Maple vs Birch Plywood — Which is More Durable for Cabinets and More?

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When it comes to crafting durable cabinets, your choice between maple and birch plywood holds significant importance. Opting for the wrong plywood can result in unwelcome headaches, like warping, cracking, or splintering, all of which can be expensive to fix.

In this analysis, I’ll tell you exactly the distinctions between maple and birch plywood. By the end, you’ll have the insights you need to make an informed decision 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.

Surface of birch plywood

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.

baltic birch plywood

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. 

furniture made out of Baltic Birch plywood

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

What i like

What i don't Like

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.” 

soft maple

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.

Surface of maple plywood

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

What i like

What i don't Like

Comparing the Qualities of Birch and Maple Plywood

applying stain on maple wood

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 [1]. 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.

White Birch

Workability

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

Surface of birch plywood 3

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.

sawing soft maple on a table saw

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.

Moisture

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.

maple 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.

surface of birch plywood 4

Eco-Friendliness

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.

Varieties

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.

Maple wood

Cost

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?

cabinet made out of baltic birch plywood

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

marine grade plywood

Conclusion

When it comes to choosing between maple and birch plywood, there are some important factors to consider. Maple plywood, while a bit pricier, boasts greater resilience against the elements, enhanced hardness, and overall durability. On the other hand, birch plywood showcases a more visually appealing pattern.

In the maple vs. birch plywood debate, it ultimately boils down to your specific needs and personal taste. Both materials have their own merits, and the choice will be influenced by how you intend to use them and your personal preferences.

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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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