Heart Pine Wood flooring was incredibly popular in the 19th century as a durable and attractive alternative to oak and exotic woods. However, the trees, which grow incredibly slowly, were logged to near extinction in the early 20th century. You are unlikely to find a house built after 1920 that has these floors. That is, until today.
In 2020, Heart Pine Wood flooring has made a major comeback as reclaiming is making old woods available again. But that means Heart Pine Wood floors today are rare, expensive, and challenging to work with. So, why would you want the headache?
Read on as we explain exactly why Heart Pine Wood flooring is worth the investment and the things to look out for to make sure you are getting what you expect. We’ll also share some of the most reliable Heart Pine Floor manufacturers and retailers to help you find your next dream floor.
- What Is Heart Pine Flooring?
- Pros And Cons Of Heart Pine
- Best Heart Pine Retailers
- Buying Guide
- The Verdict
What Is Heart Pine Flooring?
Heart Pine Wood is harvested from longleaf pine. But, unlike a lot of pine wood planks, these planks are not harvested from the sapwood layer just under the bark. Instead, they are harvested from the middle of the tree – the heart, if you will.
The result is pine planks that are more durable and richer in color than you will see with yellow or white pine.
White pine has a hardness rating of just 420, while yellow pine has a rating of 690. With Heart Pine Wood, you can expect hardness ratings around 1,225. That is stronger than cherry or walnut, and it is almost as strong as red oak.
The problem with Heart Pine Wood is that the longleaf pine was logged almost to extinction in the 20th century, and the tree grows incredibly slowly. These trees grow just one inch every 30 years. This gives them great density, but also means it will take hundreds of years to replenish the stores.
While planks are sometimes made from younger trees as a “new growth” alternative, longleaf trees need to be at least 200 years old to produce Heart Pine. In addition, the majority of longleaf pine trees that still remain of that age are protected. They cannot be logged and can only be harvested for wood if they fall down as a result of natural causes.
As a result, 99 percent of the Heart Pine Wood that you find on the market today is reclaimed, taken from old houses and refinished into new logs.
As a result, the supply is limited. The planks are expensive and not easy to find. Nevertheless, many people think this is worth it because the planks are so beautiful and durable that they could last for several hundred years in your home.
Pros And Cons Of Heart Pine
But, let’s get real. What are the reasons you should consider Heart Pine for your next hardwood flooring project, and what are the things that should make you think twice?
Heart Pine is very durable with a hardness rating of 1,225. This, combined with the density of the slow-growing wood, means that it has an incredibly long lifespan. While you might expect other pine floors to have a lifespan of 100 years or so, there are many houses several hundred years old that still have decent Heart Pine floors.
Heart Pine is more stable than a lot of other woods and does not have the same tendency to expand and contract. It also holds up better in moist conditions as it is not as vulnerable to water exposure.
While in the 19th century Heart Pine was an environmental catastrophe that almost led to the extinction of the species, today, because planks are reclaimed, it is also an environmentally friendly flooring solution.
These planks have a rich color and consistent grain that looks good and can be easy to match in your house to create a distinctive and classic look.
As an extension of this scarcity, it can be difficult to find Heart Pine Wood planks. Very often, you will need to buy online directly from the manufacturer. This means buying sight unseen, and since there is no consistent grading for this wood, because it is reclaimed, you can’t be sure what will arrive on your doorstep.
Difficult To Stain
Heart Pine tends to be difficult to install and can have a very high waste factor. You will almost certainly have to pay for a professional installer, which adds to the expense of these great floors.
Best Heart Pine Retailers
E.T. Moore has been working with reclaimed wood for more than 50 years, and as a result, have a good corner on the market. They have more Heart Pine options available than you will see anywhere else.
They currently have nine different reclaimed Heart Pine options that are available to buy through their website, and they do also have showrooms in Virginia.
They have a mixture of rustic and clearly reclaimed lines such as their “Original Finish” line, which is exclusively made with 100-year-old patina, a kind of tarnish layer, and their “Circle Sawn” line, which creates a worn, rough-sawn look.
Those looking for a more consistent finish might prefer one of the select lines, which have been chosen for their straighter grains and a relatively small number of nail holes.
For fans of the nail hole look, there is the “All Heart Nail Hole” line for which planks are chosen specifically for their attractive nail hole patterns.
Longleaf Lumber is another company that is dedicated to reclaiming wood from buildings throughout the United States and has built up an impressive collection of Heart Pine options.
They offer a variety of finishes including flat sawn and quarter sawn, which offer a more consistent look with a few attractive nail holes for character.
Their skip-planed line is chosen for its rustic patina, which adds extra character. But the planks have been milled with a tongue and groove system, making them easier to install than standard wood planks.
Again, their lines are available exclusively via their website, though they have showrooms in Massachusetts and Maine. Prices are available on request, but don’t be surprised to pay around $10 per square foot for these top-quality planks.
Heart Pine is just one of the many products carried by Stonewood, which specializes in natural products for your home.
They have been delivering reclaimed Heart Pine flooring planks for more than three decades. Available options depend on recent reclamation projects, and they currently have two lines available.
The Martha Mills Collection was reclaimed from a town in Georgia and is described as a “naily” line with quite a few nail holes and knots that make the wood look distinctively reclaimed.
