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)
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.
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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:
In 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.
Please 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.
For 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.)
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.
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Because 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.
Water based polyurethane – length of time to refinish hardwood:
The 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?
Plan 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.
DOWNLOAD YOUR FLOOR TIMELINE HERE!
- Can you change the color of your hardwood floors?
- Stain color trends on hardwood flooring
- Water vs oil based polyurethane – which is better?
- FAQ’s for hardwood floor refinishing
- Hardwood flooring trends
- Recommended cleaning products and accessories to maintain floors and reduce scratches.
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?
98 thoughts on “Refinishing hardwood floors – how long does it take?”
Great summary, thank you!
Hi floor girl are you married lol just kidding. I am planning to refinish my solid oak door sand it yesterday and want to paint it tomorrow should I have it flat or do it while its hung? Door is over heavy and I hate to have my house without a door overnight. If you have any suggestions please tell me. I want to a good job, thanks so much. Marc
Hi Marc. We don’t refinish doors, so I’m not the best person to ask. But, it seems to me, that it would be best to detach it so that you sand more evenly and stain/poly goes on/dries more evenly. Hope that helps.
Hi Flooring Girl…just wondering…I’m refinishing my oak stairs…sanded it all down with sandpaper…no chemicals as it only had a light coat of natural colour varnish. I have stained all the steps and handrails in a dark waterbased stain…waited 24 hours and am now applying a waterbased polyurethane varnish….as I’m applying the varnish, the stain is getting pulled up…does that mean I should wait for the stain to cure longer? any info you give would be greatly appreciated….Thanks so much!!!!
Marcie – Unfortunately, you may need to start again. You need to make sure that the area is fully sanded (which it may have been) and then apply stain, and then allow it to fully dry – at least 24 hrs…but you might even need longer, especially if it’s darker. You may want to wait 48 hrs to be safe. Then, apply the poly.
If it’s coming up, you will want to start all over again.
I’m not sure if it’s because you didn’t properly sand (you may need to sand multiple times w/ finer grits) or if it didn’t dry enough or both. Good luck with your project.
This is great information for those who are debating about refinishing floors vs new ones …. the time factor, as well as expense all weighs into play. I appreciate you breaking it down to types of finishes too.
Hello Flooring Girl,
I love the site!
I would like to add hardwood floors (replace white carpet) to a house that was built in 2005. The house has an open floor plan and already has hardwood in two areas that is seperated by the white carpet, the entrance and the kitchen. The hardwood floors are 3/4 thick by 2 1/4 wide. I am not sure if they are prefinished or were sanded and finished on site. The existing wood is not in perfect shape, but is very good. My question is, should I try and find a prefinished solid hardwood and match the existing flooring (I would have to take up some of the existing floor where it meets the current carpet and “weave in” the new floor in order to make the transistion from the new floor to the old floor look acceptable) or should I just buy unfinished hardwood to replace the carpet then have the entire floor refinished? Hopefully all of this makes sense. I would love to be able to match with prefinished wood since we have a newborn in the house and would hate to have to leave while the work is being done? Can you give me any advice? Also, if we do have to sand the existing floor, would you use a orbital sander or a drum sander (the existing floor is in very good shape). Not sure I could do it myself, but was just wondering?
David – Putting convenience aside (which in your case may be a very real issue), then I would try to do unfinished hardwood, especially since it needs to be woven in. And, I would try to refinish all of the floors so they match. That will look the best – it will be the most uniform by far + you’ll be able to get the other floors in better shape (so you won’t need to worry abt the for later). It also gives you the option to change color, if you want to.
If you can’t do it the optimal way (due to family conditions), then you could try to match w/ prefinished, but it’s not going to look right. I mean I suppose you could do this, and later refinish all the floors so they match. You could also see if it’s possible to do a flush saddle so that you don’t need to weave in. If you are going to weave in, you really should refinish so think abt the direction of wood/transitions in conjunction with method.
If you are going to refinish the floors, I would NOT do it yourself. That is a recipe for disaster and probably your worst option. Most people that attempt to refinish the floors themselves will NEVER do it again, and the quality will be poor…which means that you will need to refinish again soon and you are not really saving any money and you are getting inferior results. But, worse than that, most homeowners who try this actually permanently damage the wood floors while trying this, Not worth it. A lot a risk for very little savings (sanding is not that expensive)
BTW, it doesn’t matter if your current floors are prefinished or unfinished. If they are solid, they can be refinished either way.
