Botanical Name: Pinus Palustris
Color: The heartwood of southern yellow pine can vary from light yellowish orange to dark reddish or yellowish brown. The sapwood tends to be a cream color or light tan.
Grain: The grain of southern yellow pine is highly patterned which can range from wavy to knotty.
Variations within Species and Grades: There are a number of pine varieties; however, most have similar characteristics.
Hardness/Janka: The shortleaf and loblolly pine varieties both have a Janka rating of 690. The long leaf pine has a Janka rating of 870.
Dimensional Stability: The dimensional stability for all species of southern yellow pine is above average.
Sawing/Machining: Southern yellow pine has good qualities for machining.
Sanding: The resin in the southern yellow pine can clog the abrasives used in sanding. This requires the user to perform frequent sandpaper changes.
Nailing: Southern yellow pine is well suited to nailing. There is very little splitting and the wood has a good holding ability.
Finishing: Choosing a finish that is highly durable can help to minimize wear in the soft pine.
Availability: Southern yellow pine is readily available.
There are many types of pine, even within the more specific category of southern yellow pine. The southern yellow pine varieties include loblolly pine, slash pine, shortleaf pine, and long leaf pine. While the color is similar in all types, the hardness and durability does vary by specific species. These types of pine thrive in the acidic clay soil found in much of the southern United States.
Southern yellow pine has been widely available in the southern United States since colonization. However, it was not until after the Civil War that major lumber production began to take place. During the early 1900s the South was producing nearly 50% of all timber being cut in the United States, much of it southern yellow pine. Production fell off until the 1930s when it was discovered that pine was an excellent source of pulp, perfectly suited for paper mills. During this time, pulp and paper mills began purchasing large tracts of land throughout the south and turning them into pine plantations. However, much of the land in the south had been devastated due to massive deforestation and unsustainable agricultural methods. By the end of World War II, the land throughout the south was in much need of reforestation, and the southern yellow pine varieties were found to be quite suitable. More large scale plantings began, and the quality of the pine and ready availability have made it popular through modern times for uses ranging from paper to flooring.
The easiest and most universally accepted way of determining the strength and durability of lumber is by evaluating its Janka scale rating. A Janka rating of zero indicates that the wood is much too soft to be used in flooring or for any purpose that requires a durable lumber. Conversely, a ranking of 4,000 means the lumber is extremely difficult to process and thus is not suitable for processing on the large scale flooring requires. It is important to note that the durability of pine depends a great deal on the type of pine being used. The shortleaf and loblolly have a Janka rating of 690. The Janka scale rating of the longleaf pine is a bit higher at 870. While both of these are softer than red oak, something of an industry standard, it is still suitable as flooring when finished properly.
Southern yellow pine is not remarkably difficult to process. It machines well and can be installed with either nails or glue easily. The one difficulty with pine is that the abundant resin found within can cause some difficulty during the sanding phase. This can be counteracted with frequent changes in the sanding paper, resulting in effective sanding.
Where to use
Because southern yellow pine has a rustic appearance, it is most suitable for equally rustic décor. Additionally, the low Janka rating means that it is less suitable for homes with a high amount of foot traffic, unless the wear on the floor is part of the rustic look one is looking to develop. However, if the rustic look is not desired, merely the color and pattern of the pine, a highly durable finish can make it more suitable for moderate foot traffic. As with any other wood flooring, it is not recommended that pine flooring be installed in areas that will be exposed to standing water or excessive moisture.
Care and Maintenance
While all wood flooring needs careful care and regular maintenance, it is especially important for varieties that have a lower Janka scale rating. The first step to maintaining the natural beauty of the flooring is preventative maintenance. By placing rugs and runners in high traffic areas, wear can be minimized. Shoes should be removed soon after entering the home to prevent heels from damaging the floor unnecessarily and pads should be placed under the feet of furniture to prevent deep gouges in the wood.
Proper care of the flooring is also important. While much of the specific care guidelines depend on the type of finish chosen for the flooring some basic steps will keep floors looking beautiful for years. Sweep or vacuum the floors on a regular basis to remove sand and grit than can scour the finish from the floor. Clean any spills as soon as possible to reduce the chance of staining.
Southern yellow pine has played an important role in the health of the ecosystem in the south. Initially, agricultural plantations and timber enterprises had devastated much of the land in the south. Pine plantations began replacing some of these areas in the mid 20th century. As these plantations grew to maturity, it was evident that the pines were healing the devastated environment. The pines helped reestablish ecosystems, improve water quality, and reduce soil erosion.