It can be tough to tell different woods apart, especially if you don’t work with them often. This is especially true for maple vs birch wood.
Maple and birch are two common hardwoods used for flooring, furniture, and other wood products. While maple and birch share some similarities like attractive grain patterns, they differ in several other areas.
Maple vs Birch Wood
Maple is harder and more durable than Birchwood. However, the Birch has a fair amount of flexibility to hardness. Maple is great for cabinets, while Birch is great for plywood. Maple burns at high machinery speeds, making the Birch more flexible around machinery.
These woods are categorized as hardwood, not suitable for outdoors, need low maintenance, and are categorized as medium-priced woods. They have a lot of similarities, but I won’t be focusing on those; I want you to know their differences and which is better between the two.
Let’s start with Maple; it is a popular choice for making furniture due to its durability, wide availability, and natural beauty. Many builders choose Maple for cabinets, dressers, hardwood floors, and many other furniture pieces, as the wood can last long and has a natural grain pattern that looks great when varnished.
Birch is used for similar appliances as Maple, but it is usually substituted for Maple because it’s less expensive and has similar appearances and durability. Birch is more affordable than Maple, as scratches are less visible on the wood than Maple. However, it does have lower quality.
Maple wood is renowned for its strength like oak, measuring between 1400 – 1500 lbf on the Janka scale. This one wood has a pleasant appearance that’s suitable for a variety of stains. Furniture makers and woodworkers popularly use Maple because of its light, smooth appearance. It’s also incredibly durable and will not wear quickly.
There are several species of Maple trees worldwide. However, Hard Maple (Acer saccharum) is the most common variety of Maple trees in the United States. Hard Maple is also known as Sugar Maple or Rock Maple. Several Hard Maple or Sugar Maple trees are growing in Northern Canada and the USA. Sugar Maple is the source of Maple sap used in making Maple syrup.
Birch has several color ranges, including yellow-white and light brown. Regardless of its color, Birch darkens with time. This wood type is renowned for its medium pore structure but also possesses delicate, wavy grains. Its surface is satin-like. Birch has varying density and fat content. As a result, it can create fascinating light effects.
Birch cannot be classified as heavy wood. But it’s considerably strong. This wood is quite flexible but still has a rating on the Janka scale – 1,260 lbf. Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis) is the most common type of Birch used by woodworkers.
Compared to other wood types, Birch doesn’t split well. However, it’s suitable for profiling, peeling, carving, and cutting. This wood is renowned for its impressive aesthetic appeal when polished. Birch’s features make it ideal as plywood used for construction and woodworking.
Maple and Birch: What are the Differences?
For a quick overview, I built a chart comparing birch and maple wood:
|Color||Cream, Yellow or Reddish Brown||Light Brown but darker than Maple|
|Durability||Highly durable||Higly durable|
|Hardness||1,450 lbf||1,260 lbf (implying there are harder woods)|
|Price||Medium-priced but costlier than Birch||Medium-priced but cheaper than Maple|
|Maintenance||Low maintenance||Low maintenance|
|Outdoor Usage||Not suitable outdoors||Not suitable outdoors|
|Wood Carving Usage||Yes||Yes|
|Workability||Easy to work with but burns when high-speed cutters are applied||Easy to work with hand and machine tools|
|Availability||Available in the US||Available in the US|
|Smell||No odor||No odor|
|Special Features||Produces a resin used to make Maple syrup||Used to make plywood|
Regarding Maple vs Birch durability, Maple is relatively harder than Birch. But it’s also more durable. This wood type can be damaged by moisture and high temperatures. Therefore, it’s a good fit for kitchen and bathroom applications.
Because it’s less likely to crack, Maple is preferred by several cabinet makers. Birch is almost as strong as Maple and can be used to make durable furniture. However, it is less resistant to decay, rot, and insect attack. Birch isn’t a first-choice alternative for outdoor projects.
Regarding Maple vs Birch maintenance, Maple shows excellent results when polished smoothly. The final result may appear blotchy if you fail to apply the finish correctly.
Cleaning finished Maple surfaces is straightforward. Try dry dusting it. Cleaning solutions typically do not affect Maple wood. The best way to maintain Maple is by avoiding exposure to excess humidity coupled with regular cleaning.
Birch projects are easier to maintain when a stabilizer is applied. This wood may require surface washing with a mild detergent. But be sure to use a soft cloth to avoid scratches.
