Maple vs Oak : An Extensive Comparison of Popular Hardwoods

maple vs oak

At Cameroon Timber Export SARL, we deal in many types of wood. Maple and Oak are two of the most popular types of hardwood in our store.

These two options are extremely popular and are often compared by people looking to buy hardwood products for their homes, offices, etc.

Both hardwoods are used for many applications such as cabinets, flooring, furniture, stairs, and more.

If you’re also confused between maple and oak for your next woodworking project, here’s everything you need to know about these two hardwoods and how they are different from each other in terms of physical properties, uses, and appearance. Both are a great choice for woodworking projects, but understanding their differences can help you make the best decision for your specific project.

Before we start comparing maple and oak, you must know that both wood types are available in many species such as hard maple, soft maple, red and white oak.

Choosing between the two can be complicated for woodworking beginners, which is why we have prepared this detailed guide explaining the differences between oak and maple to help make the right choice.

About Maple Wood

It is a hardwood that comes from maple trees. It is a strong wood known for its durability, attractiveness, and versatility, making it a good choice. Maple wood has a light to medium yellowish colour with a fine and uniform grain pattern. It is widely used in furniture, flooring, cabinetry, and various other projects due to its beautiful appearance and robustness.

Types of Maple: Within the Maple category of hardwoods, there are many species, all of which can be divided into two types – Hard Maple and Soft Maple. When it comes to determining the durability and strength of Maple, the janka hardness rating is a useful metric to consider.

Hard Maple

Hard maple (sapwood) is a light, white-yellowish wood that is preferred for use in contemporary spaces, particularly for making modern furniture and hardwood flooring.

Its attractive & unique figured grain pattern further adds to its beauty and makes it perfectly fit any modern decor.

Hard Maple is a versatile hardwood used in many applications ranging from flooring and cabinetry to furniture, custom woodwork, interior moulding & trim, countertops, baseball bats, tool handles, and clamp locks.

Hard maple, also known as Rock Maple or Sugar Maple, is a very hard and strong wood (Janka rating 1,450 lbf) which is obtained from a tree called Acer saccharum and is commonly found in the Northeastern United States.
Hard maple is prized for its durability and strength. However, it may be slightly more difficult to work than soft maple.

It is a stable wood that can last very long depending on its physical condition and proper installation. Maple can be prone to dents and scratches. It turns and finishes well but can be difficult to stain.

Soft Maple

Soft Maple refers to a category of maple wood species that are lighter and less dense than Hard Maple. They usually have a straight and fine grain with occasional curls or waves.
The colour of this type of maple ranges from off-white to light yellowish-brown with some reddish hue.

Soft Maple is smooth and easy to work with, making it a popular choice for woodworkers. It stains well unlike hard maple.

It is slightly less durable than Hard Maple and not very resistant to rot and decay. It is often used as a cost-effective alternative to hard maple. 

Common uses of soft maple species include indoor furniture, cabinetry, interior trim, panelling, veneer, and musical instruments.

The common types or species of Soft Maple include Bigleaf Maple, Box elder, Red maple, White/silver maple, and Striped maple.

About Oak Wood

It is a strong hardwood tree from the Quercus genus, known for its durability and attractive grain patterns.

Its wood is used across many applications in furniture, flooring, outdoor, construction, cabinetry, and more.

Types of Oak: All oak wood species can be divided into two types – Red and White Oak.

Red Oak

Top red oak species include Black Oak, California Black, Cherrybark, Laurel, Pin, Scarlet, Southern Red Oak, Water Oak, and Willow Oak.

Each species of red oak has its own characteristic grain and texture. Some common Oak wood grain patterns include rings, strips, flecks, and wavy.

The heartwood of Red oak is typically medium reddish-brown and lighter than white oak. It has a straight, coarse and porous grain with medium-to-large pores.

Red oak is not very resistant to decay or insects, but it is very strong and dense and can resist dents and scratches well.

It is easy to work with and reacts well to steam bending. Dimensional stability can be a concern due to high shrinkage values. It takes stains, glues, and finishes well.

