Maple flooring installation and refinishing is a bit of a challenge for floor contractors everywhere, not just Bend, Oregon
Apples to Oranges
Maple varies in density throughout the length of a board. For example, one end of a board may have a Janka hardness of approximately 1300psi, but the other end could test at 1100 psi. During the floor sanding process we have to be mindful of the varying density and refine the scratch pattern of the flooring carefully.
The term “soft maple” does not refer to any specific species of maple. It’s a term that includes several different species of maple. The term is used to differentiate these species from hard maple.
Hard maple typically refers to one specific type of maple species: Acer saccharum. Besides this one species of maple, the only other species that is sometimes considered in the grouping of hard maple is black maple. Black Maple is so closely related to hard maple that some even consider it to be a sub-species of the same tree.
Depending on where you live, different species might be sold as soft maple. For instance, if you live in Oregon, the soft maple that you buy will likely be bigleaf maple. Those living in the eastern United States may actually be buying red maple or silver maple.
As you can see there is more than meets the eye with maple. A number of engineered flooring manufacturers will incorporate soft maple into their products and sell generically as maple, which is true. However, on-site performance will reveal otherwise. In order to avoid problems, I recommend that you ask the flooring retailer. If they do not know or seem uncertain, then I recommend shopping elsewhere.
Sanding and Finishing realities
A difficulty we face daily in the world of flooring refinishers is that people assume imparting color to wood is universally simple. While this would be lovely, the reality is that maple flooring is different. The varying density of maple affects the absorption of stain and finish. Darker colors tend to appear blotchy, but the stain is simply highlighting the density difference of the maple. And while products like stain conditioners are available, their affect is modest in our experiences.
It is possible to use products such as aniline dye to create a more even color on maple. But, aniline dyes have their own drawbacks; such as extremely difficult application and not being colorfast.
Because maple flooring has such a light color, seasonal gaps will be exacerbated on dark stained maple floors. In a dry desert climate such as Bend, it becomes essential to add supplemental moisture to avoid gaps.
Maple flooring comes in a variety of grades that affect its coloration. If you are into the pure and light look of maple without dark color streaks, then I encourage you to purchase a select grade. First and second grade maple will have more dark color and mineral streaking. As a general rule, the more select the grade the more likely the floor will show scratches and wear.
Our Final Verdict:
- Maple is a great hardwood floor for most homeowners. Just validate whether are buying hard maple or not.
- Maple will not stain as well as species like oak and can appear blotchy.
- Choosing the right grade will help ease your concerns over inevitable scratches from wear over time.
Do you want to talk more? Let us know