If you are looking to build something around your home that is made out of solid wood, then you have many different options to consider. Two very popular options as far as hardwoods go, include maple and walnut.
With that being said, these two materials do have some differences between them, and this is what we are here to discuss today. Let’s figure out whether walnut or maple wood is the best option for you.
What Is Walnut?
First, we have the walnut tree, specifically the eastern black walnut tree. This is a tree that grows all throughout the eastern United States and eastern Canada.
It is a tree that enjoys growing in direct sunlight in well-drained soil. They can grow as tall as 8’ in diameter and 150’ tall.
Walnut wood is a moderately-to-extremely hard type of hardwood, and it features a fairly tight and straight grain, although it may sometimes have some curves or waves. This wood may also have some gaps, knots, and voids, although not very many of them.
As for the color, walnut features a very deep brown color, something like coffee or dark chocolate. As far as North America is concerned, this is the only tree that grows dark naturally, and unlike other species that tend to darken over time, this wood will lighten in color over time.
Walnut wood is hard and dense, which means that it is resistant to physical impacts, denting, and scratching. It also contains a good deal of natural oils, which allows it to be extremely resistant to the elements, such as pests, moisture, and fungus. It is therefore a good option for both outdoor and indoor use.
Although it is used for outdoor purposes, it’s more commonly used for making things like gunstocks, cabinets, furniture, flooring, carvings, veneers, and other such things. Moreover, because walnut trees take such a long time to grow, it is also quite expensive.
What Is Maple?
We then have the maple tree, which is a deciduous hardwood tree that is found in the northern hemisphere, with many being found in Asia, as well as 10 species that can be found in the United States and Canada.
The most commonly used type of maple wood for woodworking is hard maple, which is known as sugar maple.
Maple generally has a very fine texture and a straight grain, although there may be some variation, such as curls, waves, or ripples. The heartwood of maple is reddish-brown, although not too dark in color.
The sapwood is generally cream-colored or white with golden undertones, which is what is usually used for construction. This wood is generally harvested for that white or cream-colored sapwood.
Maple is also very hard and dense, which is why it is a good option for walls, flooring, furniture, musical instruments, and more. This wood also contains some natural oils, which makes it naturally resistant to pests, fungus, and decay.
Walnut vs. Maple: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both walnut wood and maple wood are, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other.
One of the major differences here is that maple is a fair bit harder than walnut, with walnut wood coming in at 1010 lbf on the Janka hardness scale, whereas maple comes in at 1450 lbf. This means that maple is much more resistant to physical impacts, denting, and scratching.
Not only is maple a bit harder than walnut, but it’s also a bit denser and heavier. Maple comes in at 44 lbs per cubic foot, while walnut comes in at 43 lbs per cubic foot.
Although the difference in weight here is fairly negligible, there is a difference nonetheless, and it means that, although maple may be a bit more durable and structurally sound, it’s also a bit heavier and harder to work with.
Moisture and Pest Resistance
What is interesting to note is that both maple and walnut are fairly resistant to the elements, which include fungus, pests, and moisture.
With that being said, maple is often considered the better option for outdoor use, as it is a bit more resistant to moisture, pets, and fungus, particularly because it is harder, denser, and contains more natural oils. In terms of pest and moisture resistance, walnut performs better.
Overall Strength and Durability
When it comes down to it, due to being harder, denser, and more resistant to the elements, you can expect things made out of maple to last a bit longer than those made out of walnut, especially if we are talking about outdoor use.
Something that needs to be said here is that walnut wood is easier to work with than maple. Walnut tends to have fewer gaps, voids, knots, and imperfections than maple, plus it is also a little bit softer and less dense, therefore making it easier for you to cut and saw. This wood is also more difficult to paint and stain than walnut wood.
Appearance – Color and Grain
These two types of wood do also look different from each other. First, maple has a very smooth texture with a straight grain, although there may be some irregularities, and there may also be some knots and voids, with the wood having a white, cream, and golden color.
We then have walnut, which has a straight grain, although it may be a bit wavy or curly at times, and it is also somewhat coarse. Walnut wood also features a fairly dark brown color. As you can tell, these two types of wood look very different from each other, especially as far as the color is concerned.
Walnut wood is generally going to cost you around $25 per board foot. Maple will cost you somewhere between $8 and $14 per board foot, although in some cases that price can be as high as $20.
When to Use Walnut Wood?
If you are planning on building some kind of indoor furniture, doors, walls, or other pieces, particularly decorative pieces, then walnut is always a good option to go with, because it is very good looking – one of its main advantages, and still very durable too.
When to Use Maple Wood?
Although maple is definitely a good option for indoor purposes, due to its natural weather and pest resistance, it is the far better option for outdoor use. It can be used for decks, fencing, sheds, outdoor furniture, and anything else of the sort.
Alternatives to Walnut and Maple Wood
Besides maple, if you are looking for a type of wood that is ideal for outdoor use, ones such as teak, mahogany, and ipe all make great options. However, if you need something that is extremely hard, we recommend going for something like ebony or ironwood.
For more ideas, make sure to read our article about walnut alternatives.
As you can see, both maple and walnut wood have their specific advantages. Generally speaking, most people would say that walnut wood looks a little better, although maple is the harder, more durable, and more moisture-resistant of the two.
Now that you know exactly what makes these two types of wood different, you can make an informed choice between the two.