Oak Vs. Maple Flooring 2022: Installation, Tips, Pros & Cons

Last Update:

We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases. Learn more

When it comes to hardwood oak is one of the most popular choices.

It has an allure and finished look that is hard to beat.

However, more and more people are turning to maple for their hardwood choice.

Is maple better than oak?

In this article, we will look at the pros and cons of both oak and maple, as well as comparing them against each other over several factors to help you make the important choice, before you waste your money on the wrong option.

oak vs maple flooring

Oak and Maple Flooring Options

With oak’s popularity and maple’s toughness, there are reasons to choose either one. Here are the top comparisons and reasons to buy.

  • Oak has intricate grain patterns. Close and wide loops, deep grains and intricate natural patterns make oak fun to look at.
  • Flex of hardwoods. Maple is harder than oak but both offer a give and flex underfoot.
  • Tones and colors. Naturally left untreated, oak and maple offer different tones and hues that are aesthetically pleasing.
  • Adds value. As hardwoods, the flooring will add to the resale value of your home.
  • Maple is highly durable. With a high Janka score, maple is tough, durable and forgiving.

Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Right Floor for Your Needs

buyers guide oak vs maple flooring

When deciding on a flooring type, you have a lot to think about. What you may not realize, though, is why you need to think about these factors. Below, you will find the factors worthy of consideration in your decision making process and why they are important.

Project Size

The biggest factor you must realize is how big of an area you are flooring. Whether that is a living room, a small entryway or your entire home, the square foot measurement is the most important number you must know.

Flooring Type

When you talk about oak or maple flooring there are various options in front of you.

For example you can get oak grain or maple colored vinyl, laminate or even tile. However, this article is covering actual hardwood, not mimicry.

With that, you have only 2 options, solid hardwood or engineered hardwood. Know which one you prefer and stick with that choice.

Installation Method

Based on the choice above, you will have two other options made for you. How the flooring is to be installed.

If you want to go with solid hardwood, your option is professional installation. Can you install solid hardwood as a DIY project?

Yes, you can. But you shouldn’t.

Likewise, engineered hardwood is easier to install as a DIY project, making it a viable option for those wishing to do it themselves. The choice is yours, but the general understanding is that engineered is DIY, solid hardwood is professional.

Additional Accessories

When installing a new floor, you also need to consider the small extras.

Most of them won’t add too much to your budget but will give you a lot of professional finishing touches. Replacing your baseboards, for example, or adding new thresholds.

Matching the décor with the new floor style is a small expense with large value.

Subfloor and Underlayment

The subfloor is also important. When adding hardwood, moisture, humidity and water are the enemy. If you have a concrete subfloor, you need to take extra steps to protect your investment.

Adding a moisture barrier, for example, will help prevent damage from underneath. Plywood subfloors don’t need this added layer of protection, though.

Warranty

You also want to understand the warranty from your chosen brand. Each brand and even each style within a brand, will have a different warranty.

Some may only last a couple of years and protect against manufacturer’s defects. Still others will last a lifetime and transfer to the next homeowners.

Make sure you know what is covered, for how long, what is required on your end and how to make a claim. Know all the ins and outs of the warranty before you buy.

Cost

Hardwood floors aren’t known for their cheap price tags. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Oak tends to be more expensive than maple, but it is also less durable and more popular.

If price is your only deciding factor you will end up with oak. That may not be the best option for you, though. So let’s continue on and find out.

Oak Vs. Maple Flooring Comparison

oak vs maple flooring comparison

Hardwood has a lot of benefits, the least of which is increasing the resale value of your home. Solid and engineered hardwood floors can make your home more valuable, however it needs to be done right.

For this instance, oak is a better option. Either white or red oak is more popular than maple. Because of the widespread popularity, it can be easier to sell the home with oak installed. However, maple isn’t a bad choice and you shouldn’t get a lot of push back on the value of the home because it is maple instead of oak.

There is so much more to this comparison, though, that the resale value is almost pointless. Let’s dive deeper and look at the two flooring types and how oak and maple play their roles.

Flooring Types

The most expensive (and valuable) is solid hardwood. These are planks made from a single piece of wood.

There are no layers, with the exception of an underlayment possibly attached.

