Carlisle’s Guide to Pine Flooring

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Carlisle’s Guide to Pine Flooring

Pine Flooring


Pine flooring has been around for centuries. As the most common species available to the early settlers of the new colonies Pine served as the main building material. Not only was there an incredible volume of Pine timber but it was also the most workable of species. Extremely straight and tall with fewer large limbs than hardwood species, it was easy for the colonists to hew a timber quickly into a structural beam or saw it into siding and flooring.

From the southern colonies that relied on Longleaf Yellow Pine to the northern ones that used the dominant Eastern White Pine timber, Pine is what built the new world. Even today the original pine floors can be found in historic homes up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Where once it was a practical choice to use Pine, today it is a matter of preference —so understanding what options are available in Pine flooring and why you would make certain choices is important to your design process.




Types of Pine Flooring

Eastern White Pine

One of the most common species of pine flooring is Eastern White Pine. Found in forests from Newfoundland to Minnesota and as far south as northern Georgia, Eastern White Pine was one of the single greatest resources encountered by settlers. Used for everything from shipbuilding to home building, Eastern White Pine quickly became ubiquitous in the interiors of New England homes.

Typically installed in very wide boards, up to 36” wide, and usually seen in random widths (meaning each board might be a different dimension), the simple grain and exquisite dimension of Eastern White Pine flooring was the hallmark of early American architecture and design.

eastern white pine floor

Today this flooring is still available although very few manufacturers offer it in the amazing widths of the 1700s.

Eastern White Pine Widths

At Carlisle we are still able to offer boards up to 20” and lengths up to 16’ creating plank dimensions unrivaled by any other species.

Typical width offerings would be all 7”,9” or 11” or random widths options range from 7-11” and 11-20”. Lengths are always random ranging from approximately 4’ all the way up to 16’. For clients who want to recreate the look of the original floor, going wider with random widths is essential. For a more modern design, you can use narrow planks and only use a single width. The more structured appearance of the seams between the boards lends itself to a more contemporary or modern aesthetic.

eastern white pine floor in bedroom

Eastern White Pine Grades

There are often different grades of Eastern White Pine. Everyone seems to have their own term, but to keep it simple you can usually get Eastern White Pine with knots (at Carlisle we call it our Original Grade) or without knots, Heirloom Grade.  All old Pine floors were made by simply cutting the tree up and putting it on the floor and included a varying size and quantity of knots in each plank. They did not make “design” decisions around appearance. Building was first and foremost a practical pursuit in 18th century America and the design theme that resulted was accidental to that process.

Eastern White Pine Colors & Knots

Today a vast majority of floors are trying to recreate similar looks and so they chose our Original Grade floor to gain the authentic appeal of knots. On occasion, a client will want the extreme dimension of Eastern White Pine but want a slightly more formal look.  In this, case our Heirloom Grade would be chosen.

eastern white pine flooring in heirloom gradeEastern White Pine is lighter in color and the knots are a reddish color that shows in contrast to the light grain. If finished naturally with an oil or water base finish the wood will remain light after installation but over time will develop a darker amber/orange patina known as Pumpkin Pine. Many customers will also choose to stain Eastern White Pine. Because it is a very absorbent and neutral color it is very easy to obtain a variety of colors that may complement your interior design better than the natural color of the wood.

eastern white pine floor in living roomEastern White Pine Textures

Another design consideration for Eastern White Pine is adding a texture to the floor. Although most textures can be chosen to enhance the aged appearance of the wood there are two that are extremely popular.

Hand-scraped Edge

First is adding a hand-scraped edge to each board. Historically, the original floors were sawn on mills that were less than accurate, and each board was a different thickness. To disguise the difference in thickness a block plane was used to create an eased edge on each plank. Often these edges were very inconsistent reflecting the rudimentary tooling of the day. Today we can recreate that same division between the planks using the same tools used 200 years ago! This is the quickest way to make your Eastern White Pine floor feel like it was crafted in 1776.

hand scraped edge flooring in bedroomHit or Miss

The second texture to consider is what we call Hit or Miss Eastern White Pine. To achieve this texture, we do not mill the boards perfectly smooth. Instead, we leave some of the saw marks on the boards that were created when the boards were sawn from the log. Each board will have different amounts of “miss” or saw marks. The original floors were rough sawn by a watermill and then hand planed to create a smooth surface. Although the goal was to try to smooth every board it was inevitable that areas were left slightly rough reflecting the round saw mark of an old watermill. Once installed and stained these marks become more visible and speak of a time when everything was done by hand.

hit or miss wood flooring in living roomEastern White Pine is Best For….

