In this article I want to talk about one of the most prevalent types of hardwood floors that we see in our projects in Wisconsin, its characteristics, and why it is such a popular choice. Let’s get started learning about this wonderfully popular hardwood…Maple.
History of Maple
When you think of the maple tree, perhaps you think of maple syrup, beautiful fall colors, or Canada’s flag, and these would all be correct. The maple tree belongs to the family Sapindaceae and contains over 128 different species of trees, most of which are native to Asia, with a number also appearing in Europe, Northern Africa, and North America. The lifespan of the maple tree can range from 100-400 years depending on the species, and the average height is between 30-150 feet. Maple trees grow best in sand or clay soil, as long as the soil stays loose enough and the soil depth allows the roots to anchor the tree to the site. This is one of the reasons that Maple trees are so prevalent in Wisconsin.
Antigo Silt Loam was named as Wisconsin’s state soil in 1983 and serves as a reminder of the importance of our soil resources. It was selected to represent the more than 800 different soils in Wisconsin. It is a productive, well-drained soil with a light-colored surface layer developed under northern hardwood forests. These soil and growing conditions created a highly favorable landscape for Maple trees to grow and populate in Wisconsin. Seven species of maple trees are native to Wisconsin, in addition, many non-native species can also be found. Perhaps the most well known is the Sugar Maple.
The Sugar Maple is recognized as the state tree of Wisconsin, and is the most abundant tree species by volume in all of Wisconsin, boasting 2.8 billion cubic feet in live trees. As such, this tree has many different uses.
Due to the Sugar Maple’s high sap sugar content (highest of any native Maple) it is a highly desired tree in the production of maple syrup. In addition to providing sap for maple syrup production, maple wood has also been used in many different applications. Maple has been used to make furniture, baseball bats, bowling alley lanes, and butcher’s blocks. Maple is a tonewood, meaning that it carries sound waves well, and is used in numerous musical instruments. The back, sides, and neck of most violins, violas, cellos, and double basses are made from maple, in addition to the necks on electric guitars. Maple is considered a hardwood, and is similar in hardness to White Oak. Maple has a very subtle and closed grain patterns, making it a very popular choice for kitchen cabinets, and sports flooring applications.
Due to its availability, Maple hardwood is one of the most prevalent species that we find in homes in Wisconsin. It is incredibly strong (Janka Hardness of 1,450) it looks great, and it stains very nicely. Maple is a unique wood, in that it is generally the sapwood, and not the heartwood, that is used in furniture and flooring. The sapwood tends to be a white hue with pitch fleck and mineral streaks adding some reddish-brown tints to it. The wood has a fine uniform texture to it, and generally has a straight grain pattern. However, variations such as birdseye, tiger, flame, curly, or fiddleback grain patterns can occur and are often chosen for artisan furniture pieces. Maple, along with many other hardwoods change color as the floor ages and is exposed to UV light and oxygen. In this instance, Maple goes from a white color, and over time develops a honey-gold patina. Because of this, if an existing Maple floor needs repairs, it is vital to use aged maple flooring for the replacement and not new pieces as the color variation can be quite noticeable and you won’t be able to blend the original and the replacement boards together. This knowledge and experience is just one of the reasons to have a hardwood flooring professional install or refinish your hardwood floors.
While the Sugar Maple is the state tree of not only Wisconsin, but also New York, Vermont, and West Virginia. This means that Maple flooring is found not only in the Midwest, but across the country. With its beautiful even tones, varying grain patterns, and durability, it is easy to see why Maple is such a popular choice in hardwood flooring.
Learn how to maintain and protect your hardwood floor, as well as how often it should be refinished.