for outdoor applications such as boatbuilding.
Because of the high demand and popularity of oak, it is moderately expensive but economical compared to many premium hardwood species.
Oak Vs Maple : Which is Better?
There are both similarities and differences between maple and oak. Both kinds of wood are very hard and weigh a lot. However, the appearance and grain pattern are different. Also, oak is much more durable than maple.
Both oak and maple come with many species, some of which even share similar properties across the type. With oak, choosing the right species can be a bit tricky because there are so many species of oak and many look almost the same.
Oak vs Maple
|Average Dried Weight||0.74 – 0.81 g/cm³||0.63 – 0.76 g/cm³|
|Specific Gravity||0.74 – 0.81||0.63 – 0.76|
|Janka Hardness||1,290 – 1,360 lbf||1,450 – 1,530 lbf|
|Modulus of Rupture||14,500 – 19,200 psi||10,000 – 15,200 psi|
|Elastic Modulus||1.75 – 2.32 Mpsi||1.45 – 1.85 Mpsi|
|Crushing Strength||7,500 – 10,800 psi||7,830 – 9,690 psi|
|Shrinkage||Radial: 4-8%, Tangential: 9-14%, Volumetric: 13-19%||Radial: 4-7%, Tangential: 7-11%, Volumetric: 11-17%|
Colour: One of the strengths of maple is its flawless appearance, which includes an almost white wood with even grain and nearly zero flaws, pores or knots. It’s a very smooth wood, which changes its colour to yellowish over time. On the other hand Oak is widely loved for its beautiful appearance which includes a light-medium brown hue.
Grain & Texture: Oak has a wonderful grain pattern and a dark texture but the heavy grain of oak might not suit everyone’s taste. Oak can be painted but it will ruin its natural beauty, which is why many woodworkers only prefer staining or varnishing for oak items. In contrast Maple is characterised by its figured grain pattern, which includes birdseye, curly, and quilted patterns. It has a generally straight but sometimes wavy grain with a fine texture. There are very few pores on the surface of hard maple.
Hard maple, also known as sugar maple or rock maple, is a hardwood tree that grows in Northeastern North America. Maple trees are about 80-115 ft (25-35 m) tall and with a 2-3 ft (.6-1.0 m) trunk diameter.
White Oak is primarily sourced from the Eastern United States. Oak trees are deciduous and lose leaves once a year. The trees are about 65-85 ft (20-25 m) tall with a 3-4 ft (1-1.2 m) trunk diameter. Oak is also famous for its fruit called acorn. Oak trees can take many years or even decades to fully grow, which along with their high demand can make oak timber considerably expensive.
Oak is considerably strong (1,350 lbf Janka hardness rating). It is also very dense and heavy. Oak pieces last very long because of both the wood’s hardness and durability. The average age of oak trees can be up to 150 years or even more. Some oak trees are found to have lived for over 500 years. The same can be said for oak items, as there are found many oak furniture and items that are many centuries old easily and are still in great condition.
Maple is very hard (harder than oak), but it is not very strong. The Janka rating of hard maple is 1,450 lbf. In fact, some species of maple are quite perishable and will rot or go bad in some years.
Oak is one of the most naturally durable woods in the world. It is resistant to rot and can withstand insect attacks. Oak furniture and items can safely withstand extreme moisture and humidity conditions without going bad. Oak is a favoured wood both for interior furniture and exterior construction.
Though the heartwood of hard maple is not durable, the sapwood is somewhat durable. Overall, maple is not very suitable for outdoor use. It is also quite prone to dents and scratches, which is why maple flooring needs extra maintenance and care.
Workability, Availability & Price
Oak is fairly easy to work with both hand and machine tools. The wood is considered not very stable because of its slightly high shrinking tendencies. Wet oak can react with iron and cause staining and discolouration when in contact with iron. Steam bending works great with oak and it is easy to glue, stain, and finish. Painting is generally avoided to maintain the natural hue of oak timber.
Both hard maple and soft maple are easy to work with. However, the high density of maple can sometimes cause burning when cut using high-speed cutters, Maple is easy to turn, glue, and finish. To avoid blotches when staining maple, a per-conditioner or toner is used. Soft maple does not bend or shape easily.
Availability & Price
One of the benefits of maple is that it is a cost-effective wood. It is a strong and somewhat durable wood and an affordable choice for indoor applications such as flooring, furniture and cabinetry. Maple pieces with a figured grain pattern such as birdseye or curly can be much more expensive due to high demand.
Oak can be quite expensive because of its high demand and large growth period. However, it is easily available in both flat sawn and quarter sawn forms, which makes it moderately priced for domestic hardwood but it can be expensive to import.
You can contact White Knight Consulting Ltd to enquire about the best price for oak timber in the UK.
Hard maple is used in all kinds of applications like furniture, construction, cabinets, flooring, mouldings, interior trim, clamp locks, etc., but it is not suitable for exterior applications due to poor durability. It is also used for making sports equipment such as baseball bats, bowling lanes, and pool cue shafts. Soft maple is used for furniture, mouldings, pulpwood, veneer, musical instruments, boxes, crates, turned objects, and butcher blocks. Maple syrup is a famous food product that is sourced from the maple tree.
Oak is used for practically everything, from indoor applications such as flooring, furniture and plywood to outdoor construction, decking and boatbuilding. Due to its high durability and resistance to moisture and rot, oak is perfect for furniture and is also used in cabinetry, flooring, interior trim, barrels, veneers, support beams, fence woods, panelling, shingles, and boatbuilding. The bark of white oak is also used for its medicinal properties.
Where to Buy Top-Quality Oak and Maple Online?
To summarise, both oak and maple have their respective properties and uses. One cannot be used in place of the other because oak and maple are very different from each other. Oak is the winner when it comes to outdoor applications that demand high durability and moisture resistance. Maple, on the other hand, is perfect for indoor applications such as interiors and flooring, where a contemporary-looking, low-cost wood is needed. If you want to build items that will last many years or even decades, oak is a no-brainer, but it costs more than maple.
If you need help selecting the right hardwood for your next project or want to purchase oak or maple timber at the best price in the UK, contact White Knight Consulting Ltd. We are a top manufacturer, supplier and wholesaler of timber wood and provide doorstep delivery worldwide. Contact us today.