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How long does it take polyurethane to dry and cure?

When it comes to sanding and refinishing hardwood floors, one of the key questions customers ask me is “how long does it take for the floors to dry?”

 

how long does it take polyurethane to dry and cureWell this of course depends on the type of polyurethane you are using – is it oil based or water based polyurethane? And, this article on “How long does it take to refinish hardwood floors?” should come in handy for an overview of the whole process from start to finish.

 

For purposes of this post, this timeline is from the time the last coat of polyurethane is applied. Please note that these times are estimates and times can vary, especially based on humidity levels.

Please note that this article may contain affiliate links.  You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.

 

Length of time to dry for oil based polyurethane:

time for polyurethane to dry Oil based polyurethane takes longer to dry than water based poly.

 

  • 24 hrs before you can walk on the floors
  • Hours 24-48, you can walk on the floors with socks. Avoid shoes and bare feet. And, make sure your pets (who usually have bare feet) do not walk on the floors during this time.
  • 48 hrs you can walk on it with shoes
  • After 4 days, you can move furniture back on to the floors.
  • 2 weeks before dogs should walk on the floor (unless you get Doggie Socks which you can buy on Amazon).
  • It takes a full 30 days for the floors to cure, so it’s ideal to wait 30 days before putting area rugs on the surface. If you need to/want to put them on sooner, then 2 weeks is another good benchmark, but 30 days is better.

 

Length of time to dry for water borne polyurethane:

time for polyurethane to cureWater based polyurethane dries faster

  • 4-6 hrs before you can walk on the floors
  • Hours 6-24, you can walk on the floors with socks. Avoid shoes and bare feet. And, make sure your pets don’t walk on the floors during this interval.
  • After 24 hrs you can walk on it with shoes
  • After 2 days, you can move furniture back.
  • 1 week after dogs can walk on the floor (unless you get Doggie Socks which you can buy on Amazon).
  • It takes a full 30 days for the floors to cure, so it’s ideal to wait 30 days before putting area rugs on the surface. If you want to put area rugs back sooner, than 2 weeks is another good benchmark.

 

WAIT!
Debbie Gartner The Flooring GirlAre you about to sand your floors? Not sure how long to wait before using them? Avoid these common pitfalls that can impact your floor’s durability!

 

How long does it take polyurethane take to cure?

How long does it take for poly to dry and cureOil based finishes dry/cure in 2 phases. First, the thinners evaporate and the finish becomes tack free (see above). Then, oxygen begins to combine with the varnish and curing process starts. It’s the curing that makes the finish hard, durable and creates the full adhesion with the floor. This curing process can take up to 4 weeks or so depending on environmental conditions (e.g. humidity) and how thick a film was applied and number of coats of polyurethane. As long as the poly is emitting an odor (even if it’s mild), it’s still curing.

How long does it take polyurethane to cure and dry. what's the difference?

Other useful articles on refinishing hardwood and polyurethane:

 

Do you need a local flooring contractor?  Find one here.

 

Color consultation for Westchester County

For more info, check out my Ebook – Discover the 6 Secrets of Refinishing hardwood floors.

6 Secrets of Refinishing hardwood floors ebook

Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors

 

How long does it take polyurethane to dry and cure?

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28 thoughts on “How long does it take polyurethane to dry and cure?”

  1. Just had my floors refinished 3 days ago. My assumption is that they used an oil-based poly. We’ve returned to the home, but are waiting a few more days to put furniture back in, will wait longer for area rugs, as suggested. The odor is still very strong and I’m very concerned about spending too much time here (especially sleeping) with the toxic air. I’m ventilating the house as much as possible and will continue to do so, outside temp is in the 60’s this week. I have 2 questions for you. I’ve done a little research and am confused by whether I should be having my heat on, to help with curing, or just have windows open with the natural 60/65 degree temps?
    Also, I’ve read about fan usage to help the process along. Does that mean just using the ceiling fans in my home or should I be using my whole house fan that is part of my HVAC system? I look forward to hearing your input. Thank you!

    1. Beth – all good q’s. Yes, after 24 hrs, it’s good to open windows to reduce the odor. You house should be at least 65 degrees at all times during the process and the 30 days following. Otherwise, your board can expand/contract and cause issues with the poly such as white line syndrome.
      Fan (of any sort) help. Fans/wind, etc make things dry faster.

  2. I stained and urethaned a bedroom floor. Stain was 6 days down and dry. I put urethane ( water oil modified satin). I have white marks it looks like something spilled and ran at one time. The thing is the floor took the stain and the marks weren’t noticeable. With the urethane down these marks are very obvious. Can I sand down those spots to bare wood scrub with a good cleaner than restrain and reurethane to blend this in. A bit aggravated over all.

    1. Lori – Sorry to hear that. Did you sand 3 times, with 3 different grits? This may be your issue. And, yes, sometimes, you don’t see the issues until later.

