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Reclaimed Pine Flooring Heartwood Colors

There can be confusion between sapwood and heartwood that has not darkened in antique wood.  As living trees mature they develop heartwood around the center. Pine heartwood has more resin than the surrounding sapwood.  As mentioned in an earlier posting the heartwood darkens over time.  In large antique pine beams it is common for this process to progress through out the entire piece.  Occasionally however we find beams that still have yellow portions within the heart.  These areas are called yellow heart.  The picture has a board that was just surfaced showing areas that have changed color and areas that have not.  The question is sometimes asked if these yellow sections are sapwood, but they are not.  The sapwood is on the outside of the heart wood. If you look at the curvature of rings and the yellow has heartwood outside of it the yellow part is heartwood. Over time the light heartwood sections will darken and blend in.

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Color in Heart Pine

Heart Pine

Heartwood vs. Sapwood

Words can have a variety of meanings when used by different people.  Wood science textbooks tend to agree on the definition of the words heartwood and sapwood.  Trees transform sapwood into heartwood by depositing additional chemicals in the wood.  The color and durability of heartwood make it preferred for many products.

In informal speech ‘heart pine’ (or sometimes ‘heart of pine’) is often used to describe wood products containing the heartwood of southern yellow pine trees. Traditional heart pine floors were all heartwood. Now many products labeled heart pine actually contain a mixture of heartwood and sapwood.   As the color of the wood matures the heartwood develops a much deeper color whereas the sapwood remains yellow.  The contrast increases between the heartwood and sapwood as the wood ages.  According to the Southern Forest Products Association  website ” there is no set ratio of heartwood vs. sapwood in the grading rules that defines heart pine lumber.”   The site goes on    “Of the 10 Southern Pine species, longleaf pine is most commonly referred to in the trade as “heart pine”. It is generally characterized by tighter growth rings, higher density and greater proportion of heartwood. Longleaf lumber is so prized it merits a special quality classification within the grading rules.”

The superior qualities of longleaf pine heartwood enhance both the appearance and durability of products made from this wood.