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Pine vs Maple Wood (for Furniture, Flooring, and Cabinets)

Here's a closer look at pine and maple wood along with the differences between softwood and hardwood to give you a clearer understanding of their uses so you can have an informed decision in picking the right wood for your project.

Man selects wood from samples in a store.

There are countless types of wood available on the market, the majority of which are perfectly fine for most applications, including furniture, flooring, or cabinetry. Each of these types of timber has its strengths and weaknesses, and there is often a big difference in price between them.

Both pine and maple wood are good for use in flooring, furniture, and cabinetry. The main difference between the two is that pine is softwood, while maple is hardwood. This distinction makes a difference in how successful each type of wood will be in its application.

Understanding the difference between hardwoods and softwoods, and then the differences between pine and maple respectively will assist you in deciding which type of wood to choose for your desired application.

Pine and maple each have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages which can make a major difference to the project in which they are being used. Understanding each type of wood and how they differ will ensure you are able to make an informed decision, whatever the application.

Related: Pine vs. Walnut | Pine vs. Poplar | Pine vs. Beech | Pine vs. Cedar | Pine vs. Cherry | Oak vs. Pine | Types of Pine Wood | Maple vs. Walnut Wood | Poplar vs. Maple | Maple vs. Cherry | Maple vs. Beech

Hardwoods vs Softwoods

Forest filled with pine trees.

Contrary to popular belief, the distinction between hardwoods and softwoods, respectively, does not completely have to do with the hardness or softness of the wood itself. It has more to do, rather, with the reproductive systems of the trees.

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This may sound confusing, but the following should help in spreading some light on the matter. While it may seem obvious that the biggest distinction between hardwoods and softwoods would be based on their weight or density, this is in fact not the case.

Hardwoods come from a grouping of trees called angiosperms. This refers to their reproductive systems, and it simply means that the trees have enclosed seeds that allow them to reproduce. These enclosed seeds could be covered by a shell, a pod, or even a fruit.

An example of this would be something like an apple, walnut, or acorn.

Softwood, on the other hand, comes from a tree which is known as a gymnosperm. This means that the tree produces seeds with no covering, and these seeds have a tendency to fall down from the tree and onto the ground.

The way in which a gymnosperm reproduces is somewhat different from an angiosperm because these trees produce and form cones that create pollen, which is, in turn, spread to other trees in the area via the wind.

Hardwood comes from trees that grow far more slowly than softwood. As a result, the wood produced is usually denser and stronger. Conversely, softwood grows relatively quickly, resulting in a less dense wood. Because it takes longer to grow, hardwood is usually more expensive.

Hardwood trees are usually of the flowering, deciduous variety, mostly with broad leaves. Softwood trees, on the other hand, are usually evergreen trees, and these produce cones and needles instead of broad leaves.

Pine

Close-up of a wooden bed and a matching nightstand made out of pine.

Pine trees, which have been used for an extensive period of time for their timber, produce softwood that has an endless number of uses. It is this inherently soft nature of pine wood that makes it ideal for an array of uses, including that of carving and milling.

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Pine is used extensively in construction, where it is used in producing structural members for roofing, framing and so forth. Because it is a relatively lightweight wood, it is extremely popular for use in furniture.

This is because furniture made from pine will be relatively light compared to furniture made of hardwood, and as a result, it will be far easier to move around whenever necessary.

Another advantage of pine is the fact that it is pretty cheap, especially when compared to hardwoods. Despite being cheap, it is still highly stiff, sturdy, and resistant to shock. It may, however, begin to show wear quite quickly, and will need maintenance and care to keep it looking good.

Pine inherently shows all its knots and flaws, which adds significantly to the character of this versatile timber. While this may not be appealing to some, it is generally considered to be a good thing in most instances.

Pine is highly porous, which means that it is highly susceptible to absorbing paint, but it is not necessarily as adept at absorbing stains unless it is first treated. If not treated before staining, the pine may end up looking blotchy and therefore quite unappealing.

Maple

Kitchen with granite countertops and maple wood cabinets.

Maple wood, while generally considered a hardwood, can consist of either a hard version or a softer version. The hardest versions of maple are extremely difficult to work with, while the softer versions tend to be far more versatile and easily manipulated into whatever shape or form necessary.

The softer varieties of maple are generally used in furniture due to how easy they are to work with, while the harder varieties are used more in items such as butcher’s blocks etc.

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Out of the 128 species of maple in existence, around 54 of them are endangered, meaning that it is important to select the right kind of maple for your project.

Generally, maple is white hardwood with an even, tight grain. It has very few pores, therefore it is exceptionally smooth. It is, however, unable to absorb stains easily. Darker stains, however, are somewhat easier to achieve with maple than lighter stains.

Maple is exceptionally durable, and so it is often used in so called “heavy-use” items such as cabinets and dressers. Maple is also an extremely good choice for flooring due to how hard the timber is.

Conclusion

As can be gleaned from the above, both pine and maple are excellent woods for use in furniture, flooring, and cabinetry. They each have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages, which you will have to consider carefully in choosing which type of wood with which to work.

You will be able to find the best solution for your own project by comparing important factors such as durability, weight, ability to absorb stains, strength, and overall aesthetic appeal. Cost is another major factor to consider, and this goes hand in hand with availability in your local area.

References:

Fine Oak Things: What Type Of Wood Furniture is Best?

The Stated Home: Types of Wood for Furniture

Creative Home Furnishings: Materials

Woodworking Talk: Maple vs. Pine

dummies: Types of Wood for Woodworking

SF Gate: Types of Lumber: Pine, Oak and Maple

Real Simple: The Pros and Cons of Different Types of Wood for Furniture

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Difference Between: Difference between Pine and Maple