      Unfortunately, it sounds like you will need to start again.

      If you have been trying this yourself, it may be time to call in the professionals. You’ll get a much better job and it will be done much faster.

  3. we put down poly can said 6 to walk 12 to dry 18 hours not even starting to dry can we strip it get it gone or am I and my cat sentenced to unending horror and cant use bathroom bedroom ever again? my bedroom furniture forever in living room We need to get this Poly OFF asap! to return to normal how can we do that?

    1. Lizellen – It’s hard for me to answer this without knowing any details. But, if you tried this yourself (rather than hire a professional), chances are that it wasn’t done right. I would call the manufacturer. and, yes, you may need to start all over again. You may also want to call a local professional.

  4. We are having hardwoods refinished in a house we recently bought. We just purchased some area rugs and pads, and the salesman said that rugs can go down 14-30 days after refinishing, but that we should wait 6 months to put the pads down. I have not seen this recomendation anywhere else. Our hardwood guy said both pads and rugs can go down 14-30 after the final poly. My question: should we wait longer to put the pads down or can they go down at the same time as the rugs? Thanks.

    1. Hi Chris. Yes, pads and area rugs can go down at the same time – they both have the same impact on the floor/curing process (plus you should never have a rug down without a pad).

      If you used oil based poly, you should wait 30 days. (But, if all lingering smell is gone at 21 days, you could do it then, but you are much safer at 30 days. For water borne poly, wait 14 days.

      There is ONE exception. If you have an exotic wood such as brazilian cherry, brazilian walnut, teak, american cherry, american walnut, etc, then you should wait 6 months. This has nothing to do with curing but rather that these woods are very photo/light sensitive. Most of the darkening takes place over 1st 6 months, so you are better off waiting on those woods, if you want to avoid “area rug spots” (i.e. you move the rugs and you have a “tan line” as if you went to the beach.

      I hope that made sense.

  5. Hi, really could use your help! We got our floors re-done May 19th so it’s been almost 7 weeks. There is still an odor. The contractor used oil based poly (Absco). I’m now 35 weeks pregnant and we’ve been living with my parents due to the odor. We stayed there for a week in the middle in our family room that wasn’t re-done but once we needed to turn the air on, it circulated the smell through the house. We’ve tried having windows open, ac on to reduce humidity, HEPA air scrubber, etc and it still smells 🙁 I think it’s gotten better but once we close everything up, the smell is still there. Could it still be curing? Humidity has been higher this summer and we were not monitoring this very closely in the beginning. Any tips to speed up curing if that’s still the case? I desperately want to go home before the baby arrives! Thanks in advance!!!

    1. Colleen – I’m so sorry to hear this. Yes, absco is a VERY cheap and poor polyurethane. I would never use that product nor work with an installer that used it. It seems to take forever to cure and for the smell to dissipate. I had a local acquaintance who had someone use this on his floors (he went with the cheaper option and he got what he paid for). After 3 months, he called me and explained that his house still smelled…and had same experience…the smell was everywhere including the laundry. They moved out and were staying in a hotel (I think for a couple of months).

      Now that it’s on your floors, the deed is done and it’s all about waiting to trying to speed up curing. I would think that keeping windows open, using lots of fans (esp ones that can drain it out – maybe some sort of window exhaust fans?) and dehumidifiers would help.

      I’m sorry that you’re going through this as it’s most inconvenient. I’m glad that at least you have somewhere to stay.

      Also, bear in mind that since you’re pregnant, your sense of smell is heightened, so everything smells worse.

      The only other option that I can think of (and you won’t like this option) is to resand the floors and use a more expensive water borne poly – Bona Traffic HD. That one has the lowest VOCs. This will cost you signifcantly more than what you originally paid, but it could be done. But, the issue you still may have is that the smell dissipated everywhere and may be in all the fabrics you have in the home so it may not solve everything.

      But, this leads me to another suggestion. Maybe remove as much fabric as you can. Maybe remove window treatments and other items that are easily removeable. This is me just brainstorming. Oh, and I would change all the filters in your house, especially in the AC/heating units. Probably in dryer, too.

      I don’t know why absco seems to take so long to cure…or at least in some cases. But, it’s definitely super low grade and cheap installers seem to use this to keep costs down, and my guess is that some of them don’t know how to apply the product properly and do a thicker coat of it, so hence it takes longer to dry. They also probably don’t allow enough drying time between each coat as they may be rushing and that probably also leads to longer curing time.

      I hope this helps.

