Botanical Name: Acer sachharum
Color: The heartwood of maple ranges from a light reddish brown to a cream color while the sapwood tends to be a paler cream or white.
Grain: The grain of maple is quite closed and uniform with a medium figuring. Highly figured boards are rare but quite popular and may be grouped together for a premium.
Variations within Species and Grades: Black maple is also classified as a hardwood, while other varieties of maple are considered soft.
Hardness/Janka: The Janka scale rating for maple is 1450.
Dimensional Stability: At 9.9, the dimensional stability for maple is average.
Sawing/Machining: The hardness and density of maple can make machining difficult.
Sanding: Because of the light color of maple, sanding must be done with care to prevent marks and finishing lines from being evident.
Nailing: There are no known problems associated with nailing maple.
Finishing: While a natural finish is easily attained with maple, staining may be difficult.
Availability: Standard maple is easily available while boards with figured grains have limited availability.
Credit: NWFA Hard maple is typically found in the Eastern United States, specifically the Lake and Mid-Atlantic states. The average height of the tree is 130 feet.
Hard maple is the state tree for many of the northern states in the United States. Its popularity as lumber is often overshadowed by the popularity of its sap, from which maple syrup is derived. Maple has long been used in the Americas for a variety of purposes. Early Native Americans used this wood to make the shafts of spears, and colonial settlers found the ash of maple wood to be especially useful in making soap. Colonial settlers were also especially fond of this wood for making furniture. Prior to the 1900s, the heels for women’s shoes were made almost exclusively of hard maple. Other uses for maple include butchers’ blocks, toys, handrails, doors, table tops, kitchenware, and cabinets. In addition to flooring, maple is also commonly used today for cutting boards because of the density of the wood and the fact that it leaves no residual taste on the food.
One of the best ways to determine the durability of a specific type of timber is by its rating on the Janka scale. The Janka scale values range from zero to 4,000. A ranking of zero is much too soft to be used as flooring. Timber ranked at 4,000 is too hard to be effectively or profitability milled on the large scale necessary to produce flooring. The Janka scale rating of hard maple is 1,450, which is slightly harder than red oak. Additionally, maple is exceptionally shock resistant and resistant to wear. These qualities make maple flooring an excellent choice for hardwood flooring in both residential and commercial settings.
While the strength of the timber makes it a great choice for flooring, it can cause the machining process to be a bit more difficult. It is especially important to give extra care during the sanding process, as this wood is extremely light in color. If care is not given finishing lines and sanding marks are likely to be more obviously visible in the finished product than other types of flooring. There are no known problems in nailing this type of wood. A neutral finish is easily achieved with maple; however, staining the wood may be difficult. Maple has a good holding ability and is resistant to splitting.
Where to Use
Because of the durability of maple, it is exceptionally well suited to high traffic areas. In fact, unlike many other hardwood flooring options, it is a great choice for commercial locations. It is quite popular in locations that receive a lot of use, such as basketball courts, dance floors, bowling allies, and other sports facilities. In homes, it is an ideal choice for a contemporary or modern décor because of its light color. While it is a remarkably durable flooring option, it should not be used in areas that will have standing water.
Care and Maintenance
Even though maple is quite durable it is still important that proper care and maintenance not be neglected. Preventative maintenance is the first step in protecting the flooring. In a residential area, this includes putting runners or rugs on the highest areas of foot traffic such as the entryway. Pads should be placed underneath the feet of all furniture to prevent them from forming indents in the flooring over time. In a commercial setting, the flooring can be protected by preventing, or limiting, people from walking on the floor with heeled shoes or cleats. These types of shoes can damage the flooring by causing indentions on the surface. In both residential and commercial settings, it is important to vacuum on a hardwood setting or sweep the floors on a regular basis. This prevents sand from accumulating, which can cause the finish to be scoured away, damaging the flooring. When used in a commercial setting, maple will often be highly varnished to provide a glossy look to the flooring, as well as to protect the wood. It is important that all waxing and cleaning instructions be followed carefully to extend the life and beauty of the flooring.
Hard maple is an ecologically important tree. It is the primary component in many northern forests. Maple trees bring water from the lower, moisture rich, soil layers into the drier layers closer to the surface. This benefits the tree itself as well as the other plants and trees in the area that may have a shallower root system. It is highly susceptible to pollution, and as such, has slowly been replaced in urban settings.