If you are looking to build something around the house, solid wood is always a good option to consider. That said, there are many different types of wood to use, with maple and cherry being two of them.
Although these two types of hardwood may be somewhat similar, they do share some differences as well.
Therefore, today, we want to do a side-by-side comparison of both maple and cherry to see what makes them different, with the main goal being to figure out which one is best for your next construction project.
What Is Maple?
First, we have the maple tree, of which there are many varieties. However, here we are talking specifically about the sugar maple or hard maple, which is because it is one of the most popular, and commonly found types, in North America. Is often used for construction as it is one of the most durable and hardest varieties out there.
The maple tree can be found all throughout the northern hemisphere, particularly in Canada and the United States, with over 10 different species existing between those two countries, with many others also existing in Asia.
This is a hardwood tree that is deciduous in nature, which means that it will lose its leaves in the winter. As for appearance, the wood of the maple tree has a very straight grain, although it may also have some waves, curls, or ripples. The wood usually also has a very fine texture. The heartwood of maple is reddish-brown, with the sapwood being cream-colored, almost white.
What is interesting to note is that maple is one of the few types of hardwood where the sapwood is usually used for construction, not the heartwood. Either way, most people would agree that this is a very nice-looking material.
The maple tree is a very dense and hard type of tree, which allows for a great deal of physical durability, especially against denting, scratching, and physical impacts. It is actually one of the harder types of hardwood found in North America.
Moreover, this wood is also somewhat resistant to moisture, especially when properly treated, so it can be ideal for outdoor use, although keep in mind that it is not the most pest-resistant type of hardwood in the world. However, because maple is so durable, it does make for a good option for walls, floors, instruments, furniture, and more.
What Is Cherry?
We then have the cherry tree, and yes, here we are talking about actual fruit-bearing cherry trees. These can be found all throughout the USA and Canada, particularly in the northeastern parts, especially in northern New York, West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. This is a deciduous tree, which means that it loses its leaves during the winter, and it is a type of hardwood, in fact, one of the harder types of hardwood that can be found in North America.
Cherry wood is very hard and durable, which makes it resistant to a variety of types of physical damage, such as denting, scratching, and more. It is also fairly easy to bend, especially with steam, and it isn’t too heavy or dense. It also has a fairly high level of strength.
This wood also has more natural oils and resins than most other kinds of wood, which allows it to have excellent fungus, pest, insect, and moisture resistance. It is therefore an excellent type of wood to use for outdoor purposes, as it will resist the elements very well.
As for appearance, cherry usually has a tight and straight grain, and a uniform and fine texture. This wood is usually a very rich reddish-brown color.
Cherry wood is durable and easy to work with, it looks nice, and it has a moderate price as well. Due to it being so resistant to moisture, it is often used for outdoor-related purposes, even for marine-related applications, such as for making boat interiors. It is often also used for making fine furniture, high-end cabinets, flooring, millwork, molding, musical instruments, and decorative pieces too.
Maple vs. Cherry: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both maple and cherry are, let’s figure out what makes them different.
One big difference here is that maple comes in at 1,450 lbf on the Janka hardness scale. On the other hand, cherry wood comes in at just 950 lbf. Yes, cherry is still a hard type of wood, but maple is significantly harder. This means that maple is much more resistant to scratching, denting, and physical impacts of all sorts.
In terms of weight, cherry comes in at about 35 lbs per cubic foot. On the other hand, we have maple, which comes in at roughly 44 lbs per cubic foot. As you can see maple is therefore significantly heavier and denser than cherry. This means that in a certain way, maple is going to be far more durable, but it’s also much heavier and therefore harder to work with.
One thing that stands out about cherry is that it has a lot of natural oils and resins which make it naturally resistant to pests. In this way, it is ideal for outdoor use. On the other hand, when it comes to maple, it’s definitely not the most pest-resistant type of wood out there, especially if not properly treated.
The story is much the same with moisture resistance. Cherry wood is one of the most moisture-resistant types of hardwood that can be found in North America and is therefore ideal for outdoor use in this sense. However, although maple is somewhat moisture-resistant and may be used for outdoor purposes, especially if properly sealed, it is not great on this front, especially not when compared to cherry.
If we are talking about the modulus of elasticity, the modulus of rupture, and the compressive strength of these two types of wood, maple is far stronger on all three fronts. If you need something that is structurally sound and able to bear a lot of weight, then maple wood is always the better option of the two.
As far as workability is concerned, cherry is a bit easier to work with, and this is true on most fronts. Maple is just much harder, heavier, and stiffer, which can make sawing a bit difficult, especially compared to cherry.
Appearance – Color and Grain
Sugar maple tends to have a very fine texture, straight grain, and cream-colored sapwood. On the other hand, we have cherry wood, which also tends to be fairly straight and fine, although the color is going to be more of a deep reddish-brown. Most people would say that cherry wood, especially when properly stained, is the far better-looking of the two.
Both of these two types of wood are fairly cost-effective, with maple usually not costing more than $15 per board foot and cherry usually not costing more than $10 or $11 per board foot.
When to Use Maple?
If you are looking for something that is extremely durable, hard, strong in every sense of the word, and structurally sound, then maple is always a fantastic option to consider. Maple is just one of the strongest types of hardwood that can be found in North America, which of course has many benefits, especially for indoor applications. Just keep in mind that maple is not the number one best option to use for outdoor purposes, as it’s not very resistant to pests or moisture.
When to Use Cherry?
If you need a type of wood that looks very nice, yet won’t cost you a fortune, then cherry is always a good option to consider. Just keep in mind that this wood is one of the better options when it comes to outdoor purposes, as it is very resistant to the elements. That said, it is still strong enough to be used for various construction purposes, even for structural purposes, although it’s not going to outperform maple on the durability front.
Alternatives to Maple and Cherry
If you would rather use a more cost-effective type of softwood, you might consider going for various types of fir, spruce, and pine. These types of wood also tend to have very interesting grain patterns that many people really like.
As you can see, both cherry and maple are fine options to consider. That said, maple is the better choice for indoor purposes, especially if you need something structurally sound, whereas cherry is the better option for outdoor use, especially if you need something that is moisture-resistant.