  6. Hi
    I put down 3 coats of bona traffic hd. The weather in southern Oregon has been relatively hot and the room temp had been between 65 to 78 degrees for the past week.
    Each coat was allowed to dry 24 hours before the next coat was applied . The last ( 3 rd ) coat has had 9 days to cure . I have been walking on floor in only my socks .
    My question : part of this floor area will be used as an office type space and I have a chair that has wheels on it so I can move around as I sit and work .
    Roughly 6 x 6 ft possible max movement on that chair .
    I have read it’s best to wait up to a month before putting carpets down , yet I have also read bona traffic cures 100% in 7 days .
    I have put a ton of work into this floor and don’t want to mess it up . So would putting a pad and tight woven carpet down in that space be pre mature at this point ? Secondly if I didn’t put carpet or rug down . Do you think that bona traffic hd would hold up very long with just that chair rolling over it ? I tend to think any pad or carpet rug etc would greatly improve wear and tear . Hard to be patient but ….
    Curious what you recommend .
    Thanks

    1. I ended up getting a plastic floor protection thing for wood floors rather than carpet . Going to assume I have waited long enough to cure ( my prior question ) yet still curious your thoughts . It not any exotic wood

    2. Hi Joe. Yes, Bona says that Bona Traffic cures in 7 days. That being said, of course it is safer to wait until 14 days for water borne poly and each day it gets harder and harder. This is especially true of you did this yourself as you may have put on thicker coats. Also, temp should have been up to 75 degrees…so it may take a tad longer. It looks like you wrote this yesterday so now you are at 10 days which is much safer.

      I think you’re safer putting area rug (or plastic mat…see below) under chair wheels vs putting wheels on floor. So my advice is when you are using room/chair put area rug on and then when you’re not remove the area rug for next 4 days until you get to 14 days.

      Also, do a “smell” test. If you can still smell the chemicals, it’s not fully cured.

      You may find this link helpful as it shows you where to get plastic mat for under office wheel chairs as well as wheels that scratch less.

      https://theflooringgirl.com/hardwood-flooring/recommended-wood-cleaning-products-and-hardwood-supplies.html

  7. Thank you for the response.
    I’ll give you a little more detail .
    I used the T bar to apply the poly and what I noticed by using that was it was difficult to put a thick coat on the floor ( I wasn’t trying to make it to thick anyways ) the first coat I had about a pint left of the gallon for 380 square feet . I used that left over as a test on an outside deck railing just to see in the future how well bona traffic would hold up in extreme weather .the second coat I tried to make thinker yet kept to keeping it an even coat and again ended up with left overs of about a pint . The 3 rd coat I did the same thing and had about a quart left over yet overall coverage looked very good . Using that T bar I think is why I ended up with a pretty good equal coverage . Lastly I took that last gallons 1 quart left overs out of the container after it had hardened and I left it outside in the bed of my truck on some cardboard . I see the outer edge ( upper exposed ) getting harder then the rest I also see that it shrinks some as it cures . This quart of bona is about 2 inches thick and is rubbery yet the top does show a harder surface yet the bottom and sides are more rubbbery .
    I just wanted to be able to have something to check and that chunck of it I can let sit for several months just to see.
    Something that thick though cures white . So I understand what you mean by waiting longer if it was a thick coating .
    That said , bona says expect 350-400 sq ft coverage , 3/4 gallon for 380 sq ft I’d say was a good coat yet not to thick . Also giving each coat 24 hour initial dry time helped as well . Room temp 65-78 degrees implies evening and night temps yet room was rarily below 67 and each coat , the first 24 hours was above 70 for bulk of 24 hour period and at 78 through out most of the day . The 5 coats that ended up on the hand rail of my deck outside for the most part was dry to touch with in about 20 minutes and it has cured over these past 19 days as well and it has dried clear . I know bona traffic is for inside not outside .but in the winter months we get a lot of rain not to mention cooler temps etc… I just want to see how well it holds up for my own curiosity .overall I’ll say what is on my floor is very hard . I’ll take your advice though and put the plastic Matt’s away off the floor to help the floor continue to harden . After having those plastic Matt’s on the floor for the past 24 hours and rolling around on them over the floor I see no difference in the poly .
    I’ll pick them up when I leave the room yet use them when I’m working .plan is to put down the floor molding in the next few days ,( floor / wall trim ) overall I’d say I’m very pleased with how well this stuff has worked .
    Oh last thing , some people who claim the bona poly didn’t harden
    It might be that they mixed it yet waited to long before applying it to the floor , I have seen some of this stuff cure in water ( I had a brush I used in a few spots and filled Tupperware with water and kept brush wet yet found cured bona traffic hd on the sides when I went to use the next day ) also that last quart I let cure in the container had some residual watery left overs yet the bulk did harden even if rubbery at 2 plus inches thick .) No harm in understanding the products we use .
    Thanks again . My project is almost 🙂

  8. Overall 10 days of cure to date ( typo I meant 9 on railing not 19) yet today is day 10 , I’d suggest people use some of the left overs to put on a piece of scrap wood and add coats to it , you see a big difference with each coating and it is something you can beat up to see what this stuff can handle or not handle .
    I’m still walking on floor in my socks even after 10 days just because …:)