I hope this helps. It would be easier if I was there and could see the rooms/layout and conditions of floors. I’m betting weaving in looks better, but you will need to make the assessment on aesthetics vs. convenience. Same goes with prefinished vs. unfinished. If you go unfinished, it will be smooth everywhere. If you do prefinished, you will have microbevel edges. And, finally, unfinished will give you more protection in kitchen area as it is fully sealed with polyurethane.
Hope that helps.
Thanks so much for the advice. We are going to install unfinished wood and have it professionally finished. Thanks again!
I think I need help…I did the new fad, Brown Bag Floors, and it looks great! However, after the polyurethane has been applied (and seems to be dry) we’re noticing that when we walk on it, in white socks, there is a tinge of brown left on our socks…….I’m assuming from the stain? Should we let it dry longer, or apply more poly? I’m guessing the process (stain, dry, polyurethane) is the same, so I’m wondering when you refinish/stain/poly your floors, you have a residue in your socks for a few days before its completely cured. The website I followed said it takes a week to cure, but that necessary light foot travel is possible, it it’s dry to the touch. Our bathroom and bedrooms are at the end of the hallway we did, so the only foot traffic we’re doing it occasional trips to the bathroom, and then going to bed. Other than that, we’re living out of our kitchen/dining room. Any help you could give would be GREATLY appreciated!!
Kelly – I have NEVER heard of that happening. And, either you did something very wrong when refinishing the floors (and you may need to redo them) or you have very dirty floors that are showing up on your socks.
I’m not familiar w/ Brown Bag floors (unless you are saying the color looks like brown bags), but normally when you use regular stain, it takes 24-48 hrs for the stain to dry. You need to make sure the stain is fully dry BEFORE applying any poly. (and if it didn’t dry before that, you probably need to start again). Then, you apply the first coat of poly and let it dry for 24 hrs, then you screen the floors and let it dry for 24 hrs. (you could repeat that last step for the last coat). After that, you should be able to walk on the floors w/ socks and you should not have issues w/ stain coming up on your socks. The stain is under the poly.
The curing has nothing to do w/ whether the stain comes off on your socks. It should not be taking this long to dry unless either you did not follow the process correctly or if you don’t have a standard type of stain. I did have a customer once that went to a paint store and they custom made a stain which seemed to be mixed with paint and it was a disaster and took forever to dry. They had refinished the floors 3 times before I got there. In the end, the floors were ruined and they had to be replaced due to the bad advice and stain they got from the paint store.
If this is a do-it-yourself job, I would highly recommend that you call in a local professional to take a look. Chances are you will need to completely refinish the floors and start from scratch.
Hi Debbie, You’re the most helpful and knowledgeable Flooring Person that I know. Just out of curiosity, what’s the approximate cost to replace a 1000sf wood floor compared to the cost of restaining a similar quality existing wood floor? It seems like replacement is a better solution, with no matching stain issues, less labor, less time and NO SANDING. Thank you and best wishes always.
Thx so much Richard. Replacing hardwood is much more expensive option. The prices can vary a lot pending on area of the country, but generally, it would probably cost 4-6 times more to replace the wood vs. refinishing it.
If it’s solid hardwood, more often than not, the wood can be easily sanded and refinished. It’s certainly inconvenient, but it’s usually has a huge impact on the home and very reasonably priced.
We redid our parquet floors in philadelphia after 20 years. They were sanded and stainded well. It happened to rain and snow and the poly is taking forever to dry. it is the minwax quick dry. last coat was sunday and it is friday and it is still soft in some areas. and a little wrinkled in some areas. we did two rooms. do we need to restrip and redo to get the wrinkles out of a few and will it just take longer to cure or did we just mess up the floors. it is sunny today..
Unfortunately, yes, it sounds like you probably need to start over and resand the floors. You should not have wrinkles. Often, wrinkles occur when the STAIN has not had a long enough time to dry before the first coat of poly goes on. Usually stain takes 1-2 days to dry, and it sounds like you didn’t wait long enough. (It could also be that too much stain was applied…this may also be related to the drying time). Regardless of whether it’s regular poly or quick dry, if it was applied too quickly, it can cause the wrinkles and since the bottom layer hasn’t dried properly, there can be issues throughout. (also, I would try a different brand of poly – minwax is known for stains, not poly).
