When I originally discussed using knotty pine in kitchens, there were comments expressing concern about the wood’s appropriateness in the relatively humid kitchen environment. When I was at the Southern Spring Home & Garden Show last week, I ran into this company, Union Church Millworks of Covington, Virginia. They had some really gorgeous woods on display including “vintage knotty pine,” so I asked Kim Bennett Powers, the sales and consulting manager on hand, the knotty knotty pine question.

His response, which was very illuminating: In the 1950s, we grew our pine trees bigger… the centers got very hard as the tree aged, and we were able to use this center — it was called “heart pine” — for cabinets and other applications where we wanted hard, dense wood. It still looked knotty. Today, we do not grow our pine trees as big, so the wood never never gets as hard. So, much of the 1950s knotty pine really is a particular sub-category called heart pine.  Kim says that Union Church Millworks can still get you vintage heart pine for cabinets or panelling or even floors — it’s reclaimed from demolitions and the like. But it costs something like $12 a s.f. vs. $3/s.f. for plain old knotty pine. While we didn’t have a belaboured discussion about it, Kim thought that even considering the differences then vs. now, today’s knotty pine should do fine in a kitchen. That said, there are other wood species that have a knotty look but which are naturally harder.

One more thing: Woah, the woods they had on display for floors, paneling and cabinetry: Gorgeous!

  1. Lynn WH says:

    We are refinishing our heart pine cabinets, but don’t have the original doors. Owner had refaced with a nasty laminate and design. Now we are stuck trying to get new doors made to match. But of course, you can’t easily buy heart of pine for cabinet doors. Any suggestions on complimentary wood for doors? Anyone else had this problem?

  2. Rick S says:

    Lynn WH,
    you might look for a woodworking shop locally to make doors and drawer fronts. The local place may be able to find and use the same type of wood as the rest of your cabinets, and still compete for god price. Have them measure to be safe.

  3. JustJohnny says:


    I’m not sure if this has been covered yet? Nor, have I the time to read everyone’s comments.

    However, I would like to add my experience with Heart Pine.

    We bought a Circa 1900 first home, dwelling. In a small town in N.E. Pa. In 1997.

    The selling hook for, me after three lists of a frustring search was its 1950’s St. Charles kitchen with stainless steel countertop and imported Italian carerra glass tile. And the beautiful woodwork!

    After hearing about house’s history? We are a few properties down from lumber yard andup from original feed mill all just across from creek and a rail line that supplied both businesses with a chute.

    Both businesses were the first two in local area. This being said? We estimated our house to be one of first built and everything flooring is of heart pine.

    I love the look of natural wood. After st ripping carpet? I noticed that only outside parameter of floor was ever finished and large area of inside was rough and grey. Oh no: its ruined I thought?

    Turns out however, this was a common way of keeping an area rug from slipping without tape!

    After sanding, I noticed that finished floor was much lighter and yellow where as unfinished had a dark red and brown to it.

    But, once clear finish was started being applied? I literally had tears in my eyes if it’s beauty.

    My point? I do have one I think but, stalling because I forgot! Actually, Heart Pine if left exposed? Naturally darken to a deep red with some lighter highlights plus even though a bit more time consuming? Working a down to a finer grit sandpaper, draws a swirly and richer finish to which I receive compliments on.

    If I redo another’s floor that was never left exposed? The only way I can get only close to mine without a full staining is to pickle. But no where near my floors. OK I’m finished! 8+)

  4. lynda says:

    Just Johnny, I understand what you mean about the color of the pine. We had ours pickled for quite a few years because I did not like the orange color of the pine. However, over the years it scratched and needed a total refinish. After much research, we put on Bona Traffic in satin finish. The floor looks nice. Since it is a water based finish, it does not leave the orange look on the pine. If you have enough energy, you can finish the pine with Waterlox. It is a tung oil based product. We have it on our maple counters. Biggest problem is that you cannot get bleach or even oxiclean type products on the finish, or it will take it off. You can reapply oil on the floor with just a little sanding every few years in the traffic areas. We could not find a contractor to do the work for us and we were not up to the job ourselves. Good luck!

  5. ann says:

    I have an old house. Although we have renovated, the front living room & kitchen are original knotty pine panel. Would like to re-do living room to freshen up wood panels. They have a beveled edge & 6″ panels. Wood is dark we have not touched wood since we moved in 34 years ago. Is murphys best way to clean it. Just want to freshen it up. Still love it.

  6. Roseann says:

    We have 60’s pine paneling in one room but there’s a hole in the paneling where a heater used to be. Do you have a source for old pine paneling so we can repair it? I can send pictures. Thanks!

  7. Elisabeth says:

    The cabinets in my kitchen have been painted with a redwood stain and avocado green paint. How can I tell that there’s knotty pine underneath? How do I remove the stain and paint to refinish?

  8. pam kueber says:

    I don’t know the answer to this, Elisabeth. And please note: Please be aware that vintage nastiness — such as lead paint — can be in old layers like this — consult with a properly licensed professional to assess what you have so that you can make informed decisions.

  9. Mona says:

    We are building an outdoor kitchen and have some old reclaimed wood, mostly pine. I really wanted to use this lumber to build my cabinets. Can this old heart pine be sealed well enough to use in an outdoor kitchen? We will have a roof over the area but completely open sides. Also, we live in South Georgia. Thanks for your help!

  10. Josie says:

    I’m interested in refinishing my kitchen in reclaimed knotty pine wood also but I’m having trouble finding any. Could you help me.thsnk you josie

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