If you’re planning to build something around your house, then you have many different options at your disposal in terms of materials. Solid wood is always a good material to choose from, which comes in many different types. Two types of solid wood you might consider using are maple and beech.
Both are popular and common types of hardwood, although they do have some differences between them. Today, we’re going to compare beech and maple on a side-by-side basis to see which type of wood is best used for your next big construction project.
What Is Maple?
First, we have the maple tree, and here we are talking specifically about the hard maple, otherwise known as the sugar maple. This is one of the most commonly found types of maple in North America, as well as one of the most commonly used because it is one of the most durable and hardest varieties.
The maple tree is found all throughout Canada and the United States, as well as in the northern hemisphere in general, with over 10 different species existing in North America, and many others also existing in Asia.
The hard maple tree is a deciduous tree, which means that it loses its leaves during the winter, it is a flowering tree, and it is a hardwood tree. Maple is very hard, dense, and durable overall, with a great deal of physical resistance. With that being said, it is only somewhat moisture-resistant.
If you plan on using it outdoors, you will need to properly seal and treat it first, although it is not very pest-resistant at all. Furthermore, maple features cream-colored sapwood, along with a reddish brown heartwood, although the sapwood is what is usually used for construction, unlike with other types of hardwood, where the heartwood is usually used.
Either way, most people do say that maple is a very nice-looking type of wood. It features a very straight and tight grain, although it may have some ripples, curls, or waves. It usually also has a very fine texture. Maple is often used for indoor purposes, especially for things like floors, walls, instruments, and furniture. It is not the best option for outdoor purposes, however, as it is not very resistant to the elements.
What Is Beech?
We then have the beech tree, of which there are two major types, the European beech tree, and the American beech tree. Since we are in North America here, we are going to focus on the North American variety, which can be found all throughout the eastern United States and in some parts of eastern Canada. This is a tree that grows up to 130’ tall.
The beech tree features a medium uniform texture with a fairly straight grain, as well as a moderate natural luster, combined with a good number of gaps and knots. Beech tends to have a fairly pale cream color, sometimes with a pinkish or brownish hue.
The wood itself is quite durable and hard, which does make it resistant to all sorts of physical impacts. However, beech is not the most resistant type of wood as far as pests and the elements are concerned, as it is not resistant to insects or moisture, and is therefore not ideal for outdoor use.
Beech wood is often used for fairly basic purposes, such as railroad ties, pallets, crates, general lumber, flooring, furniture, veneer, musical instruments, turned objects, and more. This wood is not known for being very beautiful in appearance, but it does work well for indoor purposes due to its fairly durable nature.
Maple vs. Beech: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both maple and beech are, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other.
One of the differences between these two types of wood is that beech wood comes in at a Janka hardness rating of 1,300 lbf, making it quite hard. On the other hand, we have maple, which comes in at 1,450 lbf, which means that maple is significantly harder than beech. Maple is far more resistant to physical damage such as denting and scratching, as the surface is just much more solid.
What is interesting to note is that although maple is harder than beech, beech is actually the heavier or denser of these two types of wood. Maple comes in at roughly 44 lbs per cubic foot, whereas American beech wood comes in at around 45 lbs per cubic foot. Although the difference is not massive, beech is the heavier and denser of the two, which means that, in a certain way, it may be more durable, but also much harder to work with due to its weight.
Although this is more of a similarity than anything else, both maple and beech wood are not very resistant to pests. With that being said, maple is likely just slightly more resistant to pests than beech is. If we had to pick one on this front, it would be maple.
The story here with moisture resistance is much the same. Both maple and beech are not very moisture resistant at all. However, if we have to pick one, maple is probably still the better choice for outdoor use, as it is slightly more moisture-resistant than beech. That said, if both are not properly treated, they are not at all ideal for outdoor applications and will begin to absorb moisture and decay in a very short period of time.
In a separate article, we wrote more about maple moisture resistance.
When it comes to the overall strength of the two, maple is just the stronger one. Maple features a higher modulus of elasticity, a higher crushing strength, and a higher modulus of rupture. This means that it is better able to handle heavy loads when applied perpendicular or parallel to the grain, and it can handle more weight without bending. Therefore, if you need something that is really structurally sound and ideal for heavy-duty construction purposes, maple is going to make the better choice of the two.
Both maple and beech tend to be fairly easy to work with. That said, beech does often have some knots and gaps in it, which can cause problems. At the same time, because beech is a bit denser than maple, with maple already being fairly dense, both can be difficult to cut, as they do get very hot. Both may cause your sawblades to overheat, with beech being the more likely culprit of the two. However, both do paint and stain fairly well.
Appearance – Color and Grain
If we are talking about the color and grain, maple is generally considered to be the better-looking of the two. Beech is just very plain and bland, with a somewhat creamy color, while maple tends to have a more attractive finish. Maple is also very smooth, has a very good-looking grain, and a creamy color. In fact, the two look fairly similar, although maple generally has a more attractive texture.
Maple is not the most expensive type of wood out there, as it usually won’t cost more than around $15 per board foot. However, beech is even more cost-effective and usually won’t cost you more than around $9 per board foot.
When to Use Maple?
If you need a fairly high-end type of wood that is super hard, durable, and just very strong on all fronts, then maple does always make for a good option. Maple is ideal for structural and decorative purposes alike, and you can use it for more or less anything that you could think of using wood for, especially when it comes to indoor purposes. Just remember that maple is probably not the best option for outdoor use, although it is a better option than beech. Let’s not forget that maple does also look quite nice.
When to Use Beech?
If you are looking for a very affordable type of wood that works well for many different basic purposes, then beech is always something to consider. It’s not going to cost you very much, although it doesn’t look that nice. That said, although it might not be quite as strong or durable as maple, it still holds its own, especially for indoor purposes. However, just like maple, beech wood is not something that you want to use outdoors, and it makes for an even worse option for outdoor use than maple.
Alternatives to Maple and Beech
Seeing as both maple and beech are not ideal for outdoor use, options such as mahogany, teak, and ipe might be better for you, as all of these are well known for being very moisture-resistant. If you’re looking for something more cost-effective that is also more resilient toward the elements, consider going for cedar.
Now that you know what makes maple and beech different from each other, you can make an informed choice between the two.