If you are planning on building furniture, doors, decks, fences, or anything in between, then solid wood is always one of the best options to consider. However, there are many different types of wood out there, so choosing the right one is important. Today, we’re going to compare two very common and popular types of wood, cedar and maple.
Let’s figure out what makes these two materials different from each other, and which one is best for you to use.
What Is Cedar?
The cedar tree is a large coniferous or evergreen tree that can be found all throughout the Pacific Northwest, particularly in Canada and the USA, although they can sometimes also be found in the Mediterranean or in the Himalayas. Keep in mind that cedar is a softwood tree, and although many call it cedar, it is technically a part of the cypress tree family. This is also one of the largest trees out there, as it can grow to over 200’ tall with trunks getting up to 13’ wide.
Cedar is well known for producing extremely fragrant wood, and it features a reddish-brown color, combined with a straight and smooth grain, although it can sometimes contain some irregularities. Cedar is also known for having a lot of knots, and inconsistencies.
Additionally, this wood is also known for being very soft and not very durable. Although cedar is not very resistant to physical damage, it does resist moisture, insects, decay, and fungus very well. Cedar wood is quite popular for making things like boxes, canoes and canoe paddles, totem poles, tools, and anything else that needs to be water-resistant, such as outdoor furniture.
What Is Maple?
There is then the maple tree, which is a type of deciduous hardwood tree that can be found in the northern hemisphere.
There are many types of maple trees that are native to Canada and the United States, 10 of them to be exact, with the most types of maple trees being found in Asia. Sugar maple, which can be found in North America, is the most commonly used type for building furniture and for other such purposes.
Maple generally has a fairly straight grain, although there may be some variations, such as ripples, curls, or waves, and it has a fairly fine texture. The heartwood here is reddish-brown, and the sapwood is cream-colored, with golden undertones.
This wood is usually harvested for its cream-colored sapwood. Maple is one of the denser and harder types of hardwood that can be found in North America, which is why it is so hugely popular for making musical instruments, floors, walls, furniture, and more. It does also have a bit of natural oil in it, which helps it be fairly moisture, pest, and rot-resistant.
Cedar vs. Maple: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both cedar and maple are, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other.
Cedar is a very soft type of wood as it comes in at just 350 lbf on the Janka hardness scale. Maple however is extremely hard, as it comes in at 1450 lbf. This means that on average, maple is about four times harder than cedar. This makes it much more resistant to impacts, dents, and scratches.
2. Density and Weight
Cedar is also a fairly lightweight type of wood, as it comes in at roughly 30 lbs per cubic foot. Maple on the other hand measures around 45 lbs per cubic foot, therefore making it much heavier and denser. This does help in terms of moisture resistance and overall durability, although because it is much heavier, maple is often considered a bit harder to work with.
3. Overall Durability
When it comes down to it, because maple is so much harder and denser than cedar, it is also by far the more durable of the two in more or less every regard.
4. Resistance to the Elements
What can be said about maple wood is that because it is quite hard and dense, and because it does also have some natural oils, it is fairly resistant to the elements, such as moisture, fungus, and pests. However, cedar has more natural oils in it and is also known for being more resilient on this front. If you need something moisture and pest-resistant for outdoor use, cedar is the better of the two.
Because maple is much harder, heavier, and denser than cedar, it tends to be a bit easier to work with as it won’t cause your saw blades to dull quite as quickly. However, you do need to consider that cedar has many knots and inconsistencies in it, which can also make it difficult to work with in some cases.
6. Appearance – Grain and Color
In terms of appearance, cedar has a relatively straight grain with a somewhat coarse texture, and it has a bit of a natural luster too. Cedar also has many imperfections, by which we mean knots and gaps. This wood has a pinkish-red color. Maple, on the other hand, has a straighter grain (although it may be irregular at times), a smooth texture, and not very many voids or knots. The type of maple that we usually use to build with has a white, cream, and golden color. Most people would agree that maple is the better-looking of the two.
Maple can easily cost up to $13 per board foot, whereas cedar is usually going to be about $3 cheaper.
What you might like to know here is that both types of wood are relatively sustainable, although maple is usually considered a bit more sustainable than cedar.
When to Use Cedar Wood?
If you are looking for a relatively affordable type of wood that is extremely moisture-resistant and can easily be used for outdoor purposes, then cedar is the better of the two.
When to Use Maple Wood?
If you are looking for a type of wood that looks very beautiful, you don’t mind spending a bit of money on it, and you need something that has decent moisture resistance, combined with great physical durability, then maple is the way to go.
Alternatives to Cedar and Maple Wood
If you are looking for super durable wood that has excellent moisture and pest resistance, such as for outdoor furniture, then you should consider going with mahogany, teak, or ipe.
For more information, read our article about cedar alternatives.
Now that you know what makes maple and cedar different from each other, you can make an informed choice between the two. Both are great types of lumber in their own ways, but they do excel on different fronts.