With respect to pricing, Maple and Birch are medium-priced wood types. Maple is cheaper than Cherry, Walnut, Oak, and Mahogany but costlier than Hickory, Alder, and Birch.
Anyone interested in sustainability would prefer Maple wood. This wood species grows everywhere, even locally. Therefore, there’s no need to transport wood over long distances. It leaves a reduced carbon footprint. This tree is also not an endangered species.
Birch has a considerably faster growth rate than other types of wood, such as Oak. Due to its growth rate, woodmakers can beg several harvests out of a single tree. It’s possible to improve its sustainability by using it as Birch plywood.
Maple that has been just cut has a light cream color that becomes yellowish to reddish-brown when exposed to sunlight. That’s why it’s unsuitable for usage outside. Maple also has some unique and unusual grain patterns that are different from regular straight-grained variety.
Birch is identifiable with its long, horizontal grain structure and its bark that is compared to paper. However, after the wood has been worked on, it becomes difficult to see the difference between the two kinds of wood.
Nevertheless, it’s still identifiable with its looser grain structure compared to Maple. The color of Birch is also slightly darker than Maple, especially comparing the hard Birch.
When looking between the two, look at the color difference with Maple having a light creamy color and Birch that’s a bit darker in color. Their pores are also different, with Maple having almost none compared to Birchwood.
Advantages Of Both
Maple is the strongest durable between the two; it is commonly used in furniture and other products. Maple’s characteristics are hardwood floors, bowling alley lanes, pins, and furniture essentials like tables or cabinets.
There are also many Maple products just like Birch, with the laminate versions being less expensive than solid Maple.
Birch’s biggest advantage over Maple is its versatility; the cost can range from affordable to relatively expensive, depending on the type of Birch.
It’s also easier to work with than Maple that has a difficult grain to get around when cutting. However, many people look for that unique grain that Maple has, which adds to its value and the cost of working with it.
Disadvantages Of Both
The biggest disadvantage Maple has the visibility of damage upon the wood itself like dents or scratches. The grain of Maple being tight makes it also difficult to stain, as the stain doesn’t absorb too well onto the color of the natural wood, causing problems like blotchy uneven color.
So staining the wood is reasonably difficult and will have to be undertaken with care. Another disadvantage that has been pointed out before is its pricing.
However, you are paying for a higher quality wood than Birchwood, which makes it understandable for what you get from it. The other disadvantage of this wood is that it can’t take outside weather, as it will shrink or crack in any weather change, but this can be treated with a good coat of finish.
On the other hand, Birch is susceptible to wear, especially from natural elements, and to insects or fungal infestation. It will vary between solid Birch and birch plywood, but it is a general problem that got pointed out.
Also, Birch is prone to cracking a lot in a usually dry environment; its lifespan is also shorter than Maple, so don’t expect it to last too long if it’s not taken care of properly.
Solid Birch has been compared to Maple, as both seem to have problems with staining, but Birch is more likely to draw in finish/staining better than Maple.
Birchwood is also not as hard as Maple. Maple has a rating of 1,260 (Janka hardness) compared to Maples being 1,400-1,500 on the Janka scale, which means it’s less durable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Wood is Better Birch or Maple?
Birch and Maple are both excellent wood options, but the choice between them depends on your specific needs. Birch is known for its affordability and durability, making it a great choice for cabinets and furniture. Maple, on the other hand, is often preferred for its attractive grain patterns and is commonly used for high-end furniture and flooring.
Is Maple a High Quality Wood?
Yes, Maple is considered a high-quality wood. It is known for its strength, durability, and beautiful grain patterns. Maple is often chosen for fine furniture and high-end cabinetry due to its excellent woodworking properties and appealing appearance which includes its smooth grain pattern.
Does Maple Stain Better Than Birch?
Maple generally stains better than birch due to its fine, even grain. It absorbs stains and finishes more evenly, resulting in a smoother and more consistent appearance. Birch, with its uneven grain pattern, may require more effort to achieve a uniform stain finish, but it can still be stained effectively with proper preparation and techniques.
The comparison between these two kinds of the wood shows how similar they are. They are both popular for furniture, cabinets, and flooring. However, Maple is preferred for its durability and longer life span for hardwood flooring and furniture. Birch is usually the more decided outcome due to its lower cost and ease of use.