Of all its beautiful traits, Eastern White Pine has one that has created much debate over the years, the softness of the wood. Not only will it dent and ding but your large dog can scratch the wood. The debate, of course, is whether that is a drawback or an advantage. For people who want an authentic old New England floor, the dents and dings are essential. The floors act as a diary to the lives lived on it and if it could talk, oh the stories this floor would tell. Pine without dents just would not be Pine!

We even have clients that put dents in the floor prior to finishing to really create a historic feel in the floor. So, if you are someone who would prefer the floor to stay closer to its original installed conditions then Eastern White Pine is not for you as it is the softest floor we offer. Although the floor has proven its durability by remaining in homes for over 200 years, the appearance becomes more worn and lived in over time.

eastern white pine floor in dining roomHeart Pine Flooring (Longleaf Yellow Pine)

While homes north of Washington, DC were being built with Eastern White Pine, homes in the South were being built with Longleaf Yellow Pine, commonly known as Heart Pine.

heart pine flooring in grand roomWhat is Heart Pine Flooring?

The term “Heart Pine” is a generic term that refers to Pine boards cut from the very center, or heart, of a log. It is not the name of a species of wood. Historically, this term was ONLY applied to a board cut from the center of the specific species Longleaf Yellow Pine. Today if you are considering Heart Pine it is important to understand the source of the wood so you can ensure it comes from Longleaf Yellow Pine. It matters because the growth structure of Longleaf Yellow Pine is different than other species of Southern Pine such as Shortleaf Yellow Pine.

Longleaf Yellow Pine is very slow-growing relative to Shortleaf Yellow Pine, resulting in a much denser grain pattern that greatly enhances the durability and stability of the board. Shortleaf Yellow Pine is very fast growing and is typically used for things like pressure-treated lumber where overall stability is less critical than what is required for interior finish components like flooring.

Carlisle’s Heart Pine

At Carlisle, we offer one grade of Heart Pine which is our Signature Grade. This option will have boards that have knots, which tend to be smaller and black in color, and some that are relatively clear. This combination creates a very accurate recreation of the original floors seen throughout the South.

heart pine flooring in hallwayDifference Between Heart Pine and Eastern White Pine

The big difference in appearance between Heart Pine and Eastern White Pine is the grain structure.

Grain Structure

Heart Pine has a very prominent grain structure, while Eastern White Pine has a very mellow and consistent grain structure. In Heart Pine, the wood that grows in the Spring tends to be whiter when compared to the Summer growth which tends to be much more yellow. This stark contrast in the grain structure is enhanced if you are using a darker stain.


When it comes to color many people will finish Heart Pine with a clear or amber finish and let the natural patina of the wood age over time. This will create a more amber reddish tone as the older wood in each plank darkens. The most common color for staining a Heart Pine floor would be a medium brown or orange-brown tone, which recreates the patina of a floor that has been down for a while. This color also works to mellow out the sharp grain contrast.

heart pine flooring in entryDimensions

Dimensionally Heart Pine is not available as wide as Eastern White Pine. Typically, the widest width available is 11”. Clients either create an older look by using 7,9 and 11” random planks, or work toward a more refined finish by choosing a single width. Heart Pine floors should be very long. Ours are 4-16’ long, which again, helps recreate the feel of the original floors.

The final and biggest difference between Heart Pine and Eastern White Pine is that Heart Pine is extremely hard and far more resistant to dents or dings. 

Janka Scale of Heart Pine

Heart Pine on the Janka Scale, which measures hardness in different species of wood, is only slightly below White Oak.

Heart Pine is Best For….

For someone who is working to recreate some of the architectural styles typically seen in the South, or for someone who wants an original looking Pine floor without the dents, Heart Pine is a perfect choice!

Reclaimed Pine Flooring

One option in flooring today is using reclaimed wood taken from old buildings that are ready for demolition. Although a variety of different species of wood may be reclaimed, Pine is certainly one of the more popular choices.

Reclaimed Heart Pine (Reclaimed Longleaf Yellow Pine)

The most prevalent volume of reclaimed wood available is Reclaimed Longleaf Yellow Pine or Reclaimed Heart Pine.reclaimed heart pine flooring in beach house

History of Reclaimed Heart Pine

Longleaf Yellow Pine was used almost exclusively in the late 1800s to build all the large mill buildings that appeared prior to and during the Industrial Revolution as well as most government buildings at the time. The unique strength of the timber allowed for the creation of the large expansive spaces required as our society moved away from cottage industries and into more mass production.

