Hardwood Flooring Product Profile: What Is Maple?
Maple wood flooring is wonderfully adaptable, and looks fabulous in almost every environment. Here’s the scoop on the wonders of maple wood floors.
I’ve always felt lucky to live on the west coast of North America, but a few years ago I decided to take a trip ‘back east’ to celebrate a special birthday in the early autumn. Friends and I rented a car and spent two weeks traversing the curving highways and soft, tree-lined lanes of the Maritime provinces of Canada. I hadn’t been there a day before succumbing wholeheartedly to the romance of the maple tree. Every day seemed to bring new colors, their leaves changing quickly from dark green to gold to a rich auburn, every shade looking as if it were lit within by candlelight.
But lovely maple trees aren’t just there to delight us in the fall, or to provide us with the deliciousness of their sap in the form of maple syrup and sugar on our waffles. These trees also produce one of the hardest woods in the world, perfect for home flooring as well as accessories that need strength, such as musical instruments, baseball bats, and butchers’ blocks.
Maplewood is a wonderfully adaptable material, and looks fabulous in almost every environment from school gymnasiums to rustic farmhouses to elegant ballrooms. Here’s the scoop on maple.
Latin name: Acer saccharum
Janka Hardness rating: 1450 (harder than red oak)
Common color spectrum: White to off-white, sometimes with a reddish or golden tone
Oh Canada, oh New York
American hard maple trees grown in northern states are no different from the Canadian variety, and there is little variation in wood felled no matter where it’s found on the continent. Yes, maple trees are Canada’s national symbol, but they’re also the state tree for New York, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Vermont and even Wisconsin.
While some species grow in the western and southern regions of North America, hard maple and its fellow species the sugar maple (the syrup-producing variety which produces up to 12 gallons of tasty goodness per year) naturally occur in the north-east, wherever summers are hot and winters are snowy and brisk. Climate can affect the hardness of maple wood. Northern species are harder than those found in more temperate climates.
Color consistency, with a caveat
Maplewood is one of the finest-grained and consistently-toned options for flooring. Usually a soft white to off-white color, maple is a beautiful choice because of its light color, especially in comparison to red oak, which includes a wider range of tones and which can be harder to match. It usually has a straight grain that can wave naturally, with brown growth rings that accentuate its plain-sawn surfaces. Maple can look more contemporary in a modern environment, while oak is a more traditional option for a home.
At the same time, maple is not an easy wood to stain. Because of its inherent hardness, the wood can take on a blotchy appearance unless it is professionally stained. Even with a professional stain, maple will take on a greyer appearance than other hardwoods, which means that it is sometimes an acquired taste and will suit a less classic interior design scheme. But if that hip gray look appeals to you, maple will be your best investment for a new floor.
Making the grade
The grade of maple flooring that you choose for your home will make a difference, so choose wisely.
With maple flooring, there is a wide hardwood variance, but it all depends on what you want to see in your home. Clear grade is a uniform shade, and if want a modern interior, a clear grade will provide a contemporary feel. The price for clear grade may be a bit higher, but it means that you’re getting fewer imperfections, or “character marks” in the wood.
With clear grade, however, there may be a slight yellowing in the tone of the wood over time, although this is a lot less pronounced in maple than in oak. Those grades that show more character marks in the boards have their own appeal though; they offer more color variation, the option of darker boards, and the impact of character. For certain rustic looks, this is what you want.
The beauty of maple in your home
Since that first day among the maple trees, I’ve always thought them rather magical. How many species can provide so much beauty in such a short period of time? The great swathes of color that mark the east coast could well be the eighth wonder of the world.
Maple is a wonderful option for your home. These tight-grained, slow-growing maple hardwoods create the perfect floors and will add structural value to your home as well as exceptional interior design. For a durable, clean-looking hardwood floor, maple plank flooring is a fantastic choice.