Heart Pine Flooring Review: Pros and Cons, Cost + Durability

Installing heart pine flooring will not only improve the aesthetics of your home but also its resale value. But, before making your final choice, it is important to know the pros and cons of this type of wood flooring, its cost and how long it will last.

Heart pine is very unique and rare – that’s why most of its flooring planks on the market are made from antique reclaimed floors. With a hardness and durability almost similar to that of oak hardwood floors, heart pine flooring can last as long as 100 years.

Heart Pine Flooring Review: Pros and Cons, Cost and Durability

What is Heart Pine Flooring?

Heart pine flooring is a type of wood flooring that uses wood derived from the dead center of pine trees. This non-living section of the pine tree’s trunk is called the heartwood. Heartwood is preferred to sapwood (the living, outer section of tree trunks) due to its superior mechanical strength and resistance to rot.

Modern commercial wood flooring contractors generally refer to heartwood flooring planks from a wide variety of pines as heart pine flooring. These may include the heartwood of shortleaf pine, Southern yellow pine, and even loblolly. However, traditional wood flooring purists consider wood flooring derived from the heartwood of longleaf pine as the truest form of heat pine flooring.

Here are some characteristics of heart pine wood:

  • Tight grain structure and richer shade
  • More resin content – Longleaf pine contains more resin than most other pine varieties, making its heartwood harder and more durable.
  • Heart pine has a Janka Hardness rating of 1225 (out of 4000)

As you can see, heart pine is simply a softwood with great hardwood properties that make it one of the best hardwood flooring options to choose from.

Pro tip: The most structurally durable and beautiful form of heart pine is that which has been derived from pine trees that are at least 200 years old. Most pines are slow growers and a tree that is less than 100 years will have less than 30% heart that’s not as structurally stable as heart pine flooring containing 100% heart. 

Pros and Cons of Heart Pine Flooring

Heart pine floorboards are a fabulous flooring option for both commercial and residential spaces. Years of exposure give these floorboards a rich patina that instills a rustic appeal into the room. However, heart pine flooring also has its downside.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of heart pine flooring:

Pros

Not all wood is made the same. For example, oak and maple flooring are preferred for high traffic areas due to their high resistance to wear and tear. Therefore, some wood planks are worth installing in your home than others – but that depends on preferences, flooring use, and many other factors.

Here are the advantages of heart pine wood flooring:

1. Antique appearance

Whether its textured or reclaimed heart pine, this type of flooring is great for its antique appeal that restores a sense of heritage.

From my review, I’d recommend that you go for heart pine planks from old trees that are over 200 years. Older trees usually have about six growth rings per inch, making for beautiful, rustic detail on the surface of the wood.

2. Heart pine is more durable than other pine wood

Heart pine flooring has great durability compared to many other types of wooden flooring. It’s durability is better compared to yellow pine, cherry, and walnut on the hardness scale.

Heart pine is only slightly softer than red oak. As such, heart pine floors can withstand years of heavy foot traffic and furniture weight without the structural integrity of the floor being compromised.

3. Heart pine flooring improves a home’s value

Closely related to allure and durability is the home’s resale value. Many property listing sites consider old-growth heart pine flooring as the embodiment of elegance and longevity. Installing this kind of flooring will – therefore- increase how much your home will fetch in the property market should you decide to put it up for sale.

4. Easy to install

Heart pine flooring planks are typically wider and longer than other types of commercial wooden floorboards in order to place more visual focus on the unique grain pattern of the wood.

As such, dealers and installers have fewer plank pieces to deal with, making installation a lot easier than when installing LVP and other types of flooring.  What’s more, there are multiple ways to quickly fasten heart pine flooring to the subfloor, including stapling, nailing, and glue-down installation.

Cons

Heart pine wood flooring is great, but you might have to deal with a few downsides when you choose it for your home. Here are some of the disadvantages I found when reviewing heart pine flooring options:

1. High cost of installation

Longleaf pines are slow growers and that’s why it’s hard to find new heart pine these days after years of logging. As a result, most heart pine planks these days are reclaimed planks. The scarcity and amount of effort that goes into reclaiming heart pine flooring makes it a pricey flooring option as compared to most other types of hardwood flooring.

2. Heart pine is hard to Stain and Sand

Heart pine typically has a rich reddish-brown shade that tends to shine through most types of stains. Additionally, it has an uneven grain density, meaning that some parts of the wood soak in stains better than other parts.

The pre-staining process – sanding – can also prove rather difficult when it comes to heart pine flooring planks because the high-resin content can gum up the sandpaper especially if you’re using fine-grit paper.

Types of Heart Pine Flooring

Engineered wood

Engineered heart pine flooring refers to heart pine floor planks that have been precision-engineered to recreate the look and feel of old-growth heart pine flooring. When heart pine floor planks are made using wood that’s less than 200 years old, the shade is usually not as deep as that found in reclaimed heart pine.

