Maple and birch plywood are two of the most popular options, but which one will provide you with the most long-lasting and sturdy cabinets? Choosing the wrong type of plywood can lead to costly problems such as warping, cracking, and splintering.
Here, our pro woodworkers will examine the differences between maple vs. birch plywood to see which plywood is the best for your project.
About Birch Plywood
Birch plywood is a type of engineered wood that is made from thin layers of birch veneer that are glued together with a strong adhesive. It comes from the birch tree found in Japan, Asia, Europe, and some parts of South America.
This type of plywood is known for its smooth and uniform surface, high strength, and durability. Birch plywood is also known for its attractive appearance, with a pale color and fine grain pattern that makes it a popular choice for furniture and cabinetry.
One of the key benefits of birch plywood is its resistance to warping and splitting. There are 40 different types of birch trees, but the most popular are the white or silver birch, yellow birch, red birch, weeping birch, and common birch.
Key Characteristics of Birch Plywood
Birch plywood comes in a range of colors, typically a yellow-white hue, but some variations can have a light brown to reddish-white color. As the wood ages, the color gets darker and more beautiful, especially for Baltic birch plywood boards.
Birch wood is very strong, almost as strong as maple wood. One kind of birch wood, called yellow birch, has a rating on the Janka scale of 1260. The material’s strength and longevity make it simple for a novice carpenter to produce a few works of art.
Birch plywood can also be applied with any wood stain. Lastly, it is more affordable than many other types of hardwood plywood, making it an attractive option for those on a budget.
Common Uses Birch Plywood
Birch plywood is a highly versatile material widely used in various applications. Its smooth and uniform surface, coupled with an attractive pale color and fine grain pattern, make it a popular choice for furniture and cabinetry.
Birch plywood is a suitable material for heavy-use areas, such as in the manufacture of kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, and other types of cabinetry.
In addition to furniture and cabinetry, birch plywood is also used in the construction industry for sheathing, roofing, and wall paneling, as well as in concrete formwork due to its strength and resistance to moisture.
Birch plywood’s excellent dimensional stability makes it a suitable subflooring material and finished flooring material in some applications.
Furthermore, its ease of workability makes it a popular choice for DIY enthusiasts who use it in a wide range of DIY projects, from shelving to home décor items.
Pros and Cons
About Maple Plywood
Maple plywood is a kind of wood made from maple trees, which are originally from Asia but are now found in many places around North Africa, North America, and even Europe.
Maple wood is a highly sought-after material for furniture and cabinetry due to its density and stiffness. It is widely known because of its straight, close-grained appearance and fine, uniform texture.
There are 132 different kinds of maple trees, including hard maple and soft maple. Hard maple has a very strong rating on the Janka scale of 1,400 to 1,500, and it can even be stained to make it a different color.
Additionally, there are several grades of maple plywood available, with varying levels of quality and price. The highest-grade maple plywood is typically referred to as “A-grade,” while lower grades may be labeled as “B-grade” or “C-grade.”
Key Characteristics of Maple Plywood
Maple plywood is highly resistant to warping, cracking, and splitting, ensuring it can withstand heavy loads and remain durable over time. Woodworkers draw towards maple for its light, creamy hue, smooth grain pattern, and fantastic durability.
Another important feature of maple plywood is its versatility. It can be cut, drilled, and shaped easily using standard woodworking tools.
Maple plywood is available in a range of thicknesses and sizes, which makes it easy to find the right material for any project.
It is commonly sold in 4×8-foot sheets, with thicknesses ranging from ⅛ inch to ¾ inch, allowing builders and designers to select the appropriate size and thickness for their specific needs.
Common Uses of Maple Plywood
Maple wood and maple plywood are versatile materials that find their use in many different applications. Their excellent strength and durability make them ideal for bowling alleys and high-end homes and fine woodworking projects such as clock making and furniture making.
Maple wood is also a popular choice for cabinets, as it offers a beautiful natural wood grain pattern that is both attractive and long-lasting. Due to its many advantages, maple plywood continues to be widely used by builders, craftsmen, and designers alike.
Pros and Cons
Comparing the Qualities of Birch and Maple Plywood
Let us see the similarities and differences between the two popular plywood options by comparing the following qualities:
Color and Appearance
Freshly cut maple has a cream or what most people refer to as off-white . However, the maple lumber gradually darkens and eventually turns dark brown. It darkens more quickly the more sunlight it receives.
