Maple vs Cedar

If you purchase a product through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Details

The type of wood you use can have an important bearing on the quality of your work. Choosing the most suitable type for your woodworking project is the first important decision you need to make before you start. Two types of wood, maple and cedar wood are common choices for making furniture, cabinets, and flooring. It’s worthwhile to know about these two types of wood in detail.

Maple vs cedar is a common comparison you might make when choosing wood for a woodworking project. Maple is hard and strong. Cedar is also strong but not as hard and is weather-resistant. So, while we use maple for indoor furniture and flooring, we might use cedar for outdoor applications like fences, siding, decking, shingles, arbors, and greenhouses.

Maple vs. Cedar

Between maple and cedar, there are many things to consider for choosing one over the other. You need to look at the durability, strength, price, and availability and relate it to the type of woodworking project you have in hand.

Cedar is an aromatic wood but maple is not. The advantage of using either of these two types of wood is that they are both widely available across the United States. So, it boils down to the type that is most suitable for your project.

Maple: Background

Maple wood texture background

You will find maple growing in almost all the states of America. Although there are numerous types of maple, the two primary ones are soft maple and hard maple. Although we use the term “soft” it is harder than many other hardwoods.

Maple is pale, almost white with an even, tight wood grain pattern. While we use hard maple for furniture, cabinets, and flooring, soft maple makes good butcher blocks as it is food-grade wood.

We also use hard maple for sports equipment (baseball bats and pool cues) and even drums. The sap of maple trees makes maple syrup and we use maple wood chips for smoking foodstuff.

So, as you can see, maple is a very versatile type of wood and both the soft and hard varieties have multiple uses. But due to the tight grain and absence of pores, applying a finish to maple can prove to be a tricky business. Another downside of maple is that it yellows with age.

Cedar: Background

cedar wood plank textured background - macro shot

Coming to cedar, you will also get numerous types in the United States. But the most popular type is western red cedar. It is reddish-brown and gives off a resinous odor when freshly cut. You will find cedar and an easy type of wood to work with.

Another advantage that cedar has over maple is its considerable resistance to insect attack. Its high durability makes it a favored choice for use outdoors. We use it to make decks, summer houses, fences, fence posts, etc.

But western red cedar also makes some fine indoor furniture and flooring. You can also make cabinets from it. But a word of caution here – being a soft type of wood with a Janka hardness rating of 350 lbf. it is prone to scratches, denting, and abrasion.

Maple vs. Cedar: Appearance

The light, creamy color of maple is appealing to all. It also projects a smooth surface thanks to the straight, fine wood grain. You will see waviness and perhaps a few knots occasionally, which you can work to your advantage with a bit of woodworking skill.

The beauty of this pale wood is accentuated in a variety called spalted maple. Yet another variety of maple is birdseye maple, which gets its name from its wood grain pattern that resembles the eye of a bird. It is the most expensive type of maple that you can find.

Spalted maple tree sawn timber plank

An interesting fact about maple wood is that we use sapwood rather than heartwood for woodworking. The sapwood looks almost white, with an occasional reddish or golden hue but darkens slightly over time.

Coming to western red cedar is typically reddish-brown but you also get lighter, pinkish shades of brown. The grain pattern occasionally shows darker streaks and bands. There isn’t much differentiation between the pale-yellow sapwood and the darker heartwood.

Western red cedar has a coarse texture and grain pattern with a natural luster. All the species of cedar resemble each other visually.

Maple vs. Cedar: Durability

Although it is a hard type of wood, maple is not as durable as cedar. But because it is moderately hard with a Janka hardness rating of 1,450 lbf. furniture made from this wood lasts longer. It doesn’t chip, dent, or get scratched easily. This inherent hardness makes it a good choice for flooring also.

But maple doesn’t withstand insect attack, so it is unsuitable for outdoor purposes. You would be better off using cedar if you have outdoor projects. The natural resin that cedar produces protects it from insect attack.

Cedar also makes smart furniture but with a Janka hardness rating of 350 lbf. you would have to keep it away from high-traffic areas and of course, it’s a poor choice for flooring.

Maple vs. Cedar: Maintenance

Maple furniture doesn’t need much maintenance, but you will have to pay extra attention to maple flooring. Nowadays, we get pre-finished maple planks for flooring which makes your job somewhat easier. However, even pre-finished maple flooring needs a bit of refurbishing occasionally.

Maintaining maple flooring calls for specific procedures. Ensure that you do it correctly to avoid damaging the floors.

Western red cedar is a moderately-durable wood but it needs regular maintenance to get the best out of it. It tends to collect dirt, grime, mildew, and mold, if not cleaned regularly. Additionally, performing annual maintenance on western red cedar extends the life of the wood.

Maple vs. Cedar: Workability and Uses

A modern kitchen with maple cabinets and hardwood floors.

Maple and western red cedar are both easily workable types of wood. You will find it easy to work with them using hand and machine tools, except perhaps in places where the woodgrain interlocks. You need to be careful to avoid tearout.

A unique issue that comes up with maple, especially sugar maple is the tendency to develop burn marks from high-speed cutting blades. It is due to the high sugar content of the wood. You can avoid this occurrence by reducing the speed of your cutting blades.

You can apply glue to both types of wood easily. But applying a finish or stain to maple can be a tricky business due to the absence of pores in the wood structure. Adding a pre-sealer helps to avoid developing blotchiness while applying a finish. Maple is also a suitable candidate for steam bending.

Western red cedar will not present the issues of maple mentioned above. But being a very soft wood, you need to exercise caution while working with it. Furniture made from this wood shouldn’t be placed in high-traffic areas, as it tends to get scratched and dented easily.

We use cedar to make boats, decking, shingles, fences, and posts. It also makes good patio furniture, musical instruments, crates, and boxes.

Outdoor Furniture on Cedar Wood Patio during nice day

Maple vs. Cedar: Price

Maple grows throughout the United States. Although it is readily available, the price of maple can get quite expensive d depending on the type and grade of maple wood you buy. Regular maple wood is on par with most other common hardwoods but figured or spalted maple can cost quite a lot.

Western red cedar is another wood species that grow throughout the United States. It is cheaper than many hardwood species. But some grades of cedar can come at a considerably higher price.

Maple vs. Cedar: Sustainability

Neither maple nor western red cedar appears on any of the lists of endangered wood species. So, we can consider both these types of wood as being sustainable.

Maple vs. Cedar: Any other characteristics

Besides regular woodworking applications, maple is a good choice for smoking meats and other foodstuffs. We also get maple syrup from the sap of the maple tree.

The most noticeable feature of cedar is its fragrant scent.

Maple vs. Cedar: Comparison Table

Parameter Maple Cedar
Botanical name Acer saccharum Thuja plicata 
Color Nearly white to off-white Pinkish to reddish-brown
Durability Mechanically durable but poor resistance to rot or insects Highly durable
Hardness (Janka Scale) 1,450 lbf. 350 lbf.
Strength Strong wood Strong wood
Maintenance Less maintenance Needs regular maintenance
Price Moderately priced Moderately priced
Suitability for outdoors Indoor use only Suitable for outdoor use
Suitability for wood carving No Yes
Workability Easy to work with Easy to work with
Smell Odorless Aromatic scent while working with it
Availability Easily available Easily available
Special features Produces maple syrup and is used for smoking meat and other foodstuffs Aromatic wood

We hope that you have found this post on maple vs cedar informative. Both these types of wood have unique features and are useful in woodworking projects. Knowing about the basic features of each type of wood helps to get the best from each one.

Use either maple or cedar in your next woodworking project. We are sure that your project will work out just fine.