There may be dozens of species commonly used in flooring, but Oak and the exotics tend to get most of the attention. Pine is an often overlooked flooring material due as it’s a softer wood although Heart Pine is different from Yellow or White Pine. If you’re looking for something unique for your home it’s certainly an option and a wood with a very interesting history from a production standpoint.
What is Heart Pine?
Before you can understand Heart Pine, you have to know a little tree anatomy. Sapwood is the outside layer of the tree, not the bark, but what lies directly beneath. It’s lighter in color than the middle of the tree and can be sappy, thus the name.
Heartwood comes from the middle of the tree and is much tougher than the outer layer. It’s the “dead” part of the tree, and the differences between the inner and outer layer are substantial when you are dealing with Pine. Yellow Pine and Western White Pine are the most common types of trees found in the United States and rank 690 and 420 on the hardness scale. By comparison, Heart Pine is 1,225, so it’s slightly weaker than Red Oak but stronger than Walnut, Cherry or Carbonized Bamboo.
While there are dozens of pine species, Longleaf pine trees produce the best Heart Pine, but it’s a slow grower. In fact, this tree almost went extinct due to deforestation. While it has made a comeback, only a fraction of the Longleaf pine forests are still around in the United States compared to millions of acres a century ago.
Domestic Hardwood Species by Hardness
Heart Pine (Old Growth)
Long Leaf Pine
Southern Yellow Pine
The Pros and Cons of Heart Pine Flooring
While you can find Heart Pine flooring in a variety of older homes, its distinct style is not an ideal choice for everyone. That means you will have to consider the pros along with the cons to ensure this is the right type of flooring for you.
Advantages of Heart Pine
The biggest perk of this type of flooring is its eco-friendly nature and durability. It’s an excellent choice for flooring as it’s almost as hard as Red Oak, but sets itself apart in the style department. Heart Pine provides consumers with a wide range of colors and will definitely give your residence a rustic look with its reddish-brown tones.
It’s also very stable, so it won’t contract or expand like other woods. You can often find heart pine flooring in homes several hundred years old, so it holds up very well with time.
Disadvantages to Heart Pine
Because of deforestation and the amount of time it takes for heart pine to form, the majority of heart pine flooring today is reclaimed. That makes it more expensive than traditional pine flooring along with other hardwoods. It can also be difficult to stain, and you can have a higher waste factor depending on the grade and quality.
Availability can be another issue as you won’t find this wood at hardware stores, so you’ll need to buy online more often than not. Unless you are buying engineered heart pine boards, you may want to pay for a professional installation as well.
How to Find High-Quality Heart Pine
This is where things are going to get tricky if you’re looking for the best Heart Pine flooring. As mentioned, most of the old forests from the turn of the century are long gone. That means if you buy Heart Pine now, you’re limited to one of two options with New Growth or Old Growth pine.
When you want something old and sturdy, you’ll want to look for Old Growth Heart Pine. These types of trees only grow 1-inch every 30 years, and the oldest trees left are now under protection. In other words, you have to pay close attention to where it comes from and how it’s labeled. Basically, anything under the “Old Growth” banner will come from pre-1900 buildings or is harvested from fallen rivers.
If you see flooring marked as New Growth, it comes from younger trees and isn’t “true’ Heart Pine as it’s not reached the antique stage. A 100-year old tree won’t have the same percentage of heartwood as a 400-year old Longleaf Pine, so the wood won’t be as durable or stable.
The main problem arises from companies that don’t label their products or tell you where they come from. This can lead to some major issues when the floor has a lower durability rating than you expect. When in doubt, ask where the wood comes from and if it’s old or new growth.
Heart Pine Grading and Sizes
Considering all Antique Heart Pine is reclaimed; the width and lengths can vary quite wildly. There are no standards like you’ll find with Oak or Hickory, so choosing a grade can be difficult when you’re buying flooring online.
There have been no standards for this style of lumber since the early 1920s. That means grades are given rather loosely in some cases and you’ll hear terms like Character Grade, “Wormy” or Antique Grade along with a few standard tags like Common and Select 1 & 2.
