Hardwood floor refinishing – Length of time

Video – How long does it take to refinish hardwood floors?

(You can read the full transcript at the bottom of the page)

hardwood floor refinishing - how long to refinish floors

One of the most common questions is I get is “How long does it take to refinish hardwood flooring?” Smart customers ask this question and plan ahead; others don’t realize the length of time and therefore need to postpone the project as they have not planned well.


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


First, it all depends on what type of polyurethane you use – oil based polyurethane vs. water based polyurethane (read this article for more info). The quick synopsis is that oil based polyurethane takes longer and importantly LASTS LONGER (and more people prefer the look of oil based poly and it’s less expensive. So for these reasons, I think it’s usually ideal to allow enough time to do oil based polyurethane.


Oil based polyurethane – length of time to refinish hardwood:

how long to refinish hardwood floorsIn general, it will usually take 3-5 days to refinish hardwood floors with an oil based polyurethane (+ drying time), pending on whether there is a stain/how dark the stain is/how humid it is and how many coats of polyurethane you apply. Often, when, it natural (no stain), with 3 coats of polyurethane, it can be done in 3 sequential days (allowing 24 hrs for each coat to dry) when the weather is dry/not humid.


Each coat of polyurethane usually needs 24 hrs to dry and a stain will need 24 hrs to dry…but if it’s a darker stain, it could take 36 or even 48 hrs for the stain to dry. So, in the case of a dark stain that needs 2 days to dry and if you apply 3 coats of poly, you are up to 5 days.


Most places can sand up to 1000 sq ft per day, so if you have a large area (e.g. 3,000 sq ft), you may add up to 2 more days. Alternatively, sometimes we can double up on the crews to reduced the elapsed time frame.


Hardwood floor refinishing - how long to dryPlease note that this general timeline can vary based on many factors, including the weather (if it’s humid, it will take longer for each coat to dry), the species of wood (pine and maple will often take longer and require a conditioner and sometimes even another coat of stain), type of wood (e.g. herringbone and parquet can take longer) and whether any other additional work is needed (e.g. repair work, steps, ripping up carpet/tack strips/staples, etc).


Drying time after the floors are refinished:

After you’ve refinished your hardwood floors, you need to wait before walking on them and/or moving (or returning furniture). At a minimum, you should wait at least 24 hrs before walking on the floors; for hours 24-48, it’s best to wear socks only (no shoes, no bare feet). Ideally, you should wait a total of 4 days before moving furniture back. This is to allow enough time for the floors to dry and cure. Can you move furniture back after 2 days? Yes, but I wouldn’t recommend it.


doggie socksFor those with dogs, it is best to keep the dogs off the floors for 2 weeks after the last coat of poly is applied. An alternative (which works for some dogs, but not all) is to try doggie socks. I know this isn’t fun, and I’m a huge pet lover, but I would prefer to have my dog wear doggie socks and stay at home with me rather than somewhere else. Many times, though, this can just be arranged by having the dog stay in another part of the home. Here’s a link to get some Doggie Socks on Amazon. (While you’re there, you can get some Felt Pads, too.)

how long does it take to sand hardwood floors

felt pads for newly refinished hardwood flooring

how long does it take to sand hardwood floors


It’s ideal to keep area rugs off the floors until your reach the 30 day mark for proper curing. It’s best to allow the floors to “breathe.” If you need to move area rugs back after 3 weeks, you can, but it would not be my recommendation.



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!



Time to refinish Hardwood floors ebony stain - Westchester NYBecause the refinishing process takes a while and the areas to be done and you can not have access to these rooms/nor move furniture in (and because the process is a bit messy and it smells), most people opt to refinish their floors BEFORE they move (ideal) or else wait until they will be away on vacation (for at least a week).


If you understand the process, you can plan ahead. We work with many new home buyers, and it is ideal if you can get the flooring contractor in BEFORE the closing, so that you can get an estimate and plan for the work to start a day or two after closing. And, it’s critical that you plan ahead so there is time AFTER closing and BEFORE you need to move in.


Many are able to schedule these estimates with their buyer agent when there are already planned events (e.g. inspection, appraisal, walk through). Other times, floor plans and square footage are enough to do an estimate. (It’s ideal not to burden the real estate agent with additional trips). It’s unfortunate when someone calls me right after they closed and they tell me they need to move in just a few days later…it’s usually not possible to do the work and allow for proper drying time. But, if they had planned ahead, we might have been able to solve and save them money.


Want to see the floor cleaning products I recommend?


Water based polyurethane – length of time to refinish hardwood:

Drying time refinish dark hardwoodThe largest benefit to water based polyurethane is that it dries faster. So, if you are in a huge rush, sometimes this can solve your time challenges.


It usually only takes about 2 days to refinish hardwood floors with water based polyurethane. (Some places will do it in 1 day, but I would recommend staying away from those places…it will last longer if you allow more drying time, and each coat needs an extra 2-4 hrs to dry.) You can usually move furniture in 48 hrs later with water based polyurethane.


As mentioned above, there are some other items that can lengthen the process (e.g. square footage, type of wood, rip up, repair work, etc.)



Final thoughts on How long it takes to sand hardwood floors?

How long does it take to refinish hardwoodPlan ahead for your refinishing project so that you understand how long it will take and can consciously choose whether you want oil based or water based polyurethane, and so you can determine which contractor you want to work with (rather than be forced into which contractor is available and which type of polyurethane can meet your time frame.



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!



Other useful flooring articles:



Color consultation for Westchester County


Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors, whether they are light or dark

Video Transcript for “How long does it take to refinish hardwood floors”

Hi. My name is Debbie Gartner, and I’m known as the The Flooring Girl.  Today I’m going to answer the question about how long it’s takes to sand and refinish Hardwood floors.  It is one of the most frequent questions I get from my customers, and it’s a very important one.


Smart customers ask this and plan ahead.  I can’t even tell you how many people call at the last minute, and as a result, they are in a bad situation.  They often have to postpone when they do this or reschedule, or they need to reschedule when thee movers will be moving the furniture or stay in a hotel or use an inferior type a poly.


All of  this is solvable.  You just plan ahead.


First, in terms the timeline, it depends on if you’re using oil or water-based poly (and I’m going to
be doing a separate video on that).


But, here’s a brief synopsis.  Oil-based poly will last longer, than water-based.  Most people prefer the look of oil-based.  It has a richer glow and timbre. I don’t mean it’s shiny because we usually do with a satin finish.  But, the water base has a much duller finish and the oil based is what you’re much more accustomed to you in terms that the healthy look of wood.  Oil based is generally less expensive as well.  For all these reasons, it’s generally ideal to use oil-based poly.


There are exceptions which I’ll get to in the video but at least keep options open right now.


In general, it will take 3 to 5 days to do the work plus you have drying time on the other end.  And, most people forget this in their time line.  This can vary based on whether you’re doing a stain or how dark the stain is (darker stains take longer to dry), humidity levels play a factors as well.  If it’s more humid,it will take longer for the poly to dry and can vary based on the size and scope of the job.   If you have 3,000 square feet do, it can easily take an extra couple days.   Usually when you’re doing natural, it’s a two- to three-day process; usually when you’re doing a stain, it’s 4 to 5 days.  Stains could take up to 48 hours to dry (sometimes 24hrs, but plan on 48).  If you’re doing 3 coats of poly, and a factor in day for each coat, you are easily at 5 days.  If you have more than 1000 square it can add to the timeline as well but often if you plan ahead, we can double up on the crews.


If there’s prep work to do before, such as carpet rip up and staple removal (staples can take a very long time remove) or vinyl and sanding off the adhesive under the vinyl, or if there’s repair work or moving furniture – all these can add to the timeline.   Sometimes just a few hours but sometimes it could take an extra day or two depending on the scope.  You also need to plan around Sundays


After the work is done, you to wait 24 hours before walking on it.  At that point socks ONLY.  At 48 hours ,you can wear shoes and at 4 days you can put furniture back or you can put the drop cloths down (if you’re going to be doing painting.)  You also need to factor in extra time before dogs can walk on the floor as well as area rugs.


If you’re doing water-based poly, the biggest benefit is that it will cut down the timeline. it would only take 2 to 4 days to get the work done.  Usually 2 days if it’s natural; usually 3 to 4 days if it has a stain.  And, then the drying time afterwards will be shorter instead of 4 days before moving furniture, it’s only 2 days.   You can see how it definitely cuts down, but it still takes time to do.  You still want to  done to plan ahead.


Things that can throw the time off:  The biggest factor is weather, and that’s outside of our control.  If it is very humid, it will take longer for the coats to dry.  Of course if there’s a snow storm work if you lose power that’s going to delay the process as well.


Also, if you have pine or maple floors, those can be more challenging to be refinished.  They take a little bit longer to do. And, also, if you have Herringbone or parquet, those will take longer as we need to sand in two different directions.  Or if using our dustless system that can also take a take a little bit longer for set up and maneuvering the machine.


Most people choose to do this work before they move into their new house.  Or, if they are already living there, they’ll do it while they’re away on vacation.  You can’t walk on the floors and it
is smelly and messy. So, the best advice I can give to you is to plan ahead. If you’re moving into a new home try in there before closing (with the REALTOR) if he/she will let you do that.


If you do live in the Westchester area or Stamford CT area,  feel free to give us a call..  You can find me at TheFlooringGirl.com or 914-937-2950.  We bring the store to your
door.  Thank you very much.


Refinishing hardwood floors – how long does it take?