The term Heart Pine refers to the non-living “heart” of a pine tree, as opposed to the outer living layers, known as sapwood. A pine tree’s heartwood is highly valued and preferred by many woodworkers and builders, because it is strong, hard, and has a beautiful reddish-gold color.
Most Heart Pine is found in old buildings, built prior to 1900. This is because before the 1700s, the southwest United States boasted 30-60 million acres of longleaf pine forest, with trees hundreds of years old and up to 120 feet tall. These old trees were rich in heartwood, and were harvested heavily for many years. In fact, these trees were the primary source of lumber for building homes and factories until around 1900.
Today, there are two options for sourcing Heart Pine: Old Heart Pine can be recovered from old buildings, “reclaimed” and reused. This is an expensive option, but many homeowners love the look of old heartwood.
The other option is to use New Heart Pine: heartwood sawn from new trees. While the longleaf pines of old were allowed to grow hundreds of years and develop dense hearts, trees grown today do still develop some heartwood. True, younger trees offer considerably less heartwood than older trees, but it is available. This is what we call New Heart Pine, and it’s a wonderful alternative for the homeowner who desires the strength, hardness, and look of Heart Pine without the expense of reclaiming old heartwood.