Southern Yellow Pine

Southern Yellow Pine (often referred to as SYP) is a designated group of four species growing in the Southern United States.

The four species are:

  • Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata)
  • Slash Pine (Pinus ellioti)
  • Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris)
  • Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda).

All share similar characteristics such as high density and an abrupt earlywood to latewood transition which gives them a distinct grain pattern. Microscopically they are difficult to differentiate; hence, they are grouped together.

Southern Yellow Pine is endemic to the southeast United States from Massachusetts south to Florida, and from Texas east to the Atlantic Ocean. They reach average heights of 115 feet with average diameters approaching 3 feet. Trees with heights of 160 feet and diameters of 5 feet have been reported. The tree is known for producing lumber with tight sound knots along with considerable amounts of clear wood.

Historically, Longleaf Pine was the desired species to be cut into lumber. Slow growing, it produced wood with very tight grow rings. It also grew large enough to create a heart with a distinct reddish brown hue. Longleaf Pine was utilised in all manner of structural applications. The tight growth rings yielded a very strong and dense wood that makes a very beautiful floor. Unfortunately, stocks all but ran out around the 1900’s and the Longleaf Pine is now considered a vulnerable species and is not commonly available. This beautiful wood can only be purchased today as reclaimed material from buildings or from salvaged logs from river bottoms.

Loblolly Pine is now the industry favourite. Fast growing, it is almost all sap wood. It’s also amenable for growing in tree plantations. Loblolly Pine is the second most common tree species in the United States after the Red Maple and it is the preferred species for pressure treated lumber.

All of the Southern Yellow Pines are hard, dense woods. Resin content is high, giving them a distinct odour. The grain is generally straight with a fine to medium texture. There is a distinct difference between the early and later wood pores giving this species a unique appearance somewhat similar to Douglas Fir.

Southern Yellow Pine works well with hand and power tools. Tooling should be kept sharp since the denser part of the growth rings can tear. Similarly, excessive sanding can ‘scoop out’ the softer material of the growth rings leaving a scalloped surface. The wood can be difficult to nail, but it will hold all fasteners well. If it is dried correctly it is stable and the resin will be ‘set’, minimising bleeding. It takes all finishes well.

Given its density and high strength, Southern Yellow Pine is the ultimate wood for general construction. It is utilised in house construction, timber framing, bridges, and the like. It’s also an excellent choice for flooring. For furniture, this species is underutilized. Most often it’s used as a secondary wood. But, its distinctive appearance is an invitation for all woodworkers to begin using it in finer applications.

Average Dried Weight 35 lbs/ft3 A measure of its weight at 12% moisture and an ambient temperature of 70°F.
Specific Gravity ..57 A measure of the ratio of its density compared to water (at 12% MC)
Shrinkage Radial: 4.8%,
Tangential:7.4%,
Volumetric: 12.3%
Radial (the amount of crosswise shrinkage);
Tangential (the amount of lengthwise shrinkage);
Volumetric (the total amount of shrinkage.)
T/R Ratio 1.5 A measure of the uniformity of tangential to radial shrinkage.
Janka Hardness 690 lbf A measure of resistance to denting and abrasion.
Crushing Strength 7,130 lbf/in2 (estimate) A measure of compression strength parallel to the grain.
Colour Sapwood is a pale yellow white and the heart is a reddish brown
Grain Straight with a fine to medium texture.
Texture Straight-grained can be figured.
Workability Works well, it glues and finishes with no problems.
Uses Construction, fencing, outdoor furniture, flooring

Southern Pine: The Original Green Building Product

When it comes to choosing a green building product, Southern Pine is the clear winner. And here’s why:

  • The first sawmill in the U.S. was in Jamestown, Virginia, almost 400 years ago; we have centuries of experience being green.
  • Wood is the only naturally renewable building product on the market. Southern Pine can be recycled and regenerated.
  • While wood accounts for 46% of all industrial raw materials worldwide, it uses a mere 4% of the energy required to produce raw materials into useful products.
  • In a life cycle analysis of building materials, Southern Pine is unmatched: our product begins naturally and ends naturally. In fact, studies show that wood is superior to steel and cement in almost every environmental impact category.
  • More trees are planted each year than are used as lumber; our forests are actually larger and in better shape than they were a century ago.
  • Wood is the best insulator against heat and cold, making it the most energy-efficient construction material. Wood is 400 times more efficient an insulator than steel.
  • From harvest to home, Southern Pine products are some of the most environmentally sustainable and regulated products in the world. They are manufactured and distributed above and beyond forest certification standards, such as SFI, FSC, ASTM, and PEFC.

Southern Pine: the only building product made – and endorsed – by Mother Nature.

All of the Southern Yellow Pines are hard, dense woods. Resin content is high, giving them a distinct odour. The grain is generally straight with a fine to medium texture. There is a distinct difference between the early and later wood pores giving this species a unique appearance somewhat similar to Douglas Fir.

Southern Yellow Pine works well with hand and power tools. Tooling should be kept sharp since the denser part of the growth rings can tear. Similarly, excessive sanding can ‘scoop out’ the softer material of the growth rings leaving a scalloped surface. The wood can be difficult to nail, but it will hold all fasteners well. If it is dried correctly it is stable and the resin will be ‘set’, minimising bleeding. It takes all finishes well.

Given its density and high strength, Southern Yellow Pine is the ultimate wood for general construction. It is utilised in house construction, timber framing, bridges, and the like. It’s also an excellent choice for flooring. For furniture, this species is underutilized. Most often it’s used as a secondary wood. But, its distinctive appearance is an invitation for all woodworkers to begin using it in finer applications.

Because of its exceptional integrity, South Yellow Pine is ideal for a wide range of structural and architectural usage, including outdoor structures (such as shelters, gallery frames, terraces, ladder trails, fences, and outdoor flooring), flower fences, docks, large stadium designs, and other wooden structures. South Yellow Pine has been recognized as the “world’s leading structural material”. At the same time, South Yellow Pine is also known as the most suitable material for preservation processing — its naturally porous cell structure allows preservatives to be absorbed deeply and evenly, achieving long-lasting preservation by providing resistance to mould, termites, and other micro-organisms.