Although the precise hues vary from one birchwood species to another, birchwood is even deeper. For instance, the most common species of birch, the yellow birch, has white sapwood and is a light reddish-brown color.
Most woodworkers and construction professionals prefer maple plywood over birch plywood since the latter is lighter in color.
Both maple plywood and birch plywood are generally easy to work with, and the differences in workability are minimal. Both types of plywood are easy to cut with hand or power tools.
To ensure precise and smooth cuts while minimizing the risk of splintering, it is crucial to utilize sharp cutting tools. It is important to note that when working with maple and birch, these wood types are prone to tearing if not treated with caution.
Hence, exercising careful handling and employing sharp tools are particularly significant when working with maple and birch wood to avoid any unintended damage or tearing.
Janka Hardness Rating
In terms of their respective Janka hardness ratings, birch plywood typically falls within the range of 760- 1260, while maple plywood’s rating is 1450. This means that maple plywood is generally harder than birch plywood.
Both maple and birch plywood are durable and can withstand regular wear and tear. However, maple plywood’s higher Janka hardness rating may make it slightly more resistant to wear and denting, making it a better choice for high-traffic areas or heavy-duty applications
Strength and Durability
Maple plywood typically has a higher Janka hardness rating than birch plywood, which means it can withstand more wear and impact.
So generally, maple plywood is stronger than birch plywood because it handles temperature changes and moisture better. Maple is great for making furniture and cabinetry as it doesn’t crack easily and can last a long time with proper maintenance.
Both types of plywood are durable and reliable, and the choice between them often comes down to specific project requirements and personal preferences.
Dents and Scratches
When it comes to scratches and dents, the hardness and durability of maple plywood may give it a slight advantage over birch plywood.
Maple plywood typically has a higher Janka hardness rating than birch plywood, making it more resistant to dents and scratches. Similarly, birch is better at concealing scratches and dents compared to maple because of its more complicated grain pattern.
While both have some level of resistance to moisture, maple is generally more moisture-resistant due to its density and natural oils. Maple is suitable for outdoor furniture or cabinets where moisture resistance is crucial.
Insect and Rot Resistance
Maple plywood is known for its natural resistance to insects and decay due to its high density and the presence of natural oils in the wood.
Both maple and birch plywood are good choices for applications where resistance to insects and decay is important, but if you need a higher level of resistance, maple plywood may be the better choice.
Finishing and Stainability
Another significant difference is that birch plywood takes paint and stains better than maple plywood.
Unlike how birch take stains well, maple is the opposite. But maple plywood is excellent for maintaining that natural hardwood appearance. When stained, maple plywood is frequently uneven and slightly blotchy.
You often will not run into this issue when working with birch plywood. Staining and achieving an even look is considerably simpler.
Woodworkers periodically don’t think of eco-friendliness when choosing wood, but environmental conservation impacts sustainability.
Between birch vs. maple plywood, the more environmentally friendly of the two is the former. Locally, maple trees grow in great quantities.
Maple plywood has a wider variety than birch plywood. There are various kinds of maple trees, even though they are all considered to be a form of hardwood. Theoretically, there are hard and soft maples, and both are used to make plywood.
Birch does, however, come in a few different varieties, but typically only the hard variety. The typical sheet of birch plywood will be roughly as dense and hard as soft maple plywood but not even close to hard maple plywood.
It is challenging to evaluate plywood costs since they vary widely based on size, demand, quality, and several other aspects. The price of two pieces of plywood constructed of the same material might differ considerably.
Maple plywood has a more appealing look than birch, is tougher, more damage-resistant, and harder to get. Therefore, maple plywood is more costly than birch plywood for all these reasons, but this does not mean that birch is affordable.
Birch or Maple Plywood Cabinets?
When it comes to choosing between birch and maple plywood for cabinets, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and the specific requirements of the project.
If you are looking for an affordable and durable option with a warm, natural look, birch plywood may be the better choice.
If you want a stronger, more moisture-resistant option with a smoother grain pattern that is easier to finish, maple plywood may be the better choice.
However, because of birch’s great tensile strength, it can easily take all the nails and screws needed to create practical, contemporary kitchen cabinets.
Other Wood Alternatives for Birch and Maple Plywood
Though significantly more expensive, maple plywood is marginally superior to birch plywood. It is more resistant to outside forces and has increased hardness and durability. Birch plywood, however, offers a more attractive pattern.
Between maple vs. birch plywood, both are good products in their own right so, in the end, it will depend on how you will use it and your personal preference.
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