Southern Yellow Pine is a species that is native to the Southern United States and (as the name suggests!) is classified as a yellow pine (as opposed to white pine). The trees are cultivated across almost all the states in the south of the United States and they are even the state tree of North Carolina, Arkansas and Alabama.
The acidic red clay soil found in this region, along with the long summers and abundance of rainfall gives the pine the perfect environment for healthy growth. Lets learn a little more about what makes this wood so popular for usage in the home…
It’s Super High Density!
The growth rings in Southern pine are spaced extremely close to each other, thus indicating the high density of this wood. This high density makes it the strongest among all the different kinds of softwood used commercially. It is one of the hardest pine woods found and thus is almost always the recommended choice for floors and other areas like boardwalks, decks and other areas which have a high footfall.
Also, this variety of pine has low amounts of shrinkage over time because of its low moisture content and is hence more stable than many other types.
The versatility it offers coupled with the durability and attractive design makes it one of the most common choices for flooring. And although southern yellow pine is unsuitable for steam bending, it is easy to work with using both machine and hand tools.
It’s Super Strong!
The US National Design Specification for Wood Construction, classifies Southern Pine as the strongest among all softwood lumber species. The wood of these trees, (often referred to just as Southern Pine), are extensively used across the USA during construction of homes and many other structures. The natural golden color and its distinct wood grain pattern makes it look beautiful and elegant regardless of whether it is stained or left natural.
A few of the major characteristics of this tree which tilts the scale in its favor over other species are its high resistance to water, and the ease of pressure treatment compared to a majority of other softwoods.
It has the highest load bearing capacity of any type of pine and is also priced competitively because of the abundant availability. The wood has a high resin content which makes it naturally more resistant to wood eating insects. Its inherent unique cellular structure, allows uniform and deep penetration of preservatives that are used to keep the wood safe from termites, fungi or other micro-organisms.
As such, this is one of the most commonly used pressure treated woods in the country – almost 85% of all pressure treated wood is Southern Pine.
Southern Yellow Pine Flooring
Without doubt the most popular usage of southern yellow pine in recent years has been flooring. Its incredible durability ensures that it will last as long as anyone can expect a softwood floor to last. Some even go as far to say that it is one of the most durable woods you can use for flooring.
You can easily get 10 years of usage out of this timber when used for flooring – quite often it will last far longer. However the definition of “how long will it last” depends slightly on your expectations…
How long will it last without warping? – 10+ years.
How long will it last before it stops looking good? – It depends on what your tolerance levels are with regards to wood that is “too worn”
Just rest safe in the knowledge that if you are looking for a solid long lasting wooden floor – southern yellow pine is one of the toughest out there and will last as long as nearly any other wood flooring.
This is without doubt the main reason behind the popularity of this timber. The amazing yellow / golden tinge combined with its almost mesmerizing densely packed wood grain patterns will last for years on end.
However the advantages of this amazing timber do not just stop at being super durable and gorgeous… It’s cheap too!
Southern Yellow Pine Costs
Southern yellow pine costs considerably less than many other types of pine, mainly due to its incredibly quick and easy growing cycle (Although growing a tree is never going to be truly “quick”!).
For unfinished southern yellow pine you can expect to pay in the region of $2.50 per square foot for shorter length planks, or up to $6 per square foot if you want longer lengths.
Finished planks will cost you a little bit more per square foot – usually $1-$3 extra or so dependent upon the specific treatment you give the wood. However the additional premium for treatment of the wood should be the same regardless of plank length.
Regardless of how cheap this timber is – there is a growing market for reclaimed southern yellow pine flooring. Due to the incredible durability of the wood some people actually prefer the slightly worn and antiquated look that the reclaimed timber has. And it certainly provides a talking point when people are in your home. The cost of reclaimed southern yellow pine varies drastically – but you can expect to pay around 20% – 40% less than new timber.
Although 10 different species classed as southern yellow pine are cultivated, a majority of the time there are four major species which are preferred.
These are the long leaf pine, short leaf pine, slash pine and loblolly pine. Quite naturally, there are differences from species to species but their exceptional strength remains the one common factor amongst all. Products made from Southern Pine can be identified by its red-brown heartwood and the yellowish white sapwood.
The Southern Pine Inspection Bureau has pre set grading rules to grades all the four above mentioned species. The American Lumbar Standard Committee, Inc. has authorized the Renewable Resource Associates, Inc., Timber Products Inspection, Inc. and the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau to inspect and grade mark the Southern Lumbar according to the preset SPIB grading rule.
The different grades of Southern Pine timber vary in their knots, grains and splits which add value and beauty to the overall appearance of the wood. At the mill, each piece of lumbar is properly inspected by the respective authority and then graded accordingly.
This timber found its glory during the construction boom in the United States in the early 19th century when it was used for virtually all kinds of construction- from floors of houses to warehouse timbers to even in ships. Today, it is one of the most preferred choices of interior designers and architects and is used in all aspects of the home including – flooring, paneling,ceilings, door frames, window frames. Its often used this wood for decking, patios and balconies.
Southern Yellow Pine Decking
The versatility offered makes it the preferred choice in a wide variety of outdoor constructions. A few architects and designers have even used this wood for building stadium seats, gazebos, foundations and many others.
But without doubt the most common use of southern yellow pine for outdoor construction is decking. Its amazing resilance combined with its ability to look amazing even when worn make it a perfect choice. Just make sure to properly treat it as untreated and exposed to the elements it is slightly prone to splintering.
Southern yellow pine decking costs a fair bit less than many other types of decking for the reasons mentioned above. You can expect to pay around $1.50 per square foot.
And just when you think it is some kind of wonder wood and wonder how could it possibly get any better… Since it is grown in the United States itself, it qualifies as a green building material and thus is environmentally friendly too.
With so many positive characteristics which it offers and minimum maintenance needed, there is no doubt why it is predicted to become the most in demand lumber not just in the United States – but across the world.