If you are looking for new and fresh ideas for hardwood flooring, you are in the right spot! Not only this entire site, but this article in particular will teach you everything you need to know about heart pine flooring.
We will cover the variations and costs of heart pine (from old growth to new and antique woods) as well as rate and compare the wood against other wood types.
Heart Pine Flooring Options
- 1 Heart Pine Flooring Options
- 2 What is Heart Pine Flooring?
- 3 Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Right Heart Pine for Your Floors
- 4 Antique and Reclaimed Heart Pine Flooring
- 5 New Growth Vs. Old Growth
- 6 Where to Buy Heart Pine Flooring
- 7 Installing Your New Floor
- 8 Heart Pine Pros, Cons and Ratings
- 9 Frequently Asked Questions
- 10 Conclusion
Heart pine flooring is a viable and beautiful plank option for many homes around the country. It also comes in several types and styles. Let’s have a look at the most common options.
- Old Growth. Old growth heart pine is the tip top of excellence. However it is also the most difficult to acquire and install.
- New Growth. With less beauty and durability compared to old growth, new growth heart pine is viable, available and affordable.
- Engineered Planks. Engineered heart pine planks are the choice for the DIYer and budget-conscious homeowner.
- Solid Planks. For solid planks you get the best of the best but may require expensive professional installation.
- Reclaimed Path Planks. When old growth planks get too damaged for repairs, you need to get a patch or replacement board that is a close match. Reclaimed patches are your best option.
What is Heart Pine Flooring?
Heart pine flooring is flooring planks that are made from the heartwood of old growth longleaf pine trees. This one type of pine (Pinus palustris) has specific properties that add color, tone and durability to the wood.
The main issue, though, is that you cannot find commercially available old growth heartwood pine for sale today. Because of the overuse of this strong wood, such as the turn of the century buildings that were made with heartwood, and all of the trees were used.
Current pine is not old enough (needs to be well over 100 years old) to have heartwood that is as strong or durable as old growth (known as new growth). If you are looking for authentic old growth heart pine, you will only find it as reclaimed wood. We will cover this nuance further below.
Since all remaining old growth trees are now protected species, it is illegal to harvest them for wood. The only way to get new lumber from old growth pine is to wait for the pine to fall or die and get removed that way.
Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Right Heart Pine for Your Floors
Before you can go out and buy heart pine flooring, you need to consider several factors. Below we outline the most important of those factors and explain why they need to be considered.
One of the first things you need to establish is the size of the project area. You will need the square footage of the space to know how much material to buy, how much labor and fees you will pay for installation, and other factors.
Type of Heart Pine
As we have touched on previously (and will in detail in a moment), there are several types of heart pine wood. Old Growth is the most sought after. It has the natural abilities of durability and strength that new growth can’t match.
However, you can only get it through reclaiming or antique uses. You can choose new growth as well, which is fine as well, just not as strong (or expensive) as old growth. Knowing the type you are after will help you know where to shop and what to look for.
Colors and Styles
Heart pine comes in a wide range of colors. While all tones are red to brown in nature, the natural coloring of the pine from years and decades of growth through various elements gives silver tones, red tones and even yellow tones.
You can usually find similar or matching colors when you buy from the same reclaimed lot. For path projects, though, finding an exact match is almost impossible. Because heart pine is difficult to stain, you may wish to incorporate multiple colors and tones into your project to prevent overly obvious patch jobs.
As with any flooring, heart pine planks come in many sizes. You will generally find the planks in the 2 to 4-inch widths, and up to 48-inches in length. Though, depending on where you buy and how the wood was reclaimed they may be wider or even longer.
When it comes to installation of hardwood flooring, you have two options. First is the option to install the flooring yourself. With a DIY option you can save a lot of money over installation and equipment fees.
However, with this method, you are responsible for the installation, of course, but also the tools and equipment, knowledge of how to use them and you will not get any labor warranty.
