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How to Buy Antique Heart Pine: Not all Heart Pine is All Heart

America’s interest in historic preservation has resulted in a tremendous increase in popularity of reclaimed woods. Independence Hall, Jefferson’s Monticello, the Brooklyn Bridge and many homes from the 18th and 19th centuries are just a few examples where antique heart pine has stood the test of time.

Buying the antique floor of your dreams can be time consuming and often, downright confusing. Because there are vast differences in terminology, grades, pricing and quality, this guide will prove helpful in making sure your dream floor comes true.

*Also See Heartpine 101

Where antique heart pine comes from

Before the American Revolution, longleaf pine…the source of heart pine…dominated the landscape in the South. Once the largest continuous forest on the North American continent, the longleaf ecosystem ran along the coastal plain from Virginia’s southern tip to eastern Texas.

Where there was once approximately 90 million acres, less than 10,000 acres of old-growth heart pine remain today. Put another way, what was once 41 percent of the entire landmass of the Deep South now covers less than 2 percent of its original range.

Interestingly, the few remaining protected forests are still the most diverse ecosystems on the continent, often home to more than 60 species per square meter. Open and park-like, these forests are just as they were centuries ago with a diverse group of animals and plant ground cover.

Groups such as The Longleaf Alliance and Association for the Restoration of Longleaf Pine (Goodwin is a founding member) are helping landowners interested in replanting longleaf. Unfortunately, the conditions for longleaf pine’s slow growth over hundreds of years will probably never exist again, so the reclaimed beams and river logs are irreplaceable treasures.

Why heart pine is the ‘wood that built America’

More than 150 years ago, you couldn’t go anywhere in the South without running into the naval stores industry, which tapped the longleaf for its valuable resin. Longleaf resin was used in paints, soaps, weatherproofing products, shoe polish and medicines and made the U.S. the world leader in naval stores until the middle of the twentieth century. Even baseball players used resin on their equipment and ballerinas on their toe shoes to improve their performance.
By 1850 the South had constructed only 2000 miles of railroad, so the best way to transport longleaf logs to downstream sawmills was to use the rivers. The common method for timbering was to cut trees with axes and drag logs with oxen or mule teams to the riverbanks.

As more and more people moved to the South, lumber companies began to take their crews further inland in search of more heart pine. Loggers dug manmade canals to carry the inland logs to the river.

As industrial America began to flex its muscles later in the 19th century, heart pine was transported in tall ships made of heart pine up the Eastern seaboard and over to Europe. The Herculean wood provided flooring, joists and paneling for homes and factories, as well as timbers for bridges, warehouses, railroad cars and wharves. Also appreciated for its beauty, it was utilized in Victorian hotels and palaces. Anytime you visit an old building, look around. You are likely to recognize heart pine still hard at work and in excellent condition.

One example is the pilings from the shipping port in Savannah built by General Oglethorpe in the early 1700s. When the dock was torn down a few years ago, Goodwin reclaimed them to provide an antique heart pine darker than most. Once it was milled again, the wood is the color of the heart pine floor in George Washington’s Mount Vernon…without waiting 250 years for the color to age.

Why river recovered wood is better

In our experience the densest and best logs were the ones that slipped loose from the makeshift rafts and sank to the river bottom. The cool waters preserve the logs in a pristine condition so that the resulting lumber is not only a more stable and durable wood, but a wood that is more alive and richer in color, just as it would have been 200 years ago. Today, just like yesterday, heart pine is cherished for its natural beauty, hardness and durability and will last for generations to come.

River-recovered logs also provide historical information not available anywhere else. The United States participates in an international effort to monitor the health of the world’s forests. Goodwin provides river log ends to a longleaf forester and dendrologist who study weather patterns from tree rings to determine the first history in the South…information that also helps provide a baseline for monitoring U.S. forests today.

Why the Reclaimed Wood Floor Association?

Reclaimed wood manufacturers have seen a ten-fold increase in orders and many more individuals and manufacturers are getting into the reclaimed wood business. The problem is that there are no standards to protect consumers. Standards for heart pine, for instance, were last published in 1924.

Led by Goodwin Heart Pine Company, a team of quality focused manufacturers have founded the Reclaimed Wood Floor Association. The association’s work to date has centered on establishing standards for antique heart pine, with other woods standards planned.