The planks are three-quarters of an inch thick and vary in length from four to ten feet. Planks are divided into “select,” which has a more rustic feel, and “prime,” which provides a cleaner and more consistent finish.
Their Tobacco series collection is made from the means, moldings, and floorings from old mills and tobacco warehouses.
Again, there are two options, as you can choose a “nail” reclaimed look or a smoother “select” finish with fewer knots and blemishes.
This company also sells new growth Heart Pine from trees that are 80 to 100 years old. This is a more consistent flooring manufactured as tongue and groove planks that are relatively easy to install. These planks are relatively affordable, costing fewer than $5.00 per square foot. But expect to pay more for their reclaimed planks, for which you will need to ring for an individual quote.
Stonewood planks are only available online through the Stonewood Products website or their two stores in Massachusetts.
- Make Sure It Is Heart Pine
- Know Your Growth
- Forget Grading
- Count Your Growth Rings
- Consider Your Budget
Make Sure It Is Heart Pine
Make sure the flooring planks you are getting is from Heart Pine, and not from other woods in the southern yellow pine family such as shortleaf pine, loblolly pine, or slash pine. While these are all great woods, they aren’t as hard as Heart Pine and don’t tend to have the same dynamic coloring. Watch out for manufacturers trying to pass these inferior woods off as the real thing.
Know Your Growth
If anyone tries to sell you old-growth Heart Pine that is not reclaimed, this should set off alarm bells. There are no trees in the United States at the moment more than the requisite 200 years old that are clear to be logged. So, either the wood has been illegally sourced or it is not what it says on the tin.
If you have purchased hardwood flooring before, you are probably aware of some of the grading systems used to tell you about the quality and look of the wood. But there is no standardized terminology for characterizing Heart Pine. Producers make up their own names such as “knotty” or “select,” but these can be used in different ways by different manufacturers.
Carefully read the explanation of their classifications provided by the manufacturer to figure out exactly what it is you are looking at, and whether it is what you are looking for to complete your floor project.
Count Your Growth Rings
For the best quality flooring, look for something that has at least six growth rings per inch. As a rule, the more growth things, the stronger the wood. A pair of light and dark growth rings indicate one growing season. If the rings are close together, the tree grew slowly; if they are far about, then growth was quick.
Consider Your Budget
Reclaimed Heart Pine varies significantly in price, as this is largely dependent on the quality of the wood and the complexity of the reclamation project. You can find decent planks for around the $5.00 mark, but you should expect to pay more like $10.00 per square foot for something good enough to go in your home.
In addition, with a few notable exceptions, Heart Pine tends to be difficult to install, so expect to include in your budget the cost of a professional installer to lay your new floors. You will also need to purchase more planks than you imagine, as wastage levels tend to be high.
- What Is Heart Pine Wood?
- Is Heart Pine Flooring Good?
- How Much Does Heart Pine Flooring Cost?
- How Do You Care For Heart Pine Flooring?
- Can You Refinish Reclaimed Heart Pine Floors?
What Is Heart Pine Wood?
Heart Pine is wood harvested from longleaf pine trees, which are slow-growing trees that provide strong and durable wood. In addition, the planks themselves are harvested from the inner heart layer of the tree rather than the outer sapwood layer under the bark.
While Heart Pine was very popular in the 19th century, it was logged almost to extinction at the start of the 20th century. Today, the only true Heart Pine, also called old-growth Heart Pine, is available as reclaimed wood.
Is Heart Pine Flooring Good?
Heart Pine flooring is extremely good. It is hard, durable, and dense. This means it has a very long life and could survive in your home for several hundred years.
It is also more stable than other flooring options and is less likely to expand and contract with heat and moisture. Finally, the color is considered extremely rich, natural, and desirable when looking for flooring.
How Much Does Heart Pine Flooring Cost?
The cost of Heart Pine flooring varies greatly as the quality and size of reclaimed planks depends very much on the circumstances of their reclamation.
How Do You Care For Heart Pine Flooring?
Caring for Heart Pine hardwood flooring is the same as caring for any type of hardwood flooring, and you can read our complete guide here.
Can You Refinish Reclaimed Heart Pine Floors?
It is possible to refinish reclaimed Heart Pine floors. How many times this can be done depends on the thickness of the planks. You can normally refinish a standard hardwood floor plank six to ten times. For a reclaimed plank, you might expect to be able to refinish three or four times over the lifetime of the floor.
Heart Pine is not an easy floor to get your hands on. It is only available as reclaimed wood and you need to buy it directly from the manufacturer, usually online, sight unseen. Why would you go through all that effort?
Heart Pine was the most popular flooring option in the 19th century for a reason. It is harder, denser, and more durable than many other kinds of woods, especially other pines. This means it has a longer life, it is more stable, and it is less prone to warping in extreme weather conditions. The color and grain of this wood retrieved deep from the heart of the longleaf pine tree is also compelling.
That is why it is quickly rising to be one of the most popular wood floor options on the market again. If you are looking for a durable and distinctive finish, it is certainly worth considering for your next flooring project.
Have you worked with Heart Pine? What do you think? Share your experiences with the community in the comments section below or on social media.