With professional installation, the second option, you only need to worry about setting up consultations and choosing the right contractor for the job. The cost up front is much higher, as labor fees generally come by the square foot.
The trade off, though, is that you can negotiate for a warranty which can offset future costs. Whether you want to pay less up front or save time and effort by hiring out the project, the decision is best made before you buy.
The source of the wood will tell you a lot, but it can also be a source of misinformation. Because you must get old growth pine from reclamation shops and antique dealers, the provenance and history is always under question.
While most reputable dealers will ensure the wood is old growth pine, the standards and criteria for the wood are highly lacking. When you do begin shopping, make sure to ask a lot of questions about the source material, how it was reclaimed and when it came into possession.
Because old growth pine is reclaimed only and rarely found through antique dealers (where costs and standards are higher), you generally won’t get a warranty. However, new growth pine can come with a standard wear and tear warranty.
As you can probably imagine, heart pine wood is more expensive than other options. Actual prices are quite difficult to pin down. The going rate will depend a lot on the current market for when you buy. Supply and demand for heart pine will ebb and flow.
On average you can expect to pay between $2 and $5 more per square foot than most other nominal hardwoods like red or white oak and shortleaf pine.
Antique and Reclaimed Heart Pine Flooring
As you have read by now, there is only one way to get old growth heart pine flooring, through reclaimed wood. Like many things in our lives, age has meaning. For cars you can have a classic car at 25 years and an antique car at 50 years.
If you like old furniture you know that it must be 50 to 100 years old to be considered an antique. But for heart pine flooring and lumber, it is a much different requirement.
For heart pine, it can be tricky. The pines are protected under federal law and can no longer be harvested for lumber. This means if you want old growth heart pine, you have to reuse what is already out there.
Most of this comes from framing lumber, felled trees (naturally), and old buildings. But how old? Unlike cars and furniture, old growth heart pine must be a minimum of 200 years old, with the majority of selected woods being near 500 years old.
If you are buying old growth heart pine from a reclamation store or an antique shop, make sure you understand this. Ask how old it is and where it came from. If your answer is that it is less than 200 years old and it is labeled as old growth, it may not be a lie.
It just isn’t heart pine. Yellow pine and loblolly, as well as shortleaf pine, is still grown and harvested for lumber, and at 100 years of age, it is considered old growth. It just doesn’t have the texture, colors or strength and durability as longleaf pine.
New Growth Vs. Old Growth
So, what then do we look for when buying flooring for our next project? This is the most difficult task for any DIYer. You have to ensure that you are getting longleaf pine that is at least 200 years old and that it is actually from the Pinus palustris tree and not another pine option.
New growth is obviously anything under 200 years of age. It also has coloring that is less vibrant and a durability that matches other pine options.
Old growth has tighter growth rings, and you can still count them in the grain of the wood. You should have a minimum of eight growth rings per inch and it must be sewn from longleaf pine.
The price will also reflect the status from any honest vendor, but many reclamation shops and online vendors go with what they are told, so due diligence on your part is needed.
Where to Buy Heart Pine Flooring
That due diligence can be the difficult part. Because old growth is becoming more and more rare, you aren’t going to find it in your local Home Depot or Lowe’s.
The vast majority of sales are done online through antique dealers and reclamation experts. As this is the only way to get enough flooring lumber for your project from the same source, make sure to take your time. Ask your questions and listen to your instincts.
You should also ensure there is a promise or guarantee upon delivery and a return option if you aren’t satisfied. In the worst case scenario, you can check before accepting delivery, rejecting it if it doesn’t match your requirements. This can be costly, though and you aren’t guaranteed to get your money back.
Installing Your New Floor
Installing old growth pine is not an easy task, unless you get your planks from a mill that makes engineered planks that you can lock together. Otherwise, there are installation options and tips to follow if you have the experience and knowledge to install solid planks yourself.
With a DIY install, you will need to know everything about your subfloor, the project size, scope and install method. For example, engineered planks can lock together needing nothing more than an underlayment and a knocking hammer.
However, you may also need moisture barriers, treatments, stains, nails, wood putty and much more. Can a solid wood plank install be completed as a DIY project? Yes, absolutely. However, you will not get a labor warranty and with the cost of the pine lumber, it may not be a risk worth taking.
This will further prevent warping, bowing and shrinking during and after install.
For professional installations you will save time and effort, as well as some headaches. However, you will need to pay for the tools, labor and time to install properly. With old growth heart pine, the install cost will be a bit higher per square foot
The hardest part of this process is finding a reputable contractor that can not only handle the installation but is experienced with old growth pine installations. For that, we can help.
We have partnered with Networx to bring you a free tool that will help you find the perfect company for your project. Simply enter your information and you will get results sent to your email inbox with up to 4 fully vetted pros. Best of all (aside from it being free) is that all results are local to your area and each vendor is checked, rated and reviewed for you.
All you need to do is take your results, make a phone call and set up an appointment to get quotes and estimates.
Heart Pine Pros, Cons and Ratings
As with all things there are both good and bad aspects. Knowing the pros and cons of the flooring options will help you make better decisions. In some cases that decision may even be to abandon heart pine as your flooring choice.
Let’s take a look at the most important advantages and disadvantages of old growth heart pine to help make your decision easier. We will also rate old growth heart pine as a whole to see if it fits your needs.
|High style and color||Not always available|
|Super dense and hard flooring option||Difficult to determine if it is authentic|
|Stable wood won’t contract or expand like other hardwoods||Reclaimed wood only|
|Older is better with density and durability||Easily confused with loblolly and Virginia pines|
Heart Pine Ratings
- Selection: 3
- Warranty: 1
- Durability: 4.5
- Installation: 3
- Price: 3
- Quality: 4.5
- Eco-Friendliness: 4.5
- Overall Rating: 3.4
Frequently Asked Questions
Here we will answer some of the questions people also ask about old growth heart pine (and heart pine in general). If you have more questions, please use the comment section below the article.
Q. Is Heart Pine flooring affordable?
- This is very subjective, but the answer is that in most cases old growth heart pine is more expensive than other wood options. The most cost-effective option would be reclaimed, milled, engineered planks with a DIY install. However, this isn’t always the best or most sought after solution.
Q. How do you clean heart pine flooring?
- Heart pine should be treated like any other hardwood flooring. Regular cleaning with a broom and a dust mop will remove most of the debris and protect the floor. You can also look for hardwood rated vacuum cleaners that will be more efficient, and safe to run over the wood surface.
Q. How does old growth heart pine compare to red oak in terms of durability?
- When looking at the Janka scores, heart pine and red oak are about the same (slight edge to oak’s hardness). However, old growth is more dense and stable (no contraction) compared to oak.
Q. What other antique options do I have besides heart pine?
- Cyprus is one of the most common replacements for heart pine, particularly a strand known as Sinker Cypress. Knotty pine and rustic maple are also used for their style and characteristics.
Q. What warranty will I get with heart pine flooring?
- The type and length of the warranty will depend on where you buy your planks and what type they are. Natural old growth boards of solid pine will generally come with little to no warranty.
However, engineered planks and milled lumber sold through a manufacturer may come with a lengthy and well covered warranty. You will need to ask and research through your chosen manufacturer for actual warranty details.
Heart Pine, and specifically old growth heart pine, is a highly sought after flooring option for many homeowners around the world. Not only is heart pine durable and strong, but it offers longevity and character to any floor in almost any room of the home.
Finding heart pine, though, can be a challenge. Old growth is only found through reclaimed mills and antique dealers. With added research, unknowns and possibilities of getting different woods, finding the right type can be a challenge.
Hopefully this article has given you the information you need to find the best flooring option for your home and needs. We also hope you are now armed with the knowledge to get the heart pine you want with minimal effort and stress.