Learn about Maple hardwood flooring, including engineered and laminate Maple flooring, colors, stains, hardness, grades and cost.
In this installment of our hardwood species articles, we’re going to have an in-depth look at the beautiful options available in maple hardwood flooring. With its delicate grain and creamy-blonde tones, maple has always been a strong favorite for home flooring in the USA, and is becoming an even more popular option in recent years with a swing towards Scandinavian and Mid-Century Modern inspired interior design – both styles that look to optimize natural light paired with clean, uncluttered décor. So if that’s a style you’re interested in, then maple flooring is a good hardwood option – however, there are other points to consider to ensure that maple floors are the ideal choice for your space.
Types of Maple
If you’re looking to buy maple, then be aware that there are in fact two broad terms used when describing maple hardwood: hard maple and soft maple.
- Hard Maple is used to describe two types of maple tree: Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) and the Black Maple (Acer nigrum). Both of these maple trees are used for making maple hardwood flooring and many wood furniture products. The Sugar Maple is, of course, also where we get all our delicious maple syrup!
- Soft Maple is used to describe four other types of maple trees: Silver maple (Acer saccharinum), Red maple (Acer rebrum), Boxelder (Acer negundo) and Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum). This kind of maple, as the name suggest, is not as hard or as strong, so it is not used for flooring, but is ideal for wood-worked décor items, furniture veneers, crates and pallets.
Maple Buying Options
As with most other hardwood flooring, there are different maple floor options available on the market:
- Solid Maple flooring is usually 3/4” thick, but comes in a large variety of widths and lengths depending on the manufacturer. Different brands offer solid maple in either pre-finished and unfinished states. Pre-finished hardwood means that the planks have been treated already with a stain or sealant, and with some kind of textured surface.
- Engineered Maple flooring tends to come in much thinner thicknesses, from as little as 1/4” thick. Again widths, length and finishes vary depending on the manufacturer. However as with engineered hardwoods generally, there is usually a much larger range of color finishes than with solid hardwood.
- Laminate Maple flooring is another option – especially if you have a tight budget. Plank widths in laminate flooring tend to be the more standard 5”, but the range of colors and styles on offer tends to be quite wide.
A Note About Maple Flooring Grades
Certain manufacturers, particularly for solid hardwood flooring, will carry different grades of maple. Grades refers to the quality of the wood, which is usually qualified by how it looks. Grade 1 maple planks have a uniform color with very few – or no – visible knots; grade 2 maple has a bit more “real wood” character with some knots and more variety in color tones; grade 3 maple flooring has a much knottier, rustic aspect. Grade 1 is the most expensive and grade 3 is the best to maximize your budget.
You can add an extra level of interest to subtle Maple flooring by laying short planks in a herringbone parquet pattern.
Maple Flooring Colors, Stains and Textures
In my opinion, a classic American maple hardwood floor is best left in its natural state, with a clear sealant finish to allow the pretty grain and buttery tones to shine through.
However, maple hardwood is also porous enough to accept stains fairly well, so you can in fact change the color to suit your tastes, from deeper tawny brown tones to sleek grays. Having said that, DIY maple floor staining can be tricky, and often best left to the pros. Luckily, many brands already offer pre-stained maple hardwood planks, so you don’t really need to go down the DIY staining route, unless you really have a very unique or custom-blend color in mind.
Also bear in mind that there are many different texture finishes on offer including hand scraped/ distressed, wire brushed, and smooth, each giving a different feel to compliment your interior design.
Check out our Hardwood Flooring Types post for an in-depth look at hardwood options
Will Maple Flooring Turn Yellow?
This is a tough question to give a straight answer to, because it depends on several factors. It is true that natural light tones woods, like maple and oak, can turn a shade of amber with age. This is unavoidable as it is partly down to the oxidation of the natural oils in the wood. However, the change of patina can be exacerbated by oil-based polyurethane sealants reacting to sunlight. Note that oil-based sealants already give light colored wood a yellowy tone from the first application.
The solution is to opt for a water-based polyurethane finish in the first instance, which will simply enhance the natural beauty of your maple flooring without adding a yellow tint. If you have installed maple flooring that has already been pre-finished with an oil-based sealant then you should consider adding blinds, gauzes or tinted glass to your windows to avoid too much harsh, direct sunlight discoloring your floor over time.
