If you are planning on building something around your home, and you need a good type of hardwood, then you have come to the right place. Today, we want to compare two very popular types of hardwood, ash, and maple.
Now, both of these are commonly used for a wide variety of purposes, but there are some major differences between them that you need to know about, and this is exactly what we’re here to discuss today.
What Is Ash?
First, we have the ash tree, and here we are talking about white ash. Yes, there are nearly ten different types of ash out there, although the white ash tree is one of the most popular and commonly used for construction in North America. Many other types also share similarities with it, so it makes sense to focus on this variety.
White ash is a hardwood deciduous tree that grows in the eastern part of North America, particularly in the eastern part of Canada, and it can reach heights of up to 80’. Ash has a very regular and straight grain, combined with some curls or figured boards. The texture is medium coarse, and it may also have some knots.
In terms of color, the heartwood is medium brown, and the sapwood is beige to light brown. As for durability, ash is fairly hard and strong, although it’s not very resistant to pests, decay, moisture, or rotting. It does work really well for indoor furniture, but not for outdoor furniture.
This is a very easy type of wood to work with, as it bends well with steam, it’s easy to nail, screw, and saw, and it takes on stain and paint well too. Keep in mind that this is a very inexpensive type of hardwood, one usually used for utilitarian purposes, such as for making crates, boxes, flooring, millwork, baseball bats, and turned objects.
What Is Maple?
We then have maple, which is a deciduous hardwood tree that is generally found in the northern hemisphere. There are many different varieties of this tree that can be found in the United States and Canada, 10 of them to be specific, with many other types of maple trees being found in Asia.
One of the most common and popularly used types of maple in North America, for furniture and other purposes, is the sugar maple, so this will be our focus for today. This wood usually has a fairly straight grain, although there might be some variations, such as curls, waves, or ripples, although it does usually always have a very fine texture.
Maple features a cream-colored sapwood combined with a reddish-brown hardwood. Maple is generally harvested for its sapwood. It is one of the harder and denser types of hardwood that can be found in North America, which is why it is so popular for walls, floors, instruments, furniture, and more. Maple is not only hard and durable, but also resistant to pests, moisture, and rotting.
Ash vs. Maple: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what white ash and sugar maple are, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other.
On the Janka hardness scale, white ash comes in at 1,320 lbf, whereas sugar maple comes in at 1,450 lbf. This means that sugar maple is slightly harder, and is therefore a bit more resilient towards physical damage, such as denting and scratching. Although the difference here is not huge, sugar maple has a slightly harder surface than white ash.
In terms of weight or density, maple comes in at 44 lbs per cubic foot or roughly 705 kilograms per cubic meter. White ash, on the other hand, comes in at 42 lbs per cubic foot or 675 kilograms per cubic meter. This means that maple is not only a little bit harder but also a bit denser and heavier. This leads to it being slightly more durable on various fronts, yet also a bit harder to work with.
Pest and Moisture Resistance
One big distinguishing feature here is that ash is just not very resistant to pests or moisture. When it comes down to it, ash is one of the worst types of hardwood that you could use for outdoor purposes as it just won’t resist the elements very well. On the other hand, sugar maple is quite resistant to the elements. This wood is resistant to pests, moisture, and decay, therefore making it ideal for outdoor applications.
When it comes to the overall strength of both of these types of wood, maple is the stronger one. It features a higher crushing strength, modulus of elasticity, modulus of rupture, and Janka hardness rating. If what you are going for is maximum structural integrity, Maple is the way to go.
Because maple is a bit heavier and harder than ash, it can be harder to work with, especially as far as sawing, painting, and staining is concerned. That said, maple is not that hard to work with in the grand scheme of things.
Appearance- Color and Grain
White ash features a light to medium brown heartwood, which features a medium to coarse texture, along with a straight and regular grain, although it may have some curls or figured boards. Sugar maple features a straight grain that may have some waves, although it has a very even and fine texture. What is interesting to note is that with maple, unlike with most other types of hardwood, the sapwood is used rather than the heartwood. The sapwood here is going to be nearly white and may sometimes be cream-colored.
Ash is generally going to cost you up to $10 per board foot, although usually even a bit less, with maple usually costing up to $13 or even $15 per board foot, depending on the supplier.
When to Use Ash?
If you need a very inexpensive type of wood that is ideal for indoor purposes and utilitarian projects, then we do recommend going with ash. It is a perfectly fine option to consider if you need something that looks fine, won’t cost you much, and will perform well under basic circumstances. Just remember that it does not work well for outdoor purposes.
When to Use Maple?
If you need an extremely hard, dense, and durable type of wood that is also suitable for outdoor use, and you don’t mind paying a slightly higher cost for it, then maple is always a very nice option to consider.
Alternatives to Ash and Maple
If you don’t like either of these materials, mainly because they are hardwoods, then there are many different other types of wood to consider. Some of the best types of softwood to use are spruce, western hemlock, western large, subalpine fir, Douglas fir, and pine.
Now that you know what all the major differences between these two types of wood are, you can make an informed decision between the two.