Home Interior Design Hardwood Floors After Refinishing: Understanding the Cure Time

Hardwood Floors After Refinishing: Understanding the Cure Time


Refinishing hardwood floors is a fantastic way to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your home while also increasing its value. However, one common question that arises after undertaking such a project is: “How long do I need to stay off my hardwood floors after refinishing?” The answer isn’t straightforward and depends on several factors, which we will explore in detail.

Introduction to Hardwood Floor Refinishing

Before delving into the specifics, it’s essential to understand what refinishing entails. Hardwood floor refinishing involves sanding down the existing surface to remove the old finish and any imperfections. After sanding, a new finish is applied, which protects the wood and gives it a fresh, new look. The type of finish you choose and the conditions in your home will significantly influence the cure time— the time required before the floors can be safely walked on without damaging the new surface.

Types of Finishes and Their Impact on Cure Time

There are primarily two types of finishes used in hardwood floor refinishing: oil-based and water-based finishes. Each has distinct characteristics and drying times.

1. Oil-Based Finishes:

  • Drying Time: Typically, oil-based finishes take longer to dry, requiring 24 to 48 hours before the floors can handle light foot traffic. For full cure, it may take up to 7 days or more.
  • Advantages: They often provide a richer, deeper color to the wood and are known for their durability.
  • Considerations: Oil-based finishes emit strong odors and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during the drying process, necessitating good ventilation.

2. Water-Based Finishes:

  • Drying Time: These are quicker to dry, allowing light foot traffic within just a few hours and complete curing within about 72 hours.
  • Advantages: Water-based finishes have a faster drying time, lower odor, and fewer VOCs, making them a popular choice for households concerned about air quality and quicker turnaround.

Environmental Factors Affecting Cure Time

The cure time of hardwood floors after refinishing can also be affected by environmental conditions such as humidity and temperature:

  • Humidity: High humidity levels can prolong the drying time of both oil-based and water-based finishes. Moisture in the air prevents the finish from setting quickly, as it hinders the evaporation of solvents.
  • Temperature: Ideal temperatures for refinishing are between 60°F and 75°F. Lower temperatures can slow down the curing process, while higher temperatures can speed it up, albeit sometimes unevenly.

The Role of Wood Type

The type of hardwood can also influence how long you should stay off the floors after refinishing. Different woods have varying degrees of porosity, which affects how much finish they absorb and how quickly they dry:

  • Porous Woods: Woods like pine or oak might absorb more finish, potentially extending the drying time.
  • Dense Woods: Hardwoods like maple or cherry may not absorb as much finish, which can allow for a quicker curing process.

Practical Tips for Homeowners

After your floors have been refinished, here are a few practical tips to ensure the best results:

  • Avoid Foot Traffic: As a general rule, avoid walking on newly finished hardwood floors for at least 24 hours. If you’ve opted for an oil-based finish or live in a humid or cold environment, consider extending this time.
  • Furniture and Rugs: Wait at least 72 hours before placing furniture and rugs back on the surface to prevent imprints or damage to the finish.
  • Care and Maintenance: Follow specific care instructions provided by your refinishing contractor to maintain the beauty and durability of your floors.

Conclusion: Patience Pays Off

Patience is crucial when it comes to refinishing hardwood floors. Allowing ample time for the finish to cure fully will ensure that your floors are durable, beautiful, and long-lasting. Consult with your refinishing professional, such as Portland Refinishing by DeBuke, to get tailored advice based on the specifics of your project and home environment. Remember, the wait is worthwhile when you finally get to enjoy the splendid transformation of your hardwood floors after refinishing.