Using plywood for your building projects has many advantages, which is why it’s so popular. For plywood however, many people understand the advantages of using hardwood plywood for projects. Birch plywood and maple plywood are two of the most popular hardwood plywood, so it is normal when the conversation tends towards comparing them.
Whether making furniture or cabinets, such wide varieties under the two plywood will cover your various needs. But we often want to complete a single project and try to figure out which is the best.
To answer the birch vs. maple confusion, we’ve put up this guide that discusses the features and characteristics of each plywood, pros and cons, similarities and differences, and other helpful information. All the information may indicate a vague winner but a more helpful guide on the winner in specific instances—this way, you know which plywood you should use for your project.
Also Read: Woodworking 101 Guide: Basic Skills Every Beginner Should Know
Birch plywood is a fine-grain composite with great resistance to warping and bending over long periods. The wood is highly durable with cross-banded layers of veneer, which improves its durability and makes it decay-resistant. Birch plywood is used to construct cabinets, furniture, drawers, shelves, and others. Its hollow-free compact structure makes it easy to fasten this plywood with screws.
Birch is native to Europe, Asia, and Japan and is derived from the birch tree, also known as the Betula Penula. However, its ease of finishing is one of its most overlooked qualities. With the grain texture and the general wood surface build, applying a finish is easy as the finish holds firmly and dries to an impressive look.
With over 40 varieties available, maple has enough options, including the more popular yellow birch, red birch, common birch, and weeping birch. Birch plywood are elegant boards that see their color darken over time into a striking appearance.
Pros and Cons
Birch is popular for its durability and ease of finishing, while other cases are against the plywood.
- Birch is a versatile wood with over 40 species offering different uses
- It is strong and hard, helping its durability
- It is lightweight, which makes it perfect for certain projects
- It has an aesthetically pleasing wood grain
- It can take any finish or stain
- High dimension stability
- High resistance to scratches and dents
- Birch is not rot resistant
- Not resistant to wear
- It can crack when too dry
When to Use Birch Plywood?
With its pros and cons, we can deduce the best use cases for birch plywood that maximizes its strengths and hides its weaknesses. Birch is perfect for making strong, durable, attractive, and lightweight projects like furniture, boxes, crates, floors, and more. Birch is also known as aircraft wood and is used to make aircraft.
Maple plywood is extremely strong, as evidenced by its hardness of 1400-1500, and is popular because of its attractive look, further enhanced by its smooth grain. Maple plywood is derived from maple trees, which are native to Asia but have continuously spread to other parts of the world, like Europe and North Africa.
There are two types of maple plywood; soft and hard plywood, also known as sugar maps and rock maple. With over 130 species, maple offers you a wide range of species for your specific needs. Maple is attractive, with its colors ranging from light cream to light reddish brown. In addition, it sports a smooth stainable grain pattern.
The most common size for maple that manufacturers sell is the 4×8 foot size which comes in varying thicknesses. Maple is sturdy and made when wood sheets are compressed within a thin veneer layer.
Pros and Cons of Maple Plywood
This section discusses the advantages and disadvantages of using maple plywood for your projects.
- Maple is versatile, with its over 100 species helping in many applications
- Easily available
- It is strong and durable
- Compatible with all wood stains
- It is a low-maintenance wood
- Unexciting grain pattern
- It is not resistant to weather
- Proline to cracks when dry
- Prone to scratches and dents
When to Use Maple Plywood?
The high number of maple species available makes it extremely versatile with so many use cases. Maple is common in high-end furniture because of its strength and color, especially the cream-colored species. It is also great for clock making and general fine woodworking because of its grain pattern and durability. Other projects like cabinetry and fancy walls also stand out among popular maple uses.
Birch Vs Maple Plywood Comparison
With a clear picture of what maple and birch plywood represents, comparing the two plywood will help you know which to use. While birch and maple may share some similarities, they differ across several factors.
Birch has long horizontal grains that are looser when compared to maple. Even though birch is similar to maple, it is darker than hard maple as dark maple features light cream color, whereas birch will usually be golden brown. Dark birch resists darkening under the sun, which is not the case for hard maple. Hard maple can turn yellowish or reddish brown when exposed to sunlight.
The grain patterns in maple are sometimes unusual, especially considering its many species. Still, in general, it has a fine and even texture. In addition, its tight grain structure makes it appealing. Regarding aesthetics, soft maple stands above the rest with its exciting appearance.
Birch plywood is great for the environment with a good carbon offset value. In addition, the fast-growing birch trees are easily renewable, making birch plywood sustainable and harmless to the environment.
Maple is also eco-friendly and sustainable, with the wood reducing the carbon footprint by trapping carbon. In addition, maple trees are not endangered and abundantly found worldwide, making maple readily available. Even waste wood from making plywood is an effective bioenergy or fuel material.
Durability often depends on the specific usage, with factors such as moisture, heat, and UV rays affecting the level of durability of wood. However, woods have different tolerance to these factors, so you want to consider the wood that can resist the most prevalent factor in your area. With a Janka hardness of about 1450, maple is extremely hard plywood, making it ultra-durable. Because maple can withstand heat and moisture, it is great for making kitchen cabinets.
While birch does not measure up to maple’s strength, it is still a durable plywood for long-lasting projects. Birch’s low resistance to insect attack and decay makes it problematic when used outdoors without the proper finish. Its dark color means birch will not darken on exposure to the sun.
4. Damage Visibility
While being durable is a huge plus for plywood, masking damage is also a super advantage. Birch’s loose and wavy grain structure makes it difficult to spot damage, unlike maple, with its smooth and fine grain structure where damage can be spotted easily. Luckily, maple is more durable so it will be more resistant to damage.
Maintaining your wooden project after construction can pose a huge challenge, so plywood with fewer maintenance needs is always in high demand. It is easy to clean maple with a dry rag with stain spills requiring cleaning solutions to remove. In general, maple requires little maintenance.
Stabilizing birch plywood makes it easy to maintain with periodic washing using mild detergent required to keep it in good condition. However, it would be best to avoid scrubbing the wood as scratches may appear.
Plywood generally has great workability with tools since it comprises composite materials. Ensure tools are sharp and you employ cutting best practices and techniques. Both maple and birch have excellent tooling and workability with the ability to take in nails and screws. The problem with plywood’s workability is that it tears easily.
Tools like circular saws, table saws, and miter saws are great for cutting. At the same time, screwing is the better option for fastening as it involves less pressure on the wood.
7. Finishing and Staining
Birch plywood stains and paints nicely, with its loose grains taking in the finish and ensuring a clean look. On the other hand, maple does not stain well and tends to leave a blotchy look. Higher-grade plywood can be sanded and prepped for better finishing.
Pricing will also be a factor when making purchases when considering maple Vs. birch, their price might prove too costly. Maple is more expensive than birch since it is less available and more durable, among other factors. However, even though maple is more expensive, its price is still in the same range as birch, which makes it quite the argument; do you mind spending a few extra bucks for the extra maple features?
Here are quick popular questions about birch Vs. maple plywood and their answers:
Maple has a 1450 Janka hardness scale which makes it stronger than birch.
The main difference between birch and maple is the color. While birch is mostly light brown, maple is mostly light cream or lighter.
Birch plywood is more easily accessible, which makes it more affordable than difficult-to-access maple plywood.
Birch Vs. Maple plywood has been splitting opinions for a long time. Still, with the right information, many will realize that the argument about the overall best is far-fetched. Instead, people should be more concerned about the best in certain cases peculiar to their needs.