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Is Maple a Hardwood? Facts & FAQ (With Hardness Chart)

different kinds of maple wood

Woodworking can be a great deal of fun, and there are many varieties of wood that you can use to create furniture, shelving, and other objects. However, you need durable hardwood for flooring to withstand wear and tear. Many people wonder if maple is a hardwood, and the answer is yes, but not all varieties are suitable for flooring, so keep reading as we look into which types are appropriate.

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Is Maple a Hardwood?

Yes, maple is one of the most abundant hardwoods in North America, and you can usually find it at any hardware store for a good price. While it is a hardwood, you will find it classified as soft and hard, which can be confusing to beginners. Manufacturers separate hardwood from softwood by a hardness rating in pounds-force (lbf), and different varieties have a different hardness. Hard maple has a rating of 1,450 lbf, and soft maple has a rating of 950 lbf. White oak is another hardwood that has a rating of 1,360 lbf, while red oak is a little softer at 1,260 lbf. Both versions are softer than the hard maple and harder than the soft. Cherry is a hardwood with the same hardness as the soft maple, and poplar is even softer, with a hardness rating of only 540 lbf.

maple tree
Image Credit: Michael Gaida, Pixabay
Wood Hardness in Pounds-Force
Hard Maple 1,450
White Oak 1,360
Red Oak 1,260
Soft Maple 950
Cherry 950
Poplar 540

What Species Are Hard Maple?

Sugar maple and black maple are the two maple trees that we classify as hard maple.

What Species Are Soft Maple?

Soft maple is slightly more common because there are more varieties. The most common types are silver maple, red maple, boxelder, and bigleaf maple.

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How to Tell Hard Maple From Soft Maple

All varieties of maple look similar enough to make it difficult to figure out which is hard and which is soft, especially when cut into boards at your local hardware store. The best option is to ask the store clerk, but these tips might be able to help you otherwise:

  • Weigh two similar-sized boards. The heavier board will likely be the hard maple, though not always.
  • Hard maple tends to have a lighter, more even color. Soft maple can have slight red, grey, and brown streaks.
  • Hard maple tends to have a longer growing season than soft maple, so its growth rings are usually closer.
  • Use iron sulfate to test the wood. Iron sulfate will turn pale blue or green when it contacts hard maple and be dark blue or black on soft maple.
  • If the trees are still standing, you can look at the leaves. Hard maple will have U-shaped valleys between the lobes, while soft maple will have V-shaped valleys.

What Kind of Wood Is Best for Flooring?

Floors must endure heavy traffic, furniture, and much more, so they must be extremely durable. Therefore, most people will only use hard maple for flooring. Both sugar maple and black maple work exceptionally well, and these are great choices over many other kinds of wood.

maple hardwood flooring
Image Credit: jactod, Pixabay

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Both hard and soft maple are hardwoods that are much stronger than other varieties. Maple also looks nice with a light color and a soft grain. The hardwood from sugar and black maple has a hardness rating of 1,450 lbf. It is extremely durable and works well as a flooring material. Soft maple with its hardness rating of 950 lbf will work perfectly for cabinets, furniture, and other projects. Both varieties are quite common and easy to find, so you should be able to complete your project for a reasonable price.

Featured Image Credit: optimarc, Shutterstock


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