Maple Hardness and Durability
Maple flooring has a Jenka hardness ranking of 1450 which is a good bit harder than oak flooring, the industry standard for hardwood. This means that maple flooring is quite hard, less prone to dents and is very durable (it’s a popular choice for bowling alleys for this very reason). However, if maple flooring isn’t coated in a strong polyurethane finish it will scratch – and its smooth grain makes the scratches seem more visible.
Overall maple is a sound flooring choice for most active households; nevertheless, we advise that you ensure your maple floors are properly sealed and that you invest in area rugs and runners for high traffic areas such as hallways to keep your flooring at its best.
Here the Maple floor has been pre-stained an attractive, on-trend gray-brown tone.
Maple Flooring Costs and Brands
If you’re opting for maple, then there’s good news: there are a lot of great brands to choose from, which also means that you’ll likely find a maple floor to match your budget. On the other hand, there is such a thing as too much choice! Narrowing things down to type of construction, texture finish and color finish will make your search a lot easier! Here are some of the best brands to look out for:
- Solid Maple flooring: top brands include Bruce, Armstrong, Mohawk, Somerset and BuildDirect (who have their own in-house brands such as Jasper and Walking Horse but also carry other brands too). Prices for solid maple can be a little higher than for engineered – expect to pay from around $3 to $10 per square foot.
- Engineered Maple flooring: a good deal of choice here from brands such as Somerset, Mohawk, BuildDirect, Armstrong, Mannington and Kährs. Prices for engineered maple are a little lower than solid; expect to pay between $2.50 to $9 per square foot depending on the finish.
- Laminate Maple flooring: Pergo are of course the kings of laminate, and have some nice maple ones in their catalog, but also have a look at Mannington, BuildDirect, Home Decorators at the Home Depot, and Shaw Floors for a wider variety of maple laminate floors. Laminate is the budget-friendly option with prices ranging from $1 to $5 per square foot.
Here the Maple flooring has been whitewashed to blend into the overall décor scheme.
Maple Flooring Pros and Cons
Maple Flooring Advantages
- One of the biggest advantages for maple is that it is widely available and there is plenty of choice; plus, because it is sourced locally and responsibly in the USA, it is better for the environment than exotic hardwoods.
- As mentioned above, maple is widely available and very affordable; different grades and types of maple are available to suit most budgets.
- Maple has a fine grain that gives each plank a fairly uniform look; maple floors therefore offer a clean backdrop that will work for most interior designs. This makes it a good option if you like to change your décor often; or as an investment to appeal to a wide audience.
- The natural light tone of maple is perfect for Scandi-inspired, contemporary, clean and airy décor – it’s a very popular choice for today’s home owner.
- Maple is relatively high on the hardness scale, making it less prone to denting and more durable.
- As with most hardwood floors, maple flooring that has been properly finished is easy to keep clean and maintain.
Maple Flooring Disadvantages
- As with many hardwoods, maple floors can react badly to environments with fluctuating humidity levels, swelling and compacting as the levels shift. This sometimes results in warping and cracks. We recommend using engineered maple flooring in areas prone to damp – such as basements and bathrooms – because engineered hardwoods are more stable and better suited to areas with high humidity. You can also counter severe humidity by investing in a dehumidifier.
- Maple does scratch easily – but you can minimize this with a good protective sealant, and the addition of strategically placed areas rugs.
- Whilst you can stain maple, it can turn out a bit patchy. It’s a job that is best left to professionals, or you can opt for pre-stained planks.
- Maple flooring will turn a deeper shade over time, and if it is finished with oil-based polyurethane then it can react badly to direct sunlight and yellow. Using water-based sealants and taking precautions against sunlight damage can help minimize this.
- Maple is not the right choice for you if you want a flooring with an interesting grain – the fine grain in maple wood gives a much more uniform, subtle look.
Final Maple Flooring Points to Consider
American maple hardwood flooring is a classic, and is a solid investment as it has great longevity – not just in actual terms because of its durability – but because it is a popular choice that is unlikely to go out of fashion.
But as with all hardwood flooring, your investment is only as good as the installation. Make sure that you have a good subfloor and underlayment before installing your maple planks, and do the research to find a trustworthy and experienced installation team.
To keep your maple flooring at its best, you should budget for regular refinishing (every 3 to 5 years for solid maple flooring); if you’re opting for engineered maple flooring then choose one that has the thickest wear layer which will allow you at least one decent refinishing during its lifetime.
And finally – a no brainer really – as with any large investment, check that your manufacturer offers a good, long and comprehensive warranty!
A true American classic – Maple in its natural state is still ideal for today’s modern homes.