Because it is a solid piece of wood, the grain pattern can shine through and the planks are restricted in width.

While solid hardwood is a great choice, it has some drawbacks including cost, which we cover further below, and installation. Solid hardwood, either oak or maple, is a difficult install. You have to match grains, make the right alignments, cuts and be precise with an educated and artistic eye.

Because of these reasons you should have solid hardwood installed by a trained professional. This adds to the overall cost, but will ensure your entire investment is covered, with warranties, labor guarantees and similar aspects.

Engineered hardwood is different. It still uses a single piece of wood for the top layer, which is either solid oak or maple.

The core and bottom layers are added to add stability and support to the plank, as well as keep the thickness up to a full board size.

Engineered hardwood is also much easier to install. Because of the plank construction, the grain patterns and leveling have already been done for you for the most part. You only need to snap them together and seal.

This makes engineered planks a more DIY friendly install and cost less than solid hardwood. Not only that, but once the planks are all installed, you won’t be able to tell the difference anyway.

If saving money is your goal, engineered hardwood planks may be the best option. However, if you want extended value for your investment, solid hardwood is a better option.

Benefits of Oak

Oak flooring has some unique benefits over maple that need to be pointed out. For starters, oak is softer than maple. Some see this as a benefit, while others think it is a detriment.

You can be the judge. A softer wood is more comfortable underfoot, but isn’t best for high traffic areas.

Oak also has deeper colors and a more intricate grain pattern compared to maple. This means you can choose white oak for a lighter toned wood with more subtle grain, or red oak with a warmer coloring and a more pronounced grain.

Oak also takes stains more easily than maple. You can seal and stain oak planks with ease and without compromising the wood’s appearance.

When it comes to price, oak is usually less expensive, which adds to its overall popularity. It is also the most stable hardwood, which means less expansion and contraction due to time, age and humidity levels.

Benefits of Maple

Maple, on the other hand, has a lot of features many find intimidating. For instance the lighter grain pattern makes it harder to line up during install. It also means you won’t find maple in a lot of darker tones.

Maple, especially sugar maple, is much harder than oak with a Janka hardness scale rating of about 1450 – 1500 pounds-force. While it makes the boards more durable and better for high traffic areas and larger install areas, it also makes it less comfortable underfoot.

Maple also doesn’t stain very well at all. If you seal the wood first, it can turn it yellow after some time to age. Stains will also become blotchy and take a lot of patience and determination to get them right.

With maple hardwood it is better to let the natural tones and beauty of the wood stand on their own.

Where to Buy

Oak and Maple floors can be found almost anywhere flooring is sold. For budget-friendly options you can search online on Amazon and in person at stores like Lumber Liquidators, Home Depot and Lowe’s.

If you want a more durable (though expensive) option flooring specialty shops, dealers and retailers will be your best bet. If you have a particular brand in mind, that brand’s website will generally have a shop or a map with their local retailers listed on it for you to use or search.

What People are Saying

Overall people really love the oak hardwood flooring options. With few exceptions as noted by individual brands, most of the negative comments come down to the installation or treatment of the flooring.

In all, though, you will find that oak has rave reviews for its staining abilities, ease of install and final, finished look.

With maple, it is also mainly positive. Some negative comments include those about how hard the boards are underfoot, or an installation that was hurried so the grain patterns don’t always align.

Mostly, though, you will read or hear people saying they love the light tones and brighter hues. You will also read about how durable wood flooring is, even in homes full of small children and pets.

Cost and Warranty Comparison

The biggest concern with solid and engineered hardwoods is the cost. This will vary from brand to brand, style to style and even depend on your location. In general, though, and as an average oak is more affordable than maple. Even if not by much.

You can find good-quality to high-quality oak solid hardwood planks for between $4 and $6 per square foot. Engineered planks are a little less ranging between $3 and $6 per square foot.

On the maple side of things the range is similar, but has a higher top end with engineered planks going for between $3 and $7. If you want solid planks, that will run between $5 and $8 per square foot, on average.

When it comes to new flooring, though, aside from the total parts cost, you also need to factor in labor and installation. This can depend greatly on the entire project you need done, which can include old floor removal, time-sensitive installation, debris clean up and removal and other costs.

