It’s a fair question and often the answer a consumer receives is more confusing than the quadratic formula. The truth is they are not the same product. Let’s look at maple hardwood and find the keys to determining quality.
1. What species of maple is it?
There are two generally accepted maple trees used to produce hardwood.
The first species is Hard Maple. This tree grows large and slow allowing it to mature over a long period of time. The slow growth provides a very dense and hard wood which is perfect for flooring. The dense wood stands up to normal household conditions without denting and scratching as much as other softer woods.
The second commonly used tree is Silver Maple. This tree grows rapidly in marshy areas. The ability of this tree to grow quickly means that the wood is much less dense compared to hard maple making it less desirable for flooring. The Silver Maple is classified as a soft wood which means it will dent, scratch and warp easily when put to the test of normal living conditions. The ability to grow this tree quickly means it can be sold as ‘maple’ at a much lower cost.
What to ask a retailer- What is the species of maple?
2. What is the grade of the wood?
Every manufacturer provides a grade of wood which basically determines the amount of variance from board to board.
There are two grades commonly used in today’s market.
- Select and Better
- This grade has nice clean boards with minimum streaks and veins creating a subtle and consistent look.
- Antique or Seconds
- This grade has many variations from board to board creating a very unique and rustic look. Veins and knots are more visible within the boards.
Unfortunately, there is no industry standard to determine the grade from one manufacturer to another. A manufacturer can associate their product to any grade they want, making it confusing to consumers. The variation in a select and better grade from an entry level maple will contain dramatically more variation then that of a high end product. The ability to use boards with greater variation also contributes to a lower price.
What to ask a retailer- Can you open a box and visually show me the variation?
Don’t be shy about asking some tough questions of the store you’re looking to buy from. If the store is providing quality products at fair prices, they should be able to answer these simple questions. If you’re not comfortable with the answers you receive, keep looking until you find what you’re looking for. Flooring is a substantial investment in your home and you should be comfortable and confident it will meet the demands of your home.
For more information on quality hardwoods, visit Mirage Hardwoods, the number one brand in hardwood.