Flooring experts apply various treatments to give off that desirable, rustic allure. I’ve discussed some types of engineered heart pine flooring below:

Textured Heart Pine Flooring

In this type of engineered flooring, the manufacturers incorporate wear layers using various treatment techniques, while also hand-scrapping the floorboards to give them a textured appearance.

Texturing also typically involves the addition of saw marks for a distressed look, as is the case in century-old heart pine planks made in saw mills.

Prefinished heart pine flooring

For this type of engineered flooring, the craftsmen sand, stain, and seal the heart pine floorboards at the factory before they’re sold. This makes the installation process faster and less messy.

Homeowners won’t need to sand the planks themselves. This means that if you buy prefinished heart pine wood flooring, you won’t deal with the uncertainty in results that come with staining the planks by yourself as you would stain laminate flooring.

However, due to the amount of work that goes into making prefinished heart pine flooring, these planks are relatively more expensive than other types of engineered heart pine planks.

Reclaimed antique heart pine flooring

Reclaimed heart pine refers to heart pine flooring planks that have been reclaimed from old homes that are no longer in use or undergoing innovation. They may also be sourced from river-recovered logs.

Since they’ve been exposed to years of wear, reclaimed heart pine floor planks usually have a distinctive patina that invokes an antique aesthetic.

Here are the different types of reclaimed antique heart pine flooring:

1. Vertical Grain Heart Pine

This type of heart pine features a tight, linear grain structure with rich undertones. Vertical grain heart pine boasts 90% heart, making it a hardy and stable flooring option. It’s also virtually free of knots.

2. Plain Sawn Heart Pine

This type of heart pine has an arching grain structure that gives it a distinctively elegant appearance. With over 90% heart, plain saw heart pine also has multiple, layered growth rings that enhance its beauty. If you don’t mind knots and some nail holes for a truly rustic vibe, this is the type of heart pine flooring you should go for.

3. Cabin Grade Heart Pine

This grade of heart pine features both straight and arched grade patterns for a unique visual appeal. If you’re working on a budget and can’t afford the aforementioned grades of reclaimed heart pine, we recommend investing in cabin-grade heart pine. This affordable option has more sapwood and looser grain- making it slightly less durable than the other grades.

However, it’s the best for recreating the feel of old cabin homes, where knots and cracks are typically present on the wooden floor.

4. Character Heart Pine

This is another economic grade heart pine flooring option. Character heart pine is made from 100% reclaimed pine. The grain pattern is both vertical and leafy, giving it a unique look. What’s more, the knotted heartwood and nail holes add to the rustic charm of character heart pine. This type of heart pine also has uneven grain density and has some sapwood in it.

Heart Pine Flooring Durability

Heart pine flooring is highly durable and can last as long as 100 years if well maintained. The floor may show visible signs of aging after decades of use, but it can take hundreds of years before it loses its structural integrity. Old growth heart pine that has between 98-100% heart content is almost as hard and durable as ultra-durable hardwoods like hickory and oak.

For comparison, white oak has a score of 1360 on the hardness scale, with old growth heart pine almost just as hard at 1225.

Heart pineOak
Janka hardness: 1225Janka hardness: 1360
Durability: About 100 yearsDurability: 35-50 years

Heart Pine Flooring Cost

The cost of having heart pine flooring inside your home will depend mostly on the type of heart pine planks you’re purchasing. For instance, engineered heart pine planks sell at around $5-$10 per square foot, depending on the type of treatments. This is a far-cry from reclaimed heart pine, which sells at around $25 per square foot.

Meanwhile, heart pine flooring installation costs also tend to be on the lower side, as staining is not necessary. However, if you want the installation personnel to stain the floor as well, you may end up paying just as much for installation as you would for a hardwood floor.

For the best price deals on heart pine flooring, always make sure to get and compare price quotations from at least five different heart pine flooring retail/installation companies before making a decision.

How to Choose the Best Heart Pine Flooring

As I’ve indicated above, there are different types of heart pine flooring planks on the market. So, which one is the best for your home? How do you choose?

Below is a guide on what to consider when buying heart pine flooring:

Age of the wood

Old growth heart pine flooring made from reclaimed heart pine lumbar that’s been in use for over 200 years is considered superior to new growth heart pine in terms of quality. This is because old growth heart pine has more heartwood than new growth heart pine, making it better in terms of durability and structural stability.

f you’re unsure whether a certain type of heart pine is old growth or new growth, ask the dealer before making a purchase decision.

Consider the pine species

Heart pine flooring derived from longleaf pine is considerably harder and more durable than the heartwood of other species of pine. This is because longleaf pine contains more resin than at least 200 other pine species.

