Oak vs. Maple – Choosing the Perfect Wood for Your Home

How much will it cost? What look are you going for? Are you installing it yourself, or hiring a professional? When you’re faced with picking the right wood planks for your project, it can be daunting.

Oak and maple are popular choices for a variety of applications, and – in some cases – they’re quite comparable. But how do they differ when it comes to durability, aesthetics, cost, and maintenance? In this guide on oak vs. maple, we’ll dive deeper into their unique characteristics to help you make an informed decision.

Did you know? Oak and Maple are two families of trees, but the species within them have some major differences! Whether you’re looking at red oak vs. white oak, hard vs. soft maple – you have plenty of options.

We’ll look at different varieties of species within the oak and maple families and examine the best interior and exterior  uses for each. Decking, fencing, flooring, cabinetry, and furniture are just a few ideal applications for these hardwoods. Furthermore, we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages associated with each wood type. To finish things off, you’ll learn about the installation considerations and finishing options available for both.


When considering whether oak or maple is best for your home improvement task, getting familiar with the types, characteristics, and costs of each can make a big difference. Both woods can offer distinct qualities that will upgrade the visual appeal of your living space, but which is right for you?

Basics of Oak vs. Maple

Oak is a hardwood that comes in two main varieties – red oak and white oak. Red oak has a slightly reddish hue with prominent grain patterns while white oak features a lighter color with more subtle grains. Both varieties boast high strength and resilience, making them suitable for many different uses.

Maple is also a hardwood but offers different aesthetics compared to oak. In general, maple has a lighter color with fine, smooth grain patterns – making it a great choice for modern or minimalist designs. Maple comes in two primary species used in woodworking projects: hard maple (also known as sugar maple) and soft maple (which includes silver or red maples.)


Density & hardness:
Oak tends to be denser than most other hardwoods due to its tight growth rings resulting in increased hardness levels, whereas maple’s density varies depending on whether you’re using a hard or soft variety.

Janka rating:
The Janka scale measures how resistant each type of wood is against denting and wear-and-tear. Both oak and maple score high ratings, indicating excellent resistance properties. On average though, hard maples have higher scores than oaks – making them even more resilient.

Grain patterns:
Oak’s grain patterns are more pronounced, giving it a rustic appearance. Maple, on the other hand, has subtle grains that contribute to its clean and modern look.


Oak and maple offer unique visual characteristics that will greatly impact the overall look of your living space. Oak, with its prominent, raised grain patterns and warm tones, lends itself well to traditional or rustic design styles. Maple features a subtle grain pattern and lighter color palette that works well in minimalist settings.

Cost Comparison

The price of oak and maple are similar but can vary based on the type of project, quality of lumber, and your local supply. Generally speaking, oak tends to be slightly more expensive than maple due to its higher demand in various industries. Both woods, however, are considered affordable options for homeowners looking to upgrade their space with high-quality materials.

Key Takeaway: Oak tends to be slightly more expensive than maple, but both are affordable options. Prices will vary depending on location, quality, and the amount of wood you need for your project.

Interior Applications of Oak vs. Maple

When it comes to interior applications, oak and maple wood planks will do a great job of enhancing the look and feel of your home. In this section, we’ll explore various ways you can use these woods for flooring, cabinetry and furniture, wall paneling, and ceilings.


Oak wood flooring is known for its durability and timeless appeal. Oak’s longevity and strength make it ideal for areas of the home that experience high foot traffic, like hallways and living rooms. On the other hand, maple hardwood floors are prized for their light color tones which add a clean and modern vibe to any room.

In short…

Durable and resistant to wear-and-tear. Ideal for high-traffic areas.

Also durable, but usually features lighter color tones. This provides a clean and modern look that works great with minimalist design styles.

Cabinetry and Furniture

In terms of cabinetry and furniture-making, oak is often favored due to its unique grain patterns that add character while remaining versatile enough to suit various styles. Maple cabinets or furniture pieces offer a smooth, clean look with fewer knots or imperfections – making them an excellent option if you prefer sleek lines without sacrificing strength or stability.

Distinctive grain patterns suitable for traditional or rustic designs.

Subtle, smooth grains perfect for minimalist aesthetics without compromising on quality.

Wall Paneling and Ceilings

Oak wall paneling can add warmth, depth, and character to any room in your home. Its rich texture and grain patterns create a visually stunning focal point that complements almost any style – from rustic farmhouse to modern industrial. Maple wood panels or ceiling planks are ideal for those looking for a clean, minimalist look with subtle sophistication.

Rich textures and grains suitable for various interior design styles.

Clean lines and subtle grains perfect for minimalist and modern spaces.

Key Takeaway: Oak and maple wood planks offer unique characteristics to enhance the look of your home. Oak is durable with distinctive grain patterns, while maple has subtle grains that make it perfect for modern or minimalist design styles. Both are regularly used in flooring, cabinetry, furniture-making, wall paneling, and ceilings.