For professional installation you should add between $2 and $6 per square foot to your product costs with either oak or maple. But you can’t overlook the warranty.

Most brands will offer a damage and defects warranty for anywhere from 90 days to a few years. Scratch, dent and fading warranties generally last between 10 and 30 years for these two woods, though some brands go much longer, up to and including lifetime coverage.

In the end, it will all come down to board size, type, style, where you buy, the brand you choose and who performs the installation.

At a Glance

Lets pick the top categories and look at oak and maple side by side. This will help you see their slight differences easier, and  (maybe) help with your final decision.
 Oak FlooringMaple Flooring
TypesRed oak, white oak in solid and engineered planksHared ample, sugar maple and soft maple in solid or engineered planks
Typical Board Sizes24 to 48 inches long by 3 to 5 inches wide24 to 48 inches long by 4 to 7 inches wide
Color VariationsDark browns and reds to lighter redsLighter brows to creamy whites
StainingEasily applied, long lastingDoes not stain well
InstallationProfessional recommendedProfessional recommended
CostBetween $3 and $6 per sq. ft.Between $4 and $7 per sq. ft.

Professional Vs. DIY Installation

professional vs diy installation

As we have touched on a few times here in this comparison review, installation will always cost you something. Professional installation will cost you money while DIY install will cost you time. Which one is more valuable to you, will depend greatly on your budget as well as your skill level.

When dealing with hardwood floors, professional installation is always going to be recommended. With solid hardwood it is almost a requirement. This is because solid hardwood is not processed the same as engineered planks and requires a keen eye during the install process.

You need to know when the wood is acclimated, the right moisture level, how it will lay on the floor and most importantly, which direction and how to align grain patterns. This is a skilled install and should be left to the professionals.

On top of that, many high-quality brands will require professional installation to maintain the warranty. The path of finding a licensed, local and trusted installer can be difficult, as we can help.

Our free-to-use app will put you in contact with up to 4 local professionals in your area that have been rated, reviewed and vetted to ensure quality and professional installation of your new floor.

If, however, you go with engineered hardwood planks and a DIY install, you will save about $4 per square foot, on average. Though the installation will take you a full weekend or more, and everything from purchasing to cleaning up falls on you, it can be done.

Even with engineered hardwood, professional install is still recommended. It is just an easier DIY project than solid wood.

Frequently Asked Questions

faq oak vs maple flooring

Here we will answer your most common questions about maple, oak and hardwood in general. If you have further questions, use the comment section below.

Q. Which will last longer, oak or maple hardwood floors?

  1. Both flooring options, with good care and maintenance, will easily last two to three decades (or longer). However for toughness and durability, maple hardwood is a stronger wood. With a higher Janka rating maple is better for high traffic areas and under similar installation situations to oak, will last a little longer.

Q. Can you refinish or resurface hardwood floors?

  1. Yes, even engineered hardwood can be sanded or refinished a few times. Solid hardwood is the best option if you plan to sand, refinish and stain, though. With oak taking the lead as one of the best staining and refinishing options. Both maple and oak, though, can be ground, sanded or finished several times over before a plank needs replacement.

Q. Is there a stronger wood than maple?

  1. There are a lot of woods stronger than maple. Ipe and cumaru, for example, are great decking materials as they are in the ironwood class. For similar wood types, though, maple is stronger than oak and hickory is stronger than maple.

Q. Can you install oak or maple over a radiant heating system?

  1. Yes! Both maple and oak are ideal for radiant heating floor systems. However, you need to check with the brand site or customer service before you buy. Some underlayment options are not radiant floor safe. It is also with nothing that engineered maple and oak planks are better suited for the task than solid wood options.

Conclusion

When it comes to your flooring project, hardwood is a great choice. Long lasting, easy to care for and with great aesthetics, it is hard to go wrong. Choosing between maple and oak hardwood can be tough, though.

With the help of this article you should have a better idea of which option suits yours needs better. If you want to save money, opt for a DIY install with engineered hardwood planks.

Likewise, if you want richer tones and the ability to stain the wood, choose oak. If you want better grain patterns and a lighter hued floor, choose maple.

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

Leave a Comment

4 × four =