  9. Hi
    Just a follow up . it has now been 30 days since i put the bona traffic hd on my floor . that chunk i left outside which is about 2 inches thick has shrunk a little and is significantly harder then it was on day 9. no doubt that waiting 30 days is a good thing . ill continue to monitor that left over chunk just to see if it continues to harden further.
    thank you for the info you provide
    i found it very helpful when i was planning this project and it was because of you that i followed the steps and also decided to use the bona traffic hd 🙂

  10. Debbie, thanks for all the helpful info. I have been considering refinishing my floors this time myself- and was perhaps considering a marine fully-cross linked (two part) urethane. Both for reduced cure time and durability. But looking into your blog I see the duraseal Max. What would a two-part need in terms of dry/cure. It looks like you can put multiple coats on a bit quicker than one part. (These are Kona tiger wood and a red Brazilian sepele (I think. )

    1. I’m not fully sure what you’re asking, but my suggestion to you (if you want faster cure time and durability) is to use Bona traffic HD. This is 2 part. But, it is highly durable – best water borne poly out there. It comes w/ hardener, so it’s two part and maybe that’s what you were getting at.

    1. I would recommend them. You are better safe than sorry. Or, keep the dog off the floor for 2 weeks. (Be especially careful the first week). After 1 week, you might be okay, but again, I think you are better safe than sorry.

  11. Worriedaboutoxins

    Please help! My floors were finished a month ago with duraseal oil based poly. My house still smells so strong of the poly. It is freezing here so I haven’t had a chance to properly ventilate the house although I’ve had windows open here and there with box fans running (it hasn’t been consistent because it’s so cold out). I am 32 weeks pregnant and I have a toddler. We spent 3 days out of the house after the last coat of poly was applied but now I am just freaking myself out wondering if everything I’m smelling is toxic to my family. I’m also wondering how long it’ll take for this smell to go away? Is it going to be months before I can have fresh air coming through?

    1. Sorry about your troubles. Normally things don’t smell after 30 days, but perhaps since you’re pregnant and your sense of smell is higher, it may smell worse to you. Or perhaps you had you a refinisher who is less experienced and put the coats on too thick.

      You are probably okay, but I get that it’s easy to worry about things when you’re pregnant. I generally recommend that anyone who is pregnant stays out of the house and stays away longer. Normally, you can’t even move back into the house until 4 days anyway since that’s when the furniture can go back and usually the wife (if pregnant) would stay out a big longer (e.g. 1 week).

      Hopefully, when you are saying it’s cold/freezing, you mean outdoors. The temperature indoors should have been 65-70 the entire time (indoors) for proper curing). Fans definitely help and it sounds like you’ve been doing that. Also, lower humidity helps (but if you have the heat on, you should be fine). Try to avoid extra long showers for the next week or two as that might add extra humidity to the air.

      Everything is probably fine, but it just smells worse to you since you’re pregnant. To be on the safe side, I would call Duraseal to seek their advice.

      Make sure the box fans are expelling the air outside…often you may need to reverse its direction, so just check on that, too.

      I would not worry about anything being toxic to your family. These products are regulated and used in apartment buildings all the time. I would double check on things since you’re pregnant, and focus more on how to get the smell to dissipate faster since it’s annoying and it may be harder to sleep, etc.

      I hope that helps a bit.

  12. Flooringgirl,
    Are you familiar with Bona Polish and the hazy, cloudiness it causes on hardwoods? I accidentally put some down and it has dulled out and hazed my brand new floors! Do you know how to get it off, safely?!

    1. Ross – We don’t recommend that product, and yes, I have heard problems with it. I’m not sure how to get it off. You may need to do a screen and recoat. I would call Bona and see what they advise you to do.

  13. Flooringgirl,
    Just wondering how big a job is the fix if you accidently walk on semi-wet polyutherane floors? I understand this is the stupidist thing to have done, and keep kicking myself however the guys that did it failed to tell us they were behind schedule and when we got home we just walked right into the house. Only noticed after we’d padded through that our footprints were still there! The oil based poly was only applied a few hours ago however was dry to touch. I’m just after some piece of mind that it’s fixable!

    1. Most likely, at a minimum, you will need to screen and recoat the hardwood floors. This will take 1 extra day…then wait 24 hrs and restart your drying timeline for furniture.

      However, pending on how much damage you did, it is possible that you’ll need to either do 2 coats of poly or completely restart. I would have your flooring crew look at the situation and figure out best plan.

      Please note that they may not know until we try. We had a contractor walk on floors we had done and thought that a screen and recoat with 2 coats would suffice, but it didn’t and eventually the homeowner resanded the floors later when they were away. Thankfully in their case it was only the 2nd floor hallway and the contractor paid for it.

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