Why wood is better for the environment than other building materials

  • Wood product manufacturing is cleaner. Steel products give off 24 times more harmful chemicals. Concrete leaches a great deal of carbon dioxide.
  • Wood requires less energy to manufacturer. Brick takes four times more energy, concrete six times and steel 40 times.
  • Wood actually conserves energy. It takes 15 inches of concrete to equal the insulation value of just one inch of wood.
  • Antique reclaimed wood IS recycling. This wood can come from industrial revolution era warehouses and docks, old homes, cider casks or even river bottoms (where logs are perfectly preserved). Rather than destroying the wood that built America, reclaimed wood manufacturers put this wood back to work to enjoy for many more generations to come.

Why wood is the healthy choice

  • Wood is the perfect choice for anyone with allergies. Carpet fibers trap allergens such as dust and fumes, while mold can grow in tile grout.
  • Wood requires fewer chemicals to clean than other floor coverings.
  • Many doctors recommend wood floors for your spine and joints because it gives a little and is easier on your legs and feet.

Why reclaimed wood appears to be more expensive

*Please see the manufacturing process information.

What grain patterns of antique wood are available

Three distinct grain patterns are sawn by Goodwin Heart Pine:

  • Select grain is the most popular grain pattern seen in wood floors. Select grain is achieved by sawing flat through the log and results in a blend of both arching or flame grain pattern and vertical grain in planks up to 10 inches wide.
    Note: When comparison shopping, you may want to review the percentage of vertical grain included in the plainsawn product. Goodwin provides a high percentage of vertical grain—or about 75 to 85 percent in most plainsawn projects
  • Vertical grain is a pinstriped pattern achieved along the full length of the board by using what is called the quartersawing process. To obtain this formal grain pattern, a more intricate sawing method is used which does incur some waste.
    Vertical grain is a bit more costly than plainsawn wood.
    Note: Goodwin provides 100% vertical grain, with growth rings no more than 45 degrees perpendicular from the face.
  • Curly grain is an extremely rare, natural burled grain. This unique and luminous grain pattern is found in about one out of every 300-400 logs. It is perfect for a stunning conversation piece, inlays on flooring and cabinetry, or other areas of interest in your project.

What about special requests?

Goodwin provides a complete line of stairparts and architectural millwork, as well as wood for doors, cabinetry, fireplace surrounds and custom furniture.

Known for providing the finest grading in the industry, Goodwin Heart Pine is proud to honor custom requests. These can include projects that require specific lengths, colors or grain density as well as those that may need unique historical imperfections. For instance some logs have “cat faces” or scrapes where turpentine was collected on two sides, yet continued to grow. Other clients like marks such as lightning strikes that have healed over.

One woodworker designed a massive river-recovered headboard, in which he was happy to leave the original ax marks and gun shot holes. Yet another designer used the natural river worn edges of a curly grain log to create a George Nakashima-style desk.

What about installation?

We are more than happy to provide thorough information about installation of Goodwin Heart Pine products. We are not professional installers and therefore suggest you review all projects with your professional installer; or we can refer you to the appropriate professional organization.

About Goodwin Heart Pine Company

Goodwin Heart Pine Company was founded in 1976 by George Goodwin, a master carpenter and home builder. Intending to build his own home, George acquired some longleaf logs a fisherman friend raised from the Suwannee River and the rest is history. The rich red patina and amazing grains of this “underwater” heart pine, as well as the rareness and historical significance, became his passion.

Today Goodwin Heart Pine Company is one of the most well respected manufacturers of antique heart pine, cypress and cherry. They are the only company consistently delivering rare river-recovered antique heart pine and cypress of the highest quality.

They have won numerous awards including the prestigious 2002 Designer’s Choice Wood Floor by the American Society of Interior Designers, and Floor of the Year in 2000, 1999 and 1997 from the National Wood Flooring Association.

Based in Micanopy, Florida, the company provides a full line of superior flooring, millwork and stair parts, along with comprehensive industry knowledge and customer service. They have played instrumental roles in the founding of the Reclaimed Wood Floor Association and Association for the Restoration of Longleaf Pine and hope to ensure that antique woods are appreciated and preserved for many generations to come.

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“Goodwin’s wood has an amazing luster you can’t get with a finish. It comes with an inner beauty that shines through and can’t be reproduced. I love Goodwin’s quality and look.”

— Peggy Gilder, Interior Designer, Pacific Palisades, CA



“This wood has incredible durability and beauty..”

Don Bollinger, Author of Hardwood Floors: Laying, Sanding & Finishing, Board of Directors of Wood Floor Guild, President, Oak Floors of Green Bay



““This product takes a finish beautifully.”

Ulf Statmoal, Chemist for Loba Finish

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Goodwin Heart Pine Co.
106 SW 109th Pl,
Micanopy, FL 32667-3441

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+1 (800) 336-3118
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