Huge Longleaf Yellow Pine timber could span 40-60’ without support and still have the strength to support the floors above. It was said that there would not have been an Industrial Revolution were it not for Heart Pine.

As these buildings now fall into disrepair they are being dismantled and recycled. Thus creating a supply of millions of board feet of Longleaf Yellow Pine that was cut down over 100 years ago and has already lived a previous life. What makes Reclaimed Heart Pine different from Newly Sawn Heart Pine is the color and the character.

Reclaimed Heart Pine has already aged into the rich amber-red patina that the new wood does not yet have, creating a historic appearance the day it is installed.

Reclaimed Heart Pine will also have “signs of previous use”, nail or bolt holes, cracks, or hammer marks that are remnants of a life already lived. This unique aspect of reclaimed wood is one of the most dramatic draws to its use in certain styles of design as it is an aspect of the material that will never be found in new wood.

reclaimed heart pine in entry way

Reclaimed Heart Pine Grades

There are often a variety of grades in Reclaimed Heart Pine —from very clear vertical grain boards that would be used to create the most formal of settings, to very rustic grades with lots of nail holes and color variation. Our Wide Plank Specialists will be happy to walk you through the various options to find the best one to fulfill your design vision.

Reclaimed Heart Pine Dimensions

Dimensionally Heart Pine is available up to about 10” wide and most often done in random widths between 6” and 10” wide. It tends to run a bit shorter overall relative to new wood with lengths that range from 2-12’.

Reclaimed Heart Pine is Best For….

If you are creating a true Southern original design or if you want your space to feel like an old loft apartment, there is a grade and dimensional combination in Reclaimed Heart Pine that is for you.

Milled Barnwood Flooring

The other option when considering a Reclaimed Pine floor is using Milled Barnwood.

milled barn wood flooring in kitchenWhat is Milled Barnwood Flooring?

It is exactly what it says it is…Milled Barnwood Flooring is wood taken from small barns that are milled into flooring. What makes this choice so unique is that it is actually a mix of different species of wood. There will be some Eastern White Pine and Hemlock, Spruce, and even Red Pine in the floor. The blend works to enhance the organic feel and truly create what is a barn floor.

The wood is sourced from small barns that are beyond repair. They are carefully dismantled and salvaged to maximize the beautiful material. Like other reclaimed wood floors, Milled Barnwood will have nail holes, cracks, water stains, and other signs that it lived a long life already. The rich golden amber patina adds to the feeling of age, such that these floors are never stained and are installed and oiled to bring out the rich natural color in each plank.

Like Eastern White Pine, Milled Barnwood is going to be softer and tend to show more dents, but when surrounded by all the history in each plank these dents simply become part of the overall feel adding your story to the story of those who went before you.

milled barnwood flooring in bedroomMilled Barnwood Dimensions

Milled Barnwood is mostly installed in random widths from 6-10” wide as this is in keeping with the overall rustic and historic feel of the floor. With lengths ranging from 2-12’, once installed you will feel like you picked up a piece of history and placed it in your home.

Milled Barnwood Flooring is Best For….

If you are looking to create a rustic cabin, an old lodge or a western adobe feel in any space then Milled Barnwood is a perfect choice.

Why Pine Flooring?

There are many options when it comes to Pine flooring and it is possible to create a variety of design styles depending on the choices you make. Even within a certain species, you can use texture, color, and dimension to achieve any number of different looks. Whatever your design decisions are it is always important to understand the source of the material and how it is dried and manufactured. As with any wood, stability is critically important when making a wide plank flooring decision. Having confidence in the quality of the material will make the design to the installation process more relaxing.

milled barnwood in a master bedroom

Want a Rustic cabin, an old lodge or a western adobe feel? Milled Barnwood Flooring

Want a Southern original design or if you want your space to feel like an old loft apartment? Reclaimed Heart Pine

Want an architectural style typically seen in the South, or looking pine floor without the dents? Heart Pine

Want a durable, soft and worn wood? Want an authentic old New England floor with dents and dings? Have a large dog that could scratch the floor?  Eastern White Pine

Whatever your choices are remember that Pine is the original wide plank floor. No other wood flooring has been in use in America for as long as Pine. Each species carries with it a unique story steeped in the life and times that built this country. It is woven into the fabric of who we are, and it will always harken back to a time when everything was made one at a time.



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