Some flooring experts even consider old growth longleaf pine to be the only real heart pine. Don’t- therefore- unknowingly invest in ‘fake’ heart pine flooring derived from slash pine, shortleaf pine, or loblolly, as these are considerably softer than longleaf heart pine.

Longleaf heart pine planks are usually more likely to have come from reclamation projects, as the species is rare due to hundreds of years of logging. As I’ve earlier discussed, reclaimed heart pine tends to hold more value due to its superior character and heart content compared to new growth heart pine.

Before making a purchase, ask your dealer to confirm whether or not the type of pine they’re selling is old growth longleaf pine.

Check the number of growth rings per inch

The growth ring count per inch is usually a pointer towards how dense the grain is. Tighter grain means that the heart pine lumbar is harder and will, therefore, last longer.

Old growth heart pine of topnotch quality should have between 6-8 growth rings per inch. A wider grain with less than five growth rings per inch means that the floor is new growth heart pine, which is not as hard or stable as dense, old-growth heart pine.

Plank size

The best heart pine floorboards are those that are cut wide and long. Wide plank heart pine flooring allows for enough continuity to properly showcase the heart pine’s unique grain pattern. They’re also easier to install as fewer planks are needed.

Fortunately, most online retailers of heart pine floorboards will allow you to choose your preferred plank size floor before re-milling the planks to these specs.

Heart pine grading

Unlike most other types of wooden flooring, heart pine flooring has a rather loose and non-standardized grading system. However- if you’re buying reclaimed heart pine from a saw mill that cuts and refinishes the reclaimed wood to different sizes and shades, then Vertical Grain Heart Pine and Plain Sawn Heart Pine are the best grades to go for.

Meanwhile, economical grades include cabin grade heart pine and character heart pine. Other grades that you can also check out include quarter sawn and rift sawn heart pine.

Does Heart Pine Flooring Need Refinishing?

Heart pine floorboards don’t have to be refinished because they come with a beautiful reddish-brown tone that befittingly displays the natural beauty of wooden flooring. Attempting to refinish heart pine by yourself may lead to disappointing and unexpected results because the floor can soak up stains in an uneven manner.

Heart pine has uneven graining, with the early wood being less dense and thus able to soak up more stain.

Latewood-  on the other hand – is denser and absorbs late stain. To solve this [problem and still end up with heart pine flooring that matches your home’s interior décor, I’d recommend  that you buy prefinished heart pine flooring. With prefinished planks, you can choose a finish that complements your room’s design.

Where to Buy Heart Pine Flooring

Now that you know what’s the best heart pine flooring type to install in your home, where exactly do you go to buy the planks? I’ve reviewed some of the best dealers you can try – with important reasons why they stand out for stocking and installing heart pine wooden floors.

Here are recommended dealers of heart pine flooring to consider:

Longleaf Lumber

Longleaf Lumber stocks reclaimed heart pine and has one of the largest collections of heart pine flooring products. However, their planks are from new growth heart pine, hence lower grain density and hardness.

You can choose from four grades when purchasing Longleaf Lumber heart pine flooring. These include Flatsawn, Quartersawn, Rustic, and Skip-Planed. The first two grades also have two subgrades under each of them.

Stonewood Products

Stonewood is a brand that’s known for selling a wide range of topnotch-quality home remodeling/construction products. Under their specialty wood product line, they stock reclaimed heart pine.

Stonewood heart pine flooring products are classified into two grades namely: Martha Mills and Tobacco Series. Under each of these are three more sub-grades- as shown below:

  • Martha Mills- Martha Mills Naily, Martha Mills Select, Martha Mills Prime.
  • Tobacco Series- Tobacco Naily, Tobacco Select, and Heart Pine Natural Plank.

The best thing I reviewed about Stonewood Products is that you can request for custom milling if you don’t prefer the available plank sizing for their tongue-and-groove heart pine floorboards.

Heartwood Pine Floors

This brand retails premium-quality heart pine flooring products, with some being as old as 500 years old. The antique lumbar is reclaimed from centuries-old buildings that are demolition-bound. The North Carolina-based company then recycles these old longleaf heart pine beams into elegant flooring that invokes an industrial-era vibe.

With years of experience and a commitment towards quality, Heartwood pine floors have a rigorous inspection process that ensures every beam entering their mill is actually longleaf heart pine. The beams that bass the test are then de-nailed, sawed, kiln-dried, graded, and milled into appropriate-size floor planks.

Carlisle Wide Plank Floors

Having been in existence for over 50 years, the Carlisle brand has grown to become an industry leader in producing wide plank heart pine floorboards. The company’s team f craftsmen and designers ensure the planks are handcrafted and detailed to the highest quality, and as per the specifications of the customer.

The best thing about purchasing heart pine flooring from Carlisle is that you’ll get something that fits your personal style. You simply have to share your creative design ideas with the team and they’ll do the rest for you at their New Hampshire-based mill.

Leave a Comment