I’m not sure if you did yourself or if you are working w/ a professional…I’m guessing/hoping it’s not a professional (since they should know better). If you would like a professional, feel free to call my friend Jeff Bell in Cherry Hill, which I believe is near you. (856) 616-9566. He is the owner of Floor Coverings International in your area, and he’s been doing flooring for over 20 yrs.
How soon is it safe to put down a rug pad and a Persian rug on newly refinished hardwoods? (Red oak, Sherwin Williams stain, not sure what brand poly…men used respirators while applying poly). Timeline: Thursday-stain and one coat poly: Friday- second coat of poly. House temp at 70 degrees, no one will enter the house until Monday 8AM (68 hours of drying).
Great question, Chris. I would wait a minimum of 2 weeks before putting area rugs down. It’s even better if you can wait a month. (I’m assuming this oak or a regular american hardwood…not sure if you meant the species is red oak or the stain color red oak (it is a stain color, too). If it’s an exotic hardwood such as brazilian cherry or brazilian walnut, I would wait 6 months…due to the darkening from the light.
Hi, I am wondering after refinishing hardwood floors, do you need to wait a certain length of time before installing area rugs, or is 7 days the magic number for rugs and floors.
Hi Geri. I advise my customers to wait a minimum of 2 weeks, but 30 days is even better. This allows the floors to properly cure.
Dear Flooring Girl:
We are out of our house do to Hurricane Sandy still and or lousy contractor has kept us out even longer. The flooring guy forced upon us did a lousy job and it has to be redone all over again! Are staircase leading up stairs including two bannisters are all finished oak and we ask the price to have those done to match the floors down stairs. He quoted us a ridiculous price and we said NO. Upon doing the floors down stairs his guys sanded the oak steps to the stair case and stained them the darker stain we have down stairs without permission. It looks terrible and we didn’t ask for it. Where do we stand contractually and legally? HELP!
What is he legally required to do to fix the problem? The contractor with his arrogant attitude said he thought he was doing my Mom a favor. Utter Garbage! Again please advise. Sincerely, We Wished We Had Had The Option Of Going With You To Do The Floors! Hindsight is 20/20.
Cooper – I’m sorry to hear about all of this. First, you should know that you are never required to use a particular contractor. I’m not sure if this was covered by insurance, but they are simply able to RECOMMEND and NOT REQUIRE that you use certain contractors. If you were in fact “forced,” you may be able to take legal action against your insurance carrier, but that may be a tough case to prove.
Second, and I’m not a lawyer, you should always go back to the written contract. That is what you and the contractor are obligated to. Now, if things were done differently than the contract and/or without permission and/or incorrectly (e.g. wrong color), the contractor should be responsible since you didn’t agree and/or they did not do things correctly.
Also, banisters are often more expensive than most people think as they need to be done by hand. If they are intricate with a lot of curves, it can get expensive. Most flooring places don’t do this work, and usually it is painters that do the work. It is possible that the contractor was subcontracting it to someone else and marking it up; it’s also possible that it is just more than what you are thinking. You may want to get an estimate from 1-2 painters to see how those come out.
I hope this helps.
Hi Debbie, Great site! I just had my floors refinished. He did a satin finish and left the floors natural color (red oak). On day 3, I moved in a piece of furniture with felt pads on the legs to protect the floor. It caused a dual streak in the top layer of poly. I guess it was because it was cured all the way. The streak is 6 ft log across the boards. Can this be fixed without having to redo all the floors? Can I do myself? I am just a homeowner, not a floor person.
Also, he recommended a satin finish to match my other floors (10 yrs old) that have a semi gloss. There is a big difference. Can I fix the problem by adding one layer of semi gloss on top of it? Thank you in advance!
Hi Cate. First, you are supposed to wait 4 days before moving furniture on top, so that is probably why you have the scratch. (or could be because you dragged it). It’s not a simple solve since it’s across many boards. Your best bet, if it’s light and hasn’t gone all the way through is to do a screen and recoat. This may also solve your other issue about the finishes not matching.
Oh, and the finish should have no impact on how gritty they feel. This could be because the installer didn’t screen before the 3rd coat. Or, it could be because he didn’t sand fine enough at the beginning. It is also possible that the installer used water based poly which is thinner.