Exterior Applications of Oak vs. Maple

When it comes to exterior applications, both oak and maple wood can be utilized for a range of projects due to their individual characteristics. In this section, we will explore the different uses of these woods in decking and fencing, siding and trim, and outdoor furniture.

Decking and Fencing

Oak is a popular choice for decking and fencing due to its strength, durability, and resistance to insects. It does a great job withstanding harsh weather conditions without warping or rotting over time. Maple wood isn’t as commonly used for decking or fencing because it lacks the same level of natural resistance to decay as oak. However, if properly treated with preservatives – like waterproof sealant – maple can be used. It just might require a bit more maintenance than oak.

Siding and Trim

In terms of siding materials for your home's exterior walls or trim work around windows and doors, both oak and maple offer attractive options with distinct appearances. Oak has a prominent grain pattern that adds texture while providing excellent durability against moisture damage when properly sealed. Conversely, maple features a smoother surface which lends itself well to contemporary designs; however,maple requires additional protection from UV rays and regular maintenance compared to oak.

Outdoor Furniture

Outdoor furniture built from oak will last a long time, particularly with a good routine of cleaning and maintenance. It can be left untreated for a rustic look or stained and sealed for added protection against changing weather conditions. Outdoor furniture constructed with maple will be much more susceptible to damage from moisture, particularly if it hasn’t been properly treated with sealants.

Pro-tip: Research local shops and manufacturers if you’re looking to have custom furniture built from oak or maple. Some businesses will specially treat maple for increased durability, making it suitable even for exterior uses!

Oak and maple can be great choices for exterior applications, but each has its own advantages and disadvantages that should be taken into account. It’s important to consider aspects of each material such as longevity, upkeep needs, and grain designs.

Key Takeaway: Oak is more commonly used than maple for decking and fencing due to its strength, durability, and resistance to insects. Maple lacks the same level of natural resistance so while it can be used, it usually requires special treatment. Aesthetically speaking though, both woods offer attractive options for siding and trim work.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Oak vs. Maple

Comparing oak and maple in terms of durability, maintenance, color, and grain variations will help you make an informed decision for your home improvement project. Both woods are popular choices, but both have pros and cons that should be weighed before investing in either.

Durability & Maintenance

Known for its strength and durability, oak wood is a popular choice for high-traffic areas such as living room flooring and kitchen cabinetry. It has a natural resistance to wear, making it less prone to dents and scratches when compared to other hardwoods. Homeowners looking to enhance the longevity of their oak planks can apply a protective finish to further protect against moisture damage.

While not quite as durable as oak, maple wood still offers excellent longevity with proper care. Its tight grain structure gives it resistance to cracking but makes it more susceptible to surface scratches, particularly when using soft maple.

Color & Grain Variations

Oak features noticeable grain patterns that add character to a variety of applications. The natural color of red oak ranges from light reddish-brown hues while white oak brings pale brown tones with slight gray undertones. These distinct colors give homeowners flexibility in design choices by either showcasing the unique grains or opting for staining options that complement their desired aesthetic.

In general, you can expect oak to feature:

  • Prominent grain patterns
  • Warm, natural color variations
  • Flexible design options with staining

Maple wood is known for its smooth and uniform appearance. Slight waves and curls exist, but are much less prominent compared to oak. Maple’s subtle grain pattern and light cream to golden brown hues make it an excellent choice if you’re looking for a more contemporary vibe. However, the lack of distinct grains may turn away homeowners who prefer a more rustic or traditional aesthetic.

Maple planks are:

  • Smoother, uniform in appearance
  • Ideal for contemporary designs
  • Limited in natural color variation compared to oak

When weighing the pros and cons of oak vs. maple, both materials offer a range of finishing options – including staining, painting, sealing, and varnishing. Which one is right for you will come down to your desired aesthetic and preferences.

Key Takeaway: Durability, maintenance, color, and grain variations should be considered before choosing between oak and maple planks. Oak can be more durable than maple, but maple takes finish and paint easier with its smooth grain patterns.

Finishing Options

Finishing your oak or maple planks will greatly impact the final look and feel of your space. Exploring the various finishes suitable such as staining, painting, sealing, and varnishing is vital to picking a wood that matches your aesthetic.

Staining & Painting

Those who prefer a more natural-looking finish may be drawn to oak’s distinctive grain patterns and unique appearance. It accepts stains well, allowing you to enhance or alter its color while still showcasing oak’s beautiful texture. On the other hand, maple’s grain pattern is more subtle; but it still provides an excellent canvas for paint applications due to its smooth surface.

Can be stained or painted to give planks a textured look that matches your design style.

Easily painted or stained due to smooth grain patterns. Great for homeowners looking for their flooring or wall paneling to complement their living space without detracting from other features.

Sealing & Varnishing

To protect your oak or maple surfaces from wear and tear over time, proper sealing and varnishing are an essential step in any project. Oak and maple require slightly different approaches when applying sealants or varnish coatings.

In general, oil-based polyurethane sealers provide optimal protection against moisture damage on oak surfaces due to their ability to penetrate deeper into the wood fibers. This makes oil-based sealers the preferred choice when working with oak.