Common uses of Red oak include cabinetry, indoor furniture, interior trim, flooring, and veneer.

White Oak

Common types of white oak include Bur, Chestnut, Overcup, Post Oak, Sessile Oak, Swamp Chestnut Oak, English Oak, Oregon White Oak, and Swamp White Oak.

White oak is slightly darker than red oak, usually with a medium brown colour and an olive cast.

It has a straight but fairly coarse grain with medium-to-large pores. It is also harder and stronger and more durable than red oak.

White oak is highly cherished for its ability to resist decay and insect attacks. It is a very durable wood perfect for boatbuilding and outdoor projects like furniture and decking.

It is easy to work with and bends (steam bending), glues, stains and finishes easily

White oak wood is commonly used for furniture, cabinetry, moulding, flooring, boatbuilding, construction, wine barrels, panelling, plywood, veneers, and fence posts.

Maple vs Oak

Both hardwoods obtained from deciduous trees with edible leaves. There are a few similarities and many differences between the two wood species.

Maple vs Oak: Appearance

Sawn Maple has a creamy, whitish colour with fine & visible grain patterns and occasional figures.

Due to its light colour and smooth appearance, it is favoured for contemporary flooring. Both hard and soft maple are suitable for flooring.

Red Oak has a light colour with pinkish-red hints in the heartwood. Medium to heavy grain patterns are common. White Oak is slightly darker.

Both maple and oak look outstanding in their respective applications.

Maple vs Oak: Styling

Because of its porous structure, oak wood is easier to stain compared to Maple wood. Maple looks better with a natural finish.

Maple boards have attractive grain patterns that fit every style, especially modern decor. It has a light and smooth appearance particularly suitable for larger, open spaces.

Oak wood has distinct & exciting grain patterns which give a unique personality to the product made of this wood.

Oak has more of a classic appearance which works well with both modern and traditional interiors.

Maple vs Oak: Durability

Both Oak and Maple woods are known for their durability, and they can withstand moisture, insects and weathering, which ensures long life.

Maple is a hard & strong wood. Its high density makes Maple an excellent option for areas with a lot of foot traffic. It doesn’t dent or warp easily.

White Oak is almost as hard as maple and more durable. It is very sturdy and can resist decay, insects, scratches and dents impressively well.

White Oak is considered the best choice for outdoor woodworking because of its ability to resist decay.

Maple vs Oak: Workability

Maple is generally more challenging to work with due to its dense and hard nature, which can make cutting, shaping, and sanding difficult.

In contrast, Oak is known for its excellent workability, being easier to cut, shape, and sand compared to Maple.

Oak is also less likely to burn during cutting, making it more forgiving for woodworking tasks.

Woodworkers choose between Maple and Oak based on their project’s requirements and their level of experience with each type of wood.

Maple vs Oak: Cost

Oak is better than maple in terms of physical strength and durability. Due to its higher demand, oak is usually a bit more expensive than Maple.

The cost of the wood depends on factors like availability, location, the dimensions of boards, the grade of the lumber, etc.

Oak vs Maple: Uses

Both Oak and Maple are used for flooring. Oak is favoured for its grain patterns and natural beauty. Maple is harder and sturdier.

Maple is commonly used for flooring, cabinetry, furniture, custom woodwork, interior moulding & trim, countertops, baseball bats, tool handles, clamp locks, indoor furniture, panelling, veneer, and musical instruments.

Common uses of oak wood include cabinetry, furniture, interior trim, flooring, veneer, furniture, moulding, boatbuilding, construction, wine barrels, panelling, plywood, and fence posts.

Where to Buy Maple and Oak Wood Online at the Best Price?

If you are still confused and need help selecting the right wood between oak and maple for your next woodworking project, you can contact us at CameroonTimberExportSarl  to consult with our woodworking specialists for making an informed decision.

If you need to buy high-quality sustainable hardwoods at the best price online with doorstep delivery worldwide, you can visit our website or get in touch with our sales team to enquire about our wood availability and specifications. Contact us to know more.