Is Sycamore a Hardwood? Pros, Cons & Types
Sycamore, or American Plane as some people call it, is a deciduous hardwood that’s versatile and has various uses. It’s one of the biggest hardwood species and produces stunning lumber, which is excellent for furniture making and flooring.
It’s a wood species that is not appreciated as it should be, but it has become more popular over the last few years. Another thing that makes sycamore a great choice for your home is that it’s typically less expensive than other available hardwoods. Overall, it’s a stunning wood you should consider for various projects due to its exceptional properties.
If you’d like to know more about it, keep reading the rest of our article.
Different types of sycamore wood
Sycamore is grown throughout the USA, and it’s a USA native plant that’s very similar to maple. There are various species of this wood, and the most popular varieties in the USA are:
Although they are pretty similar, they are grown in different parts of the US and have some characteristics that make them unique.
American sycamore is a variety that mainly grows in the eastern parts of the USA. These trees are pretty large and can reach over 100 feet. The wood of this sycamore species is moderately strong, has medium stiffness and heaviness, and is relatively hard. It has various uses and excellent availability.
Mexican sycamore is a slightly smaller species that reaches between 40 and 50 feet. This variety is better at tolerating heat, mainly grown in the western US. Although this is another durable wood specie, people mostly use it as an ornamental tree rather than using it for woodworking.
California sycamore is a large sycamore species, reaching over 110 feet in height. It typically grows on the west coast of the USA, and it also serves as an ornamental tree.
The Arizona sycamore is native to New Mexico and Arizona. These trees are pretty rare, which is why people don’t use them for any projects. Instead, you can typically find these trees in parks and extensive gardens, as they tend to be too large for residential backyards and yards.
Sycamore wood characteristics
For many years, sycamore wood was standing in the shadows of other popular hardwoods, but that has changed in the last couple of years. In the past, sycamore wood was considered secondary wood and people used it for web frames and drawer slides, but the applications have changed, and now you can see this wood in various projects.
Although this wood is durable, it’s not insect and rot-resistant, so it’s better for indoor than outdoor use. Instead, you can use sycamore for flooring, furniture, musical instruments, and other indoor projects.
Here are some of the characteristics of sycamore wood to help you decide if it’s a suitable option for your projects or not.
Sycamore’s sapwood typically has a pale-creamy color or it can be a bit more tan. The heartwood is darker brown with reddish hues. As the sapwood and heartwood are so different in color, you should be careful when selecting the wood for your project to ensure everything matches.
Grains and texture
When it comes to the texture of sycamore wood, it’s fine and even. The grains are interlocked, which sometimes makes sycamore hard to work. However, it does add a lovely pattern to the wood once cut.
Sycamore has a Janka Hardness Scale Rating of 770 which shows that it has medium density. It’s one of the softer hardwoods, but it’s still strong and durable. Below is a chart showing how sycamore wood compares to other hardwoods on the Janka Hardness Scale.
|Wood type||Janka Hardness Scale|
|Hard Maple, Sugar Maple||1450|
|Eastern Red Cedar||900|
You can easily treat sycamore with hand and machine tools. Still, due to the interlocking grains, many people avoid sycamore as it can chip and split when you try to shape it. It glues and finishes pretty well, so the overall workability is decent.
Sycamore is typically inexpensive, but it can be pricey if you purchase quartersawn boards. That’s because the labor procedure to make quartersawn boards is intensive and requires a lot of work.
In the past, you could frequently see sycamore in butcher boards, veneer, pulpwood, and pallets. However, the uses have drastically changed, and nowadays, you can use sycamore for trims, furniture, flooring, molding, boxes, and crates.
Pros and cons of sycamore wood
Like every other wood species, sycamore wood has good and bad sides that make it distinctive from other wood species.
Is sycamore good for flooring?
Sycamore is a beautiful hardwood that would look stunning as flooring. However, as it’s not too dense, it’s better to use sycamore flooring in low-traffic areas to avoid possible damage. As plain-sawn sycamore is not too desirable, most people go for quarter-sawn boards for their floors, which can be expensive.
Also, because the manufacturing of quarter-sawn boards can be a complex process, they are not as wildly available as plain boards. Sycamore flooring has a yellowish-tan appearance, and looks aesthetically pleasing. As this wood is not light-sensitive, the color won’t fade over time.
The floor will be stable, and as the wood is moderately durable it can withstand some wear, but again, we recommend using it in areas where the traffic is lower.
Benefits of sycamore flooring
Sycamore flooring is overall a good flooring option as long as you don’t place it in high-traffic areas. Below are the most significant benefits of sycamore flooring:
Disadvantages of sycamore flooring
Of course, everything cannot always be about benefits, so we also have to mention the disadvantages of sycamore flooring. Check them out below:
Overall, sycamore is a decent hardwood that is suitable for flooring. If you choose the quarter-sawn boards, your floors will be beautiful and durable, so it’s worth the effort. However, remember that the project might be expensive as quarter-sawn boards can be pretty expensive.
Featured Image Credit: EcoPrint, Shutterstock