Remember! Use a varnish specifically designed for this type of wood in order to avoid any potential issues associated with its tannins.

Water-based polyurethane sealers are often recommended for maple surfaces as they tend to dry more quickly and provide a clear finish that doesn’t yellow over time. Additionally, using water-based products can help prevent grain raising that may occur when working with maple. Be sure to choose a varnish formulated for maple wood when finishing your project.

To ensure the best results for your living space, it’s important to consider the characteristics of both oak and maple when selecting a finishing option. From staining and painting preferences to sealing and varnishing techniques, taking these factors into consideration will ensure that your finished project looks beautiful while providing lasting durability.

Key Takeaway: Finishing options between oak and maple vary, and will greatly impact the final look and feel of your space. Staining oak is ideal for showcasing grain patterns, whereas maple’s grain pattern makes it better suited for painting. For either wood, proper sealing and varnishing will protect your planks from wear and tear over time.

Installing Oak vs. Installing Maple

Whether you’re planning on installing wood planks yourself or hiring a professional, knowing the differences in installation between oak and maple can affect which is right for you. From the tools and time needed for DIY installation to whether professional assistance is required, this section will cover everything you need to know before beginning.

Tools Needed

Installing oak and maple planks may require a few different tools depending on the particular situation. For example:

You’ll typically need a circular saw or table saw for cutting planks, a flooring nailer or stapler for securing them, and measuring tape and spaces for making sure everything is lined up correctly. 

Cabinetry and furniture:
Common tools when building furniture include clamps, sandpaper, drill bits, screws and nails. If painting, proper equipment will also be needed.

Wall paneling and ceilings:
A level is crucial when installing wall paneling. Additionally, you’ll likely require a miter saw for angled cuts along with adhesive/caulk guns.

Timeframe for Installation

The time it takes to install oak and maple wood planks will depend on a few factors such as the size of the area being covered and whether the materials are pre-finished. Generally speaking though, oak tends to take longer to install due to its denseness – which makes cutting more difficult compared to maple.

Keep in mind: Unfinished wood products requiring staining and sealing will take additional time to dry between installation steps.

For either oak or maple planks, DIY projects may take longer than those completed by professionals. If you choose to go this route, factor in your experience and learn the proper installation methods before beginning.

Professional Assistance Needed

While many homeowners choose to tackle wood installation projects themselves, there are instances where professional help is recommended.

  • If you’re inexperienced with woodworking or lack proper tools/equipment, hiring a skilled contractor is safer, can save time, and ensures quality results.
  • In cases of complex designs, enlisting the expertise of a professional carpenter is highly recommended.
  • If you have concerns about structural integrity (such as installing heavy beams on ceilings), consulting an engineer might be necessary before proceeding.

Taking these factors into account will help you make a decision you’ll be happy with. Remember: investing in high-quality materials like those offered at Stikwood.com can significantly enhance the overall look and feel of your home while providing lasting durability and value.

Key Takeaway: Before installing oak or maple planks in your home, consider the tools needed, timeframe for installation, and whether professional assistance will be required. Oak might be more difficult to cut which will take more time. In complex projects particularly, hiring a skilled contractor will save time and ensure quality results.

Oak vs. Maple FAQs

What’s better, maple or oak?

Both maple and oak have advantages, depending on the application. When choosing hard maple, it’s often stronger and more resistant to scratches, making it ideal for flooring and cabinetry. Oak planks come with a distinct grain pattern that adds character to furniture and wall paneling. Consider your specific needs when deciding which is best for you!

What’s the main difference between oak and maple?

Oak is a dense hardwood with open grain patterns, whereas maple has smooth, clean grain patterns. These differences affect the appearance of oak and maple planks, as well as their overall performance in various applications. This is especially noticeable if you’re looking to use oak or maple planks in exterior projects like decking, fencing, and outdoor furniture.

Which is a harder wood, maple or oak?

In terms of hardness ratings, maple ranks higher than oak which makes it more scratch-resistant. Maple is ideal for high traffic areas like floors and cabinetry. That being said, both are excellent choices for different purposes due to their unique characteristics.

Which wood is better for cabinetry?

The choice between oak or maple cabinets depends largely on personal preference and budgetary considerations. If you prioritize durability and scratch-resistance over the distinct wood grains offered by oak, maple wood planks are a good choice.

Final Considerations of Oak vs. Maple

Interior or exterior, rustic or minimalist, painted or natural are all factors to keep in mind when making a decision for your home or office projects. Both maple and oak offer distinct benefits that can be utilized in a variety of ways, and both can be customized to match your style preference. Costs are usually similar, but installation and finishing can vary and add to your project’s expense and time-frame. Ultimately, whether you choose oak or maple will depend on what works best for your individual needs and preferences.

For an easy-to-install option without sacrificing the natural beauty of oak, check out the selection at Stikwood.com. Whether you choose our charcoal, black cherry, or plum finish, you’ll add warmth and style to your living space!