Hickory and maple are two common building materials that are often used in the construction of homes. They both have their own benefits, which is why choosing hickory or maple wood can be a difficult decision for homeowners to make. In this guide, we will compare hickory and maple wood to help you determine which would be best for your needs!
Hickory Wood Overview
While we will dive into more of the pros and cons of hickory later on in the article, we will name a few here. Hickory wood is a hardwood and has an average weight of about 50 pounds per cubic foot. It’s known for being resistant to breakage, which makes it ideal for flooring or even furniture. It’s also great for use in public spaces where there is more use and foot traffic than in a residential setting. Hickory takes centuries to grow into mature and beautiful wood that can be used as building materials.
The hickory wood grain tends to be straight with a moderate amount of knots present, but this doesn’t impact the structural quality. Hickory wood grows all over the world, but hickories are most prevalent in North America. Because it is grown in the United States, it is easy to find across the country, though that doesn’t mean it’s always available.
Maple Wood Overview
Maple Wood Maple is a softer hardwood with an average weight of about 25 pounds per cubic foot, nearly half that of hickory. The maple tree has straight growth rings but can develop large knots that can be problematic during construction due to its size and location. Maple wood tends to grow in more temperate climates but can be found all over the world.
Maple trees are most prevalent in North America and Canada. Similar to hickory, it is vital that maple is harvested sustainably from established maple forests as it is high demand, though it doesn’t take nearly as long to grow as hickory. Both of these materials offer natural alternatives to composite or manufactured goods.
Hickory vs. Maple Wood: Cost Comparison
Hickory wood will be more expensive than maple due to its increased structural integrity and resistance. So while maple is cheaper, hickory has a lower rate of shrinkage, which means it can withstand changes in humidity better than maple. Hickory may require more upfront for materials and installation but will require less in the long run for maintenance and general care.
More specifically, maple wood will be between $2.99 and $9.55, while hickory will be between $3.49-$7.39 for the same amount. These numbers are not vastly different for each material, though, when purchasing for a large area, the change can add up.
For a 144-square-foot deck, this could range from $432-$1,375 for maple and $502-$1,064 for hickory. The exact number will depend on the variation of wood, but the entry number for hickory is higher than maple.
Hickory vs. Maple Wood: Scratch and Stain Resistance Comparison
As mentioned in the last section, maple is a softer wood than hickory. Because of this, it is more prone to having and showing dents, scratches, and stains.
A great protective layer can help to prevent excessive show, but hickory is generally considered the better option if you’re in an environment that will most likely experience excessive trauma. Examples of this include an active family with little ones and animals, or in commercial settings that see large quantities of people or activity.
It’s especially important that with hickory’s unique appearance, you keep up with general upkeep as untreated problems will lead to costly repairs.
Hickory vs. Maple Wood: Durability Comparison
Maple wood is less resistant to water damage than hickory. The major concern with durability in maple is that moisture can cause cracks in joints or other areas where two pieces are joined together.
Hickory is less likely to suffer from water damage because its grain lies at a lower angle and doesn’t absorb as much water. Generally, hickory planks are also larger, so there are fewer meeting points and cracks for water to seep in.
When it comes to the Janka Hardness Test, a measure that calculates a wood’s proneness to dents or wear and tear, both materials fare well when compared to all-natural options. However, Hickory scores overwhelmingly higher than Maple with 1820, while Maple has 1450. This figure represents the material’s durability and with a higher score, means a harder, denser material is less likely to be superficially damaged.
Overall, hickory would be the best option for flooring or furniture that needs to stand up to heavy use, while maple would be a good choice for cabinets and other items not likely to move often like a dining room set.
Hickory is a denser, heavier wood that can stand up to the test of time and is great for high-trafficked areas, even making it a fantastic option for commercial properties desiring natural alternatives to composite decking.
Hickory vs. Maple: Installation
Both materials will be installed similarly in regard to tools, however, hickory is notorious for being difficult to install for another reason. Hickory wood is extremely unique from piece to piece, and you may that they do not go together upon installation. With sharply different grains and coloring, hickory can look like completely different styles from one piece to the next. You will need to carefully arrange the planks ahead of time to ensure this does not happen.
Maple, on the other hand, has a lighter grain and a much more subtle appearance, making it easier to arrange and install without extensive arrangement beforehand. While this may not be a dealbreaker for some builders, it can be a tedious extra step or a major headache when skipped.
Hickory vs. Maple: Final Showdown
Though both are natural wood building materials, maple and hickory vary in significant ways. Hickory has an increased resistance to breakage which makes it a good option for flooring or furniture in public spaces like bars or restaurants.
Maple is a softer wood that can be problematic during construction due to its knots and location, but it has lower rates of shrinkage. Neither fares well in moist environments, though hickory may be a bit better than maple. If you live in a location like Florida, you might consider composite decking or sealing the wood to prevent unnecessary exposure.
If you’re looking for a tough option for a commercial project or simply want something that will last a long time as an addition to your home, hickory is the best choice. Because it is a harder and heavier wood, it will withstand elements and excessive use, for the most part. Though it costs more upfront, you may save money and energy in the long run as repair is far and few between and general upkeep is easy.
If appearance is of the utmost importance to you, you will find that hickory is the most unique as fewest homes have it. Additionally, tree to tree, hickory boasts a unique look which will be evident with its strong grain. On the other hand, maple comes in many different colors as there are multiple variations of the tree. If you’re looking for a semi-colored natural option, maple may be the best choice for your project. Regardless, there are always stains to help achieve your desired look!