Pine Flooring – Houston. South Texas Flooring Company 713-660-9189 has installed thousands of square feet of heart, antique, and other types of pine (as well as oak & other hardwoods, of course) in Houston area homes over the past 21 years. Although oak has now become the standard species used for wood flooring, pine is still readily available. So why don’t we see more of it today?
Up through the 1920’s, pine was the predominant species used for wood flooring in the United States. Pine is not as hard and dense as oak, and it was easier for the mills of that day to cut, plane, and mill pine into tongue & groove floor boards. Most of the pine used for flooring back then was cut from trees that were 50-75 years old, if not older. But technological advances around the 1920’s resulted in stronger milling and sawing machinery, and the technically harder oak became more commonly used for flooring. Most of the houses built starting around 1925 or 1930 utilized oak for wood flooring.
Then, with the home construction boom after W W II, there was a tremendous demand for pine, not for flooring, but for framing material, and later, plywood. The milling process for pine utilized for these framing materials was much quicker and easier than that used for the more finished tongue & groove flooring, and the mills needed only softer, less aged pine for framing materials. In turn, the pine forest harvesters were able to harvest their trees earlier, and most pine today is harvested after no more than 30 years.
The younger pine trees produce only softer, less dense lumber, loosely referred to as “yellow” pine. The yellow pine can still be milled into flooring, but that flooring is much lighter colored and more knotty than the pine used in the older pine floors.
This brings us to the terms “heart” pine, or “antique” pine (both terms refer basically to the same thing). The trees that grew for a longer period of time in the past produced, of course, much larger logs, and the part of the log that was most favored for flooring was the center, or the “heart”. This heart pine was not only denser than today’s yellow pine, but was much darker-colored, or red-colored. Today, these large pine trees are not readily available, except possibly in the yards of existing older homes, or maybe on the grounds of the golf course at Augusta National. You won’t likely see them growing naturally in rural areas. But the older pine flooring is indeed still available, at least for now. So how can this be?
Today’s heart (antique) pine flooring generally comes from two sources: 1) it is “reclaimed”, or salvaged flooring from an older home or building being demolished, or 2) it is newly milled, or cut, from old pine beams or joists or other large structural materials that comprised the framework of an old warehouse or another type of old industrial building. Some of these old beams or joists, although rough-cut and 80 – 150 years old, are large enough and still sound enough to be milled into dozens of floor boards each, which are then, in effect, “new” heart pine floor boards.
How long before these sources are depleted? It’s anybody’s guess, but probably safe to say that this old pine won’t be around forever. Pine flooring acquired from these sources is not terribly expensive – probably 25-35% more than new oak flooring. But when these sources are indeed depleted, it may be that the only way to get heart pine will be to grow the trees for many more years, and even if some wealthy philanthropher / landowner-types decide to do just that, the cost would be such that the flooring would be too expensive and not practical for residential use.
If you’re interested in pine flooring for your home, call South Texas Flooring at 713-660-9189. We have sources, both local (Houston area) or other, and can generally have materials available in about two weeks. Samples are available in just a few days.