Can you identify type of wood from late 1700's and mid 1800's??

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snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) writes:

Yeah concensus seems to be it is all pine except probably (possibly?) the kitchen.
It matters to me though not in a life-or-death sort of matter. First, in a "sappy" sort of way, I have really bonded with my house and take great pride and interest in knowing all the details of its construction so that I can continue to maintain and restore it.
Second, there are some areas of flooring that I want to eventually patch and other areas that I might want to match when we do renovations. So, it would be helpful to know as precisely as possible what type of wood I am dealing with. Since the wood is old, I would like to be on the "lookout" for acquiring similar old samples ripped out of other houses that I would store for future use in my house -- but I can't do that without at least knowing more about the type of wood actually in my house.
Thanks again to all for the help here!
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On 1/31/2010 6:11 PM, blueman wrote:

There are a lot of resources out there for old growth lumber, especially flooring. I recently built a house where we bought structural pine from an old tobacco warehouse in North Carolina through a broker and had 2000sf milled for 5 1/2" flooring for a total cost of just under $11k (+/- $5.40sf), delivered to the Austin, TX vicinity.
Which in my experience as a builder, is not all that bad considering it was exactly what the client wanted.
There were a number of similar deals on the web, so there was plenty to pick and choose from.
A good place to start your search locally is a retailer that specializes in recycled products of all types, like this outfit in Austin which brokered the above deal:
http://www.ecowise.com /
The advice to get an up close and personal professional opinion is sound, and you may find someone through a local resource like the above.
--
www.e-woodshop.net
Last update: 10/22/08
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Thanks -- all good advice!
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On Jan 31, 6:42 am, snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) wrote:

The 'elm' hypothesis is unlikely; that wood was notoriously difficult to work, and the time period suggests carbide saws were not in use. Old hardwood (of this vintage) could be American chestnut; it was widely used, before the blight took it all away. Or, almost all (there are reportedly some isolated stands remaining).
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For what it's worth, colors are pretty much the way it looks though perhaps a tinge to orangy (but not much).
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On Sun, 31 Jan 2010 08:50:32 -0500, the infamous Nova

Yeah, with tht exception of the first two, which could have been hemlock or just VG pine.

Nah, definitely not cherry. It's a vertical grain, but pine again. All the pics look like softwood. I had pine flooring in my old house in Vista, CA, so the look was familiar when I saw these pics.
3rd floor looks much newer/narrower, as does half the 2nd floor guest. The kitchen is newer, too.
Blueman, if you're having work done on them, check with several older flooring guys who'll have more knowledge about requirements for blending new wood into old. It's an art. I knew a younger carpetlayer who was fairly knowledgeable but he always used the older guys for at least a consult on wood flooring projects, and they always looked good.
-- Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will. -- George Bernard Shaw
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Looks like spruce to me. I think all the others are, too, except #2, which looks more like white pine.

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On 1/31/2010 12:06 AM, blueman wrote:

Looks very much like old growth heart pine ... some of it matched vertical grain (quarter sawn).
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Based on color and grain, I had thought that the 3rd floor hall and 2nd floor bedroom along with probably the 2nd floor guest room (and maybe even the stairs) were pine.
But I am surprised that the 1st and 2nd floor hall flooring is also pine. The grain is so much tighter and straighter and the color so much more orange (vs. the yellow of the other pine) that I was sure it must be a different wood. Could the difference all be explained by being quarter sawn?
The fact that the first and 2nd floor halls (which are the same as the dining room, living room, parlor) is a "better" wood and/or cut makes sense since the old-time Yankees were known to be "cheap" - putting the best wood in the most public spaces.
Similarly, the (new) kitchen floor looks very different - based on color, grain pattern, and presence of streaks of sapwood. I had thought maybe it was fir but that was just a guess. In any case, it looks very different from all the other woods.
Unfortunately, all the floors are quite soft and susceptible to scratching and denting... which would be consistent with woods like pine.
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blueman wrote:

And inconsistent w/ SYP which is significantly harder than the white pines.
I couldn't see all the pictures (w/ dialup the resolution was such as didn't want to wait) but I'd take Swing's take seriously based on what I did look at.
OK, I did look at the new kitchen just now -- same comment as before wish could see w/o the glare and the finish. It's outside possible fir; if so it should be significantly harder than the pine. But, the finish is such I'd not rule out pine--it's random cut; you can see some are pretty narrow quarter-sawn while other is face grain. The marked contrast there is a hint towards the fir I'll grant. Again, there's quite a lot of glare and the yellow cast is mostly finish/lighting I wager??
--
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It all looks like southern yellow pine, to me. Pretty common flooring in "common folk" housing straight through to the early 1900's (the 20's or so). It's harder than most pine and despite the "southern" designation, it grew up and down the eastern seaboard. The kitchen night be fir but I doubt it. The only 2 things that stick out about it is they are all even width (3"?) and there is some sapwood in it. All of the other rooms are all heartwood and random width.
None of it is cherry, for sure.
Ed
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blueman wrote:

I'm w/ Swing on this 'un.
Highly improbable for SYP at that time in MA.
Better would be to see an underside w/o the finish if possible access to do so but I'd be pretty confident.
--
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All of it appears to be yellow and or white pine, the kitchen baffles me a bit but I'd hazard to guess that it could be birch. (I have seen it that tight and that colour.) Second guess would be Douglas Fir in the kitchen. But it almost certainly isn't cherry.
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You have plenty of expert opinions. As someone who is a professional in old buildings I can tell you there is no way to positively identify a species from looking at it. Distinguishing between softwoods is especially difficult. if the timber is really felled in the eighteenth century it will not necessary fall into the categories of off the shelf building timber that you get today.
When I last spoke to a specialist in timber in old buildings he told me that the only judgement he would make with certainty by just looking at timber was to sometimes declare it 'not oak'. None of your floors are oak.
Tim W
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I'm a little baffled by the construction history. THe guest room and kitchen were built in the late 1700's, but the main part of the house in the 1860's?
I'm guessing the "main part" was a significant addition to a much smaller house. But the wood looks verrrry similar.
But it's OK, I'k often confused.
-Zz
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FWIW.
Your 1st floor is *exactly* what I have the hallway of my in my 1860-built home in Northern NY.
Yes it is softwood, but significantly tougher than modern (new growth) pine. Sadly, I don't know what species it is.
-Steve
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Yes - the "new" 1860's part is much fancier - Italianate Mansard. The late 1700's was probably more modest. Don't know the detailed history though...

Nope - you got it right.
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I vote white pine, quartersawn in the kitchen.
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I'm surpised nobody suggested getting a copy of Bruce Hoadley' "Identifying Wood" and a microscope & finding out what they really are. Hoadley is in your neck of the woods at the UofMass. at Amherst.
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