You also may have a choice in how your lumber is sawn if it comes from a mill or a shop that cuts custom planks. Flat or Plain Sawn is the most common, but Quartersawn and Riftsawn may also be options. You can find boards in varying lengths while widths range anywhere from 3 to 10 inches depending on your needs.
Heart Pine Flooring Installation
Heart Pine flooring is unusual which means it can be difficult to install. Depending on the quality of the boards, you may have to deal with dozens of nails holes and typically have a higher waste as well. Unless you plan on installing engineered Heart Pine planks, we highly recommend using a professional to install this style of flooring.
The Best Heart Pine Flooring Shops
Reclaimed wood has grown in popularity in recent years as more consumer turn towards environmentally-friendly products. While you can find reclaimed Oak or Hickory with ease, it can be difficult to find Old Growth or Antique Heart Pine. With that in mind here are a few of our favorites shops which offer a wide range of solid planks unfinished and prefinished for your home. Keep in mind, due to the nature of reclaimed wood, a style that’s in stock today, may be gone tomorrow…
Stonewood Products is a company that carries a large line of natural and manufactured products for your home including stone and hardwood. They also carry a wide range of goods for use outdoors, but we’re going to focus on their specialty wood which includes Antique reclaimed Heart Pine.
Stonewood has two products currently available in their catalog with the Martha Mills and Tobacco Series Collections. The Martha Mills Collection has wood reclaimed from a mill by the same name in Thomaston, Georgia. There are three grades available with Naily, Select or Prime which means there’s a style for everyone whether you love knotty pine or want something cleaner. The Tobacco line comes from an old Tobacco factory and is avialble in two grades with Select or Naily.
In addition to those styles, the company also has new growth Heart Pine which comes from trees 80 – 100 years old. The lengths on these planks range from 6 – 16 feet and 6, 8 or 10-inch widths. These tongue and groove planks are priced at $4.99 per square foot, but you’ll need to call for a quote if you want their Antique Heart Pine from the Tobacco Plant or Mill.
E.T. Moore is one of the oldest companies producing Heart Pine flooring, and they’ve been reclaiming wood since the 1970s. They have deemed themselves as “Heart Pine Specialists,” and with around 10 types of Heart Pine, they truly have something for everyone.
From Tidewater and Oily to Number 1 Heart Pine, there are a lot of tones and textures available through E.T. Moore. Their Select Edge Grain Heart Pine contains 97% Heart Wood or better with an average of 10 rings per inch. It’s ideal when you want a vintage, but uniform look. On the other end of the spectrum is “Al Heart Nail Hole Heart Pine” which is full of holes and Oily Heart Pine. Lengths and widths vary to a degree from one product to the next along with the percentage of Heart Wood content.
While we love E.T. Moore’s lineup of reclaimed wood, they don’t list the hardness or age clearly, so you’ll want to inquire about the hardness beforehand if durability is a concern. Pricing is unavailable aside from Heart Pine that’s on sale with a price tag of $5.75 per square foot.
The aptly named Longleaf Lumber is another business that reclaims wood from old buildings throughout the United States. They have one of the larger collections of Heart Pine with around 6 grades available although their current stock is all new growth, and not from older trees.
Longleaf provides their flooring in several styles with Flatsawn, Quartersawn, Rustic, and Skip-Planed Heart Pine. Flat and Quartersawn come in two grades as well in case you prefer knots and nail holes to clean, uniform flooring. Plank widths across the lineup range between 2.5 – 12 feet on average and are ¾” thick. Custom sizes are available, but all their Heart Pine ranks around 870 on the hardness scale which is a far cry from 1,200.
In addition to their reclaimed products, Longleaf also carries reclaimed Heart Pine paneling, beams, mantles, and charred wood if you truly want something different. The company ships internationally, but you’ll need to call for a quote and pricing on your project.
While none of those shops carry engineered Heart Pine, you can find new growth flooring through shops like Country Plank. They have reclaimed boards in engineered form, which range from $10 - $12.50 for a 5-inch unfinished or prefinished plank. They also carry solid flooring which is cheaper than their engineered product. Goodwin also has a nice lineup of engineered heart pine, or you can opt for vinyl planks from Parterre if you like the look, but need vinyl instead of wood.