Does Maple Wood Darken Over Time?

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Maple wood’s semblance tends to change, although it is the most popular lumber for wood projects. If you’re wondering if your once lustrous maple wood furniture will transform to a dull finish, you’re in the right place.

In this article, our pro woodworkers will share if maple wood does darken over time and if you can prevent this or not.

Reasons Why Maple Wood Turns Dark

Maple wood furniture is the popular choice of woodworkers and furniture enthusiasts because of its natural shades and smooth grain pattern. 

Hard Maple

The sapwood of maple comes in a white tone with reddish-brown tints imparted of mineral streaks and pitch flecks. Its heartwood is typically a brownish-red color that can be fairly dark. 

But like other wood, the color of maple will naturally darken with age. Some factors that change the color of maple wood, are the following:

maple wood turn darker

Despite sealing the entire surface, the wood can start to change its color because of the polymerization of polyphenols resulting from its continuous exposure to sunlight, and the chemicals will begin to oxidize.

Also, wood drenched with water over time will develop discoloration because water can penetrate the porous surface slowly.

Ways How Maple Furniture Changes Over Time

The color of maple furniture will not change with just a flick of your hand because it is a specie in the category of white woods (or woods with light, bright, and whiter colors of sapwood).

Maple furniture can turn from light white or creamy hue to reddish-brown to deep golden honey colors. If you have seen these changes to your furniture, consider changing your routine for your maple wood furniture.

maple changing color over time

For bare or untreated maple wood, it will only take 8 to 12 months to change its color. Depending on the level of exposure, maple color can change rapidly.

But it’s good that our experts have proven several methods to delay the discoloration of your maple wood to enjoy its beauty for a longer period.

How To Prevent The Darkening of Maple Wood

The darkening of maple wood can be prevented using various care instructions or methods. But, the maintenance of maple furniture depends on the type of finish you applied to the wood.

The most common type of finish for maple wood is lacquered or varnished. Oil finish is unsuitable for this wood because maple wood has a dense and tight grain, and the oil contributes to discoloring maple over time.

So, apply the following routines to keep your maple wood furniture in good condition:

First, find a place with low humidity or areas with no humidity at all for your maple furniture. Too much exposure in humid areas will change its color.

Although maple wood can withstand extreme heat, ensure that you place your maple furniture under a shaded part of your yard.

applying wood conditioner on maple wood

Maple wood furniture can be relocated to porch areas, as direct sunlight exposure can cause its color to deteriorate.

If your maple wood is exposed for a longer time under moisture conditions, the fungus can thrive in your wood, and if not taken care of properly, the wood will start to decay.

Here are the basic steps to maintain your maple furniture to look new as possible.

Step #1: Use finishers that contains UV inhibitors

The discoloration of maple wood and other wood is caused primarily by direct exposure to sunlight with its UV rays. You can protect your wood from UV rays using finishes that offer UV inhibitors.

Some of the best finishes with UV inhibitors are lacquer and linseed oil finish. But here is the list of our best-finished products in the market, including the latter.

staining maple wood

Manufacturers developed these products containing anti-UV agents that give your wood a protective layer against UV rays.

Later, you will notice that your wood has been the same color for over a year, even though it is exposed directly to the sun.

Aside from heat resistance, the finishes we have listed offer water, moisture, and air resistance because these finishes penetrate wood fibers making them more durable.

When you apply to finish products with UV inhibitors, we recommend at least two coats and a maximum of 4. Most of these products dry quickly, so apply them evenly on the entire surface.

Step #2: Relocate furniture while preventing the occurrence of shadow marks

If you place your maple furniture under a varying shade, shadow marks may develop over time. This phenomenon caused the wood to change into deep golden honey because the part exposed to sunlight interacts with it and the air.

But you can prevent shadowing by relocating your wood furniture, wherein the amount of sunlight spreads to your furniture, creating a consistent color all over the surface.

moving furniture

There’s no pleasing semblance of your wood furniture than having it a uniform color and reducing random shadow marks.

Step #3: Install window films

Install window films in your rooms where sunlight can pass through to your window, hitting the maple furniture directly.

You cannot see the discoloration immediately, but after a few months, you can see that color of your exposed furniture is darker than the other pieces.

So we recommend using window film to deflect the UV rays and keep your furniture’s color in good condition.

How dark does maple wood get?

Maple has light and bright white with reddish brown hues before exposure to sunlight.

Gradually, after continuous exposure to sunlight, it will turn into shades of grey and pink color, then into a bright golden color with the passage of time. Maple will darken but not quickly as other wood.

maple will darken

How do you keep maple wood from turning yellow?

Nothing lasts forever when it comes to the color of many kinds of wood, but when it comes to preventing discoloration, you can apply the acrylic finish.

Other finishes can make your maple wood turns yellow, but based on our experience, using acrylic maintains its natural color.

The acrylic finish has a clear coating but can naturally block off the UV light [1] that causes maple yellowing.

Also, acrylic in the water-based formula is easy to work with and provides a bit of depth to the wood grain, while solvent-based pops the grain and needs a spray applicator.

Using shellac on maple wood can prevent its yellowing aside from it offers a good finish. We prefer using the ultra-pale and light shade of shellac. We suggest opting for bleached shellac, which has no UV inhibitors to prevent yellowing.

Although some products offer good UV inhibitors, some oil-based finishes make maple yellow. So, here is a short list of finishes that you need to avoid to prevent yellowing over time.

wood stain on maple

Other Drawbacks of Maple Wood

As mentioned earlier, maple wood has many advantages such as affordability, great appearance with its dark brown color, and sturdy or durability, given that its hardwood. If you have maple furniture, it only requires low maintenance and care.

On the flip side, having maple furniture and architectural elements, some of the disadvantages that we encountered are difficult staining and wood color fading over time.

Also, this wood is not resistant to water, heat, and fungus, making it less durable from harmful environments and prone to scratches and marks.

But these disadvantages can be prevented if you stain your maple wood. Before staining, we recommend sanding and conditioning your wood to prevent blotchy surfaces and streaks or marks from your paintbrush.

soft maple

Best Finishes to Use on Maple

A stain finish is ideal for your maple furniture to illuminate the natural bright shade of this wood. So, what’s the best stain for maple? Using a semi-clear coat stain can protect your wood surface from UV rays and scratches.

Although some oil-based products make maple yellow, you can still use linseed or cedar oil as natural oils, so yellowing won’t be a problem. These penetrating oils, also known as oxidative oils, offer UV inhibitors.

Between UV cured finish or cured wood finish, our experts recommend settling for UV-cured finishes. This finish can deflect UV light protecting your wood from discoloration over time.

Also, a UV-cured finish using penetrating oils ensures that wood fibers are sealed and protected from moisture and heat. Once damaged, repairing this finish won’t require sanding.

best finishes on maple wood

Choose oil penetrative finishing products over polyurethane UV resistant because most poly products contain fewer UV inhibitors, making your maple wood susceptible to discoloration.

For your reference, read these guides to know how other oil finishes affects maple: 


Maple wood does darken over time, so you should be careful in choosing a suitable finishing product for your furniture to avoid further darkening or yellowing the wood. 

With these, you can start your wood project and transform your dull maple wood into a lustrous and more appealing semblance.  

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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