Is Maple a Hardwood or Softwood? + Soft Maple vs Hard Maple

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If you’re a DIY enthusiast, you couldn’t help but wonder if maple is a hardwood or softwood. And it’s hard to classify as there is soft and hard maple.

So to clarify this matter, I will talk about the characteristics and strength of maple to determine its classification and understand what it should be used for.

The Hardness of Maple Wood

The success and durability of your project depend on the sort of wood you choose when it comes to carpentry. The wood’s hardness, which impacts its wear resistance and workability, is a crucial consideration.

Depending on the species, maple wood has a Janka hardness that ranges from 950 to 1450 lbf. With a Janka hardness of 1450 lbf, hard maple, commonly referred to as sugar maple, is one of the toughest and most sturdy maple species. 

The toughness and beautiful grain patterns of maple make it a popular material for flooring, furniture, and cabinets. The toughness and durability to wear and tear of maple flooring make it also quite popular.

Hardness of maple wood

Ten common maple species’ hardness ratings are shown in the table below, along with those of other well-liked wood species:

Wood Species

Janka Hardness

Hard Maple (Acer saccharum)

1450 lbf

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

1350 lbf

Black Maple (Acer nigrum)

1180 lbf

Box Elder (Acer negundo)

700 lbf

Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)

700 lbf

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

950 lbf

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

700 lbf

Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum)

950 lbf

Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)

1100 lbf

Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

900 lbf

Oak (Quercus spp.)

1290-1360 lbf

Walnut (Juglans spp.)

1010 lbf

Cherry (Prunus spp.)

995 lbf

Ash (Fraxinus spp.)

1320 lbf

Hickory (Carya spp.)

1820 lbf

Hickory and maple are two of the strong and sturdy woods on this list. Whilst walnut and cherry are soft but still ideal for many woodworking projects, other woods, such as oak and ash lumber, are also durable and sturdy.

When selecting the ideal wood for your project, being aware of the Janka hardness ratings for various types of wood might be helpful. Keep in mind that your decision may also be influenced by other elements, including texture, color, and availability.

Characteristics of Maple Wood

Maple wood is a popular choice for many woodworking projects due to its attractive appearance and desirable characteristics. 

characteristics of maple wood

Here are some of the key characteristics of maple wood:

Other qualities of maple wood include:

If you are looking for a top-notch material for your upcoming woodworking project, maple wood is undoubtedly worth considering.

characteristics of maple

It’s no surprise that maple is a favorite among woodworkers and DIY enthusiasts, including myself, given its appealing appearance, desired properties, and many applications.

Hard Maple vs Soft Maple: Strength and Hardness

Hard maple and soft maple are the two major varieties of maple wood available. While choosing which one to utilize for your project, keep in mind that while they may sound similar, there are some significant distinctions to take into account. 

Hard Maple

Soft Maple

Lighter than soft maple

Darker than hard maple

Higher density

Lower density

1450 lbf

950 lbf

Stiffer

More pliable

More difficult to work with

Easier to work with

Generally more expensive

Generally less expensive

Flooring, cabinetry, furniture, and more

Millwork, paneling, furniture, and more

The needs of your particular project will determine whether you should choose hard maple or soft maple. I’m leaning towards hard maple if you desire a long-lasting, hard-wearing product for a high-traffic location or a heavy-duty application.

Soft maple can be the best choice if your project needs bending or shaping and you need a more malleable, user-friendly material. When making a choice, think about the qualities and traits of each type of maple wood.

Strength of Maple Lumber

Because of its durability and sturdiness, maple lumber is an appealing option for a variety of purposes. However, according to the exact type of maple being utilized, the strength of maple lumber can differ. 

maple lumber

There are considerable distinctions in strength between hard maple and soft maple in particular.

A material’s aptitude to resist pressure is known as the strength properties. Whereas stiffness describes a material’s capacity to withstand deformation, bending strength describes a material’s capacity to resist bending or flexing under load.

The compressive strength, bending strength, and rigidity of hard maple and soft maple are contrasted in the following table:

Strength and Stiffness

Hard Maple

Soft Maple

Compressive Strength

70 MPa

44 MPa

Bending Strength

126 MPa

93 MPa

Stiffness

11,800 to 13,900 MPa

9,800 to 12,000 MPa

When it comes to compressive strength, bending strength, and stiffness, hard maple is noticeably stronger than soft maple. This makes hard maple a superior option for uses like flooring and cabinetry that demand a high level of strength and durability.

But hey, don’t sleep on soft maple. It has its own set of advantages. In my experience, soft maple is generally easier to work with, especially if the project requires a bit more give or flexibility.

importance of maple

Soft maple might be a more cost-effective alternative for some applications because it is also less expensive than hard maple.

The higher baseline of your product will determine whether to choose hard maple or soft maple. Hard maple is perhaps the best alternative if strength and durability are your primary concerns. 

Soft maple might be the preferable choice if adaptability and simplicity of usage are more important.

What Project is Maple Wood Good For?

The remarkable adaptability of maple wood benefits a wide variety of products. Due to its sturdiness, endurance, and appealing artistic qualities, maple is a fantastic choice for a variety of uses, including flooring, furniture [1], cabinets, and musical instruments.

And it’s not just about the big stuff; I’ve used maple in crafting cutting boards, decorative trims, and even kitchen utensils. But one of the things I really appreciate about maple is its knack for taking stains and finishes like a champ. That means you can pretty much customize it to fit any design aesthetic you’ve got in mind.

maple wood good for

Flooring Using Maple Hardwood

The flexible wood maple is used in both musical instruments and furniture. But nonetheless, among its most commonly used ones is hardwood flooring. 

Maple hardwood flooring is well-liked for its durability and attractive appearance.

Pros and Cons of Maple Hardwood Flooring

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of installing maple hardwood flooring:

Pros

Cons

Hardness Rating Comparison of Maple and Oak Wood

Maple wood burl

Maple and Oak are both well-liked types of hardwoods that are recognized for being strong and long-lasting. To give you an idea of how they compare to each other, here is their Janka hardness ratings side by side:

Wood Species

Janka Hardness Rating (lbs)

Maple

1450

Oak

1360

As shown in the table, Maple is slightly harder than Oak, making it a good choice for high-traffic areas and projects that require a sturdy material.

Hardness Rating Comparison of Maple and Walnut Wood

Similarly, Maple and Walnut are both hardwoods that are valued for their strength and aesthetic appeal. Here is a comparison of their Janka hardness ratings:

Wood Species

Janka Hardness Rating (lbs)

Maple

1450

Walnut

1010

As shown in the table, Maple is significantly harder than Walnut wood. While Walnut is a beautiful wood that’s frequently used for cabinetwork and ornamental accentuations, it may not be the stylish choice for high-business areas or systems that bear a  further durable material. 

maple wood

FAQ

How can you tell if the maple is hard or soft?

To tell if a maple wood is hard or soft, inspect its grain pattern and density. Hard maple is typically denser and heavier with a tighter and more consistent grain. The Janka hardness rating is also a reliable indicator, with hard maple having a higher grade than soft maple.

See Also: Is Sycamore Considered a Hardwood

Conclusion

Maple is a hardwood valued for its sturdiness, strength, and adaptability. Its extensive use in a wide range of industries, such as furniture, flooring, and cabinets, is an indication of its exceptional features. 

Both hard and soft maple offers distinctive advantages that make them both valuable assets for any woodworking project, whatever you choose to use them. 

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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