Featured Species: Longleaf Heart Pine
We have talked about White Oak, Red Oak, and Hickory – now we are turning to a less common but still fantastic choice for hardwood flooring: Longleaf Heart Pine.
What is Longleaf Heart Pine?
This can get a little confusing for people not familiar with wood species, so hang in there with me. First, let’s talk about the Longleaf Pine as a species.
- It is native to Southeastern United States coastal plain
- It can grow up to 115 ft (154 before extensive logging)
- It is the Official state tree of Alabama
- It takes 100-150 years to mature and can live to be 500 years old.
- Resistant to wildfire
- New trees start off in a grass stage
- Only about 3% of original longleaf pine forest remains due to deforestation and overharvesting
- Historically used for resin, turpentine, and timber
- Long needles were used for basket weaving by indigenous people groups (fun fact: people sell longleaf “straw” or needles on etsy for craft projects)
- Longleaf needles are named as such because the needles can be as long as a man’s forearm.
Longleaf Pine Region
Longleaf Pine - Grass Stage
As you can see, this tree has a lot of uses and was endangered at one point in time because of those uses. Regrowth efforts have restored some of longleaf forests, but it is rare to find an Old Growth Longleaf Pine. Most of the species cut today are New Growth Longleaf Pine – we’ll talk about the differences a little later.
If it is called “Longleaf Pine” why is there “Heart” in the name for flooring planks?
Heart comes from “Heartwood” which is the middle or “dead” part of the tree, different than the lighter colored sapwood closer to the bark. The heartwood is darker, denser, and takes longer to form. So, if you are installing Longleaf Heart Pine in your home, you are using the middle part of the tree, which makes your floor more durable.
Longleaf Heart Pine as Flooring
Longleaf Heart Pine will add to the value of your home for many reasons. First is because of the look and feel. With Heart Pine, you will get the color and richness of a softwood with the strength of a hardwood. Now, Heart Pine isn’t as hard as White Oak or Hickory, but by using the dense, slow-growing heartwood, it will be harder than flooring made from the sapwood or other types of pine. This increases durability but also makes it harder to stain or cut, often requiring professional installation. Sorry, DIY’er’s!
Speaking of stain, pine generally has warmer yellow or orange tones as it ages, however, you can apply a natural finish with a white/grey stain to maintain the fresh cut look and avoid the changes in coloration. Heartwood will be slightly darker than regular pine, so keep that in mind as you work on your room design!
Where to Find Longleaf Heart Pine Flooring
You likely won’t find this type of flooring in a hardware store, which means you will either have to contact a contractor to point you in the right direction or look online. But be careful! Many sellers will claim to have heart pine, but it is not genuine Longleaf Heart Pine. This can cause all kinds of issues including overpaying for lower quality material or ending up with a much softer floor, leading to faster wear.
Even if you find genuine Longleaf Heart Pine, you will want to know the difference between New Growth and Old Growth. New Growth is generally less durable since it hasn’t had the chance to grow as long and there is likely more of the sapwood included in the board. Old Growth is generally reclaimed from buildings that were built before the 1900s.
There is no doubt that Longleaf Heart Pine is a great choice for your home or business. With its durability and beautiful aesthetic appeal, you really can’t go wrong. However, you have to know how to find the right material and then how best to install it. Your best bet is to have a hardwood flooring expert assist you in both the buying and installation process.
Interested in Longleaf Heart Pine for your home? Have any questions? Give us a call or fill out the contact form below and we’d be happy to help!