When choosing flooring it’s common to feel overwhelmed by the amount of choice available. Generally, this choice will come down to personal taste and cost – but recommendations can also play a big part.
If you have decided to install a hardwood floor, your decision process is halfway there, but you will still need to decide on which hardwood you would like to install.
By choosing hardwood you have likely decided that you are wanting a floor that will offer a superior level of strength, durability, and a long lifespan. You may have also considered that hardwood is likely to increase your property’s resale value, and is, therefore, an investment rather than an expense.
To ensure you really get what you are looking for out of your flooring you must also choose the right hardwood.
In this article, we will be comparing Oak and Maple which are the two most popular types of hardwood used as flooring. We hope the advice we provide will help you make an informed decision and avoid common pitfalls or misunderstandings about these hardwoods before it is too late.
What we will be comparing
To help you determine which is the right choice, we will be looking at the following factors: Aesthetics, Staining, Popularity, Durability, and of course Cost.
Maple grains have a soft pattern that isn’t readily apparent to the naked eye, whereas oak grains present a well-defined and distinctive design.
A grainy pattern often works well as flooring, which probably accounts for oaks’ popularity.
Or it could be color?
Oak is often cream or white in color (but can be stained to almost any color required), whereas maple is often a white-yellow or reddish-brown.
Examples of Oak
Examples of Maple
If you plan to use a stain to alter the natural look of the floor then you may do well to avoid maple altogether.
Due to the non-porous nature of maple, a stain will not bond to it as well as it will with oak. As a result, even flooring professionals will often refuse to apply a stain to a floor that is made of maple.
Stained Maple can often appear blotchy or uneven, so it is a risky decision. If you are likely to want to stain your flooring it would be much better to choose an Oak hardwood floor.
Maple flooring should be finished with either water-based or oil-based Polyurethane.
While popularity is often not something I would care about. When spending the amount of money required to install a hardwood floor it might well be worth taking it into consideration. Especially if you are likely to sell your home in the immediate or even distant future.
The popularity of oak exceeds that of maple, however, this is likely due to the larger amount of choice available with regards to grain – as well as the ability to finish it in any number of colors. Maple will (and should always be) natural in color, which may not suit everyone’s taste.
Would the idea of oak flooring excite you more as a buyer than the idea of maple?
And if so, would this stop you from buying a house? maybe! People are strange.
Both Oak and Maple are two of the most durable hardwoods, which is presumably why they are used so often as flooring. Both hardwoods can last generations as flooring and can be refinished numerous times over that period.
Maple is slightly harder and has a 1450 rating on the Janka wood hardness chart whereas Oak rates 1290 for red Oak and 1360 for white Oak.
The differences here are in fact so minimal that there is little between them that could meaningfully be used as a reason to choose one over the other.
Durability is simply not a deciding factor that should be considered when making a decision between Oak and Maple hardwood flooring.
We will separate the cost into two different areas for ease of understanding. The cost of raw materials and the cost of installing your new floor.
Maple is generally cheaper than Oak flooring, but as with everything this is normally determined by supply and demand as well as what’s fashionable at the time. Maple can be anywhere from $1 to $5 cheaper per foot than Oak when looking at similar wood grades.
Cost of Oak vs Maple (USA)
|Oak||$5 – $16 per ft2||$4 – $13 per ft2|
|Maple||$4 – $10 per ft2||$3 – $8 per ft2|
Cost of Oak vs Maple (UK)
|Oak||£25 – £140 per m2||£20 – £110 per m2|
|Maple||£30 – £100 per m2||£20 – £80 per m2|
Average oak prices range from $5 to $16 per sq. foot while average maple prices can range from $4 to $10 per sq foot. Prices will vary for engineered hardwood.
The cost is also determined by your geography. If you live in a country that grows maple you can expect that wood to be relatively cheaper than in countries that don’t.
The cost is something that will have to be researched to determine the exact difference in price. It is likely that if you live in the UK (for example) that Maple can occasionally be more expensive than Oak – so some local pricing research should definitely be done prior to finalizing any decision.
Cost of Installation
The cost of installation should be the same between the two hardwoods. You will likely pay $3 – $9 per square foot (£30 – £60 per m2 if you live in the UK), which of course can be saved if you decide to complete the installation yourself.
Installer charges can often show massive discrepancies, be sure to obtain a number of quotes before proceeding.
There will also almost certainly be additional extras, so always request a breakdown with every quote.
If your flooring is unfinished, when purchased you may pay a further $3 – $5 per square foot (£20 – £40 per m2) to add a finish to your floors. It is much more cost-effective to buy your wood pre-finished.
As a rule of thumb labor costs will likely account for 50% of your overall project cost.
Oak Vs Maple Comparison Table
Both Maple and Oak are great choices for flooring, and in a number of categories that we have looked at, there is almost nothing differentiating them. Aesthetics is a personal preference, and popularity won’t matter much if you are buying the flooring for your own personal space.
The final decision will pretty much be determined by your preference, your budget, and whether you would prefer a stained floor or a natural look.
If you are not planning to stain your floor you can really choose whichever material you prefer the look off for your personal space.
I prefer oak, but many might choose maple. Regardless of your preference, if you install either an oak or maple hardwood floor you will have a floor that you will likely love for life, and maybe the generations that come after you will too.
Hardwood flooring is beautiful, no matter the species.