Debbie, I forgot to ask- the floors he just finished have a gritty feel to them, whereas my semi gloss have a smooth. Does matt/satin have a different texture to them? It feels like they sanded the final poly coating. I keep wiping the floors to make the gritty feel go away, but it’s in to stay. Thank you!
how long should I wait after refinishing floors to put pad under oriental rug
Liz – I would wait 30 days before putting areas rugs (and padding) on top. That’s the full time for the floor to cure.
Hi there! It looks like you recommend waiting 30days before putting down area rugs in order for the floor to fully cure. Does that same rule apply to putting furniture down as well?
Thanks so much. This is really helpful info for our refinishing project. Now, we can plan ahead before we move in.
I’m so glad to hear that, Adam. Yes, one of the biggest issues with refinishing hardwood is that customers don’t build in enough time for the floors to properly dry.
Hello TheFlooringGirl, I recently had my floors done, but one area feels like the floors are rough, not smooth as the other floors. how can I fix this? the floor guy already left.
Hi Julio. Sorry to hear that. I would see if you can get in touch w/ your flooring person again. It’s possible that you may need to/want to do a screen and recoat which will buff/smooth the floors more and add another coat of poly. Chances are you will need to do the whole area or whole room.
i put ammonia and quick shine on my floor now its hard to keep clean to much trouble by the way my shine was going away is why i put on anything help
Elaine – Sorry to hear that. You are not supposed to use ammonia on hardwood floors nor waxes. Most items that promote shine contain waxes. You may need to refinish your floors to solve this issue.
Debbie – What are your ideas of a WAX finish vs a polyurethane finish? From reading several of your posts, I believe you favor oil-based polyurethane so I guess the question is double – wax vs. oil-based polyurethane and wax vs. water-based polyurethane. Our floors are select white oak that was wax-finished 20 years ago. Obviously, the heavy traffic areas are showing wear. We want to restore the color which is similar to MinWax English Chestnut #233. Thanks in advance for your answer. Lynn
Hi Lynn – Yes, definitely polyurethane over wax. Polyurethane is harder and lasts way longer and very low maintenance. With wax, you need to keep waxing. The waxing also degrades the poly so that you need to refinish sooner. Also, I believe the wax changes the color a bit.
If you want to restore the color, you will need to do a full sand & refinish. There’s no other option.
This is a great post. Thanks for share this post.
Thanks so much, David. Glad to hear that.
Beginner DIY mistake and I put down probably 3 times as much stain as I was supposed to on my first coat of dark brown ZAR stain. I’m going to continue to wait until it fully dries before I sand, turpentine and put on second coat. How can I know if it’s sufficiently dry to go ahead with process for 2nd coat?
We refinished our hardwood floors and used a walnut stain. It has been about 8 days and the floors are still tacky. What do we need to do? Can we apply poly even if they are tacky?
Barbara – Your floors should not be tacky after 8 days. It sounds like something went wrong (e.g. too much stain or poly applied/too thick, or didn’t wait enough time between coats). It’s also possible there is something wrong with the poly, but it’s more likely the former. You may need to start over. Is this a job you did yourself? Or was it someone you hired? You may want to have a professional look at it.
I just sanded and refinished my hardwood floors. I did not use a stain and I finished with a water based polyeurethane. There are still scratches in the floor even though the floor is very smooth. When I sanded the floor I used 60 grit then 120 grit. Is there a way to get those scratches out? The dining room floor is worse than the living room because there is wear at the entrance. Do you recommend I go with maybe a 36 grit for the dining room?
Hi Marie. First of all, you need to refinish with 3 grits, not 2, so that may be part of the problem. Typically, we do 36, followed by 80, followed by 120. If you already did the work and there are still scratches, you’ll need to start again.
Hello. Need help asap !! We did a 24 and 80 and 100 grit sanding . The floors were swept with a soft bristle broom and vaccumed .Applied stain, applied 2 coats of poly . We waited 6 hours before we put the second coat . Floor is very gritty .What do we need to do to get it smooth ?
Oh gosh. I’m not sure if you have used fine enough grits. And, not sure which species you have. Typically, we do 36, followed by 80, followed by 120. Assuming you used oil poly, you should be waiting 24 hrs between coats. (for stain at least 24 hrs but sometimes 48 hrs needed especially as it’s summer/warmer/more humid. You then need to buff before 2nd coat of poly.
If you didn’t buff before 2nd coat, you could try buffing and adding a 3rd coat, but not sure if it will work, since stage 1 was probably done incorrectly. In fact, it sounds like several mistakes were made, so you may need to start all over again.
Hi. I just had my floors refinished with a water-based poly on Thursday evening, and we were planning to move our furniture back in on Saturday morning. Is this a bad idea?
Lauren – I would recommend waiting until Sunday evening if possible (especially if it’s been humid in your area). 2 days is the earliest with water born poly, but I think 3 is safer. Also, wait a total of 2 weeks before you put down area rugs (if you have any).
Hello — We had new red oak floor installed and finished without stain. It has been just about 24 hours after the last coat (3rd coat) of oil-based poly and it is dry but the floor doesn’t feel that smooth to me. A month ago we had the same process on another part of the house and this floor feels much smoother. I wouldn’t say the newly finished floor is gritty — just not slippery like the other floors. Will it become more smooth over time with curing or should I ask the floor professionals to look at doing something now?
I would speak with your flooring people right away and get their opinion. They might be able to solve by doing another buffing and adding another coat of poly. Other reasons you could be having this issue could be that they are using a different type (and/or brand of poly) and/or it is possible that they didn’t sand the floors enough, didn’t do 3 times w/ progressively finer grits. They will need to look at it. Good luck.
Quite informative website, thank you, Debbie. Question: Is there a need for sanding the floor more than once during one complete refinishing process for hardwood floors? After watching the video for refinishing wood floors, I noticed he first used a 60 Grit Belt Sander and went across the woodgrain on a diagonal but then video showed him using an 80 Grit Belt Sander and he went with the grain of the wood. Which grit sander is better to use or are both part of the entire process of sanding floors twice?
Ellen – Yes, you definitely need to sand 3 times with 3 levels of grits. Otherwise, it will not come out right – the stain and poly will not properly adhere. Generally, you need a 3rd one finer than that – often 120, but it varies by wood.
It should be 3 times, not twice.
I really appreciate your articles and videos and often pass them along to my clients. Whether or not the floors can be refinished is a very common question when house-hunting and I just offer your site as an easy-to-understand resource.
Susan – Thank you so much. I really appreciate that!
Hi Flooring girl,
I just stumbled on your website- what a wealth of useful information! I recently purchased a house and refinished the hardwood floors in my dining room. I didn’t use stain and I coated them with water-based poly. I used a drum sander and edger and now I notice some roughness in the wood as well as some marks from the edger. I think the last grit I used was 100. After reading your blog, I wish that I had gone with oil based poly for looks and durability. what would be the easiest way to strip the water based poly from my floors? I was thinking of doing 80 then 125 to get a smoother finish and then coat with the oil based poly? Would I have to use the drum sander and the edger again? Or would a random orbital sander do the trick? I’m sure you’re busy but I would love to get your expert advice! Thanks so much!
Sarina – First, thanks for your sweet note. Second, uou’re going hate my answer Sarina, but most likely, you will need to start all over again and refinish the floors again. That will be the only way to get the poly fully off and convert to oil based. Most likely the overall issue is that you are doing this yourself and using cheap equipment (e.g. the ones you rent from HD). With those machines, your job will never come out that well.
Generally yes, you would go down to 120 or 150 grit or so.
Your alternative is to try to screen and recoat the floor. This MAY help smooth it out a bit. Please note that this will not help with a bad sanding job, but it may help a bit. Please also note that you will probably be much better off calling a professional for this, because if you try this yourself and don’t have experience with it and don’t have right equipment, chances are you will mess up the floor and definitely need to start completely over. Please also note that if you have recently refinished the floors, you will probably need to stick with water based. At 6 months, either should be fine.
Before you do anything, I would call in a local professional to get their opinion.
Hi flooring girl two questions if I’m tying new red Oak into existing 2 1/4 inch red Oak is there a possibility of doing wider and then narrower boards staggered say the 2 1/4 inch board and then a 4 1/2 inch board and so forth? Second question do you suggest conditioning or water popping to try to neutralize some of the grain in red Oak? Thank you so much
Sandy – You could do that if they are made by same manufacturer so that the tongue and groove will line up. the water pop is an aesthetics choice. I would test it to if you like that better or worse. You might like this better with some stains and less with others.
Can you do 2 coats of Jacobean stain to make it dark (er) then let fully dry and do the costs of poly? Or can you only do 1 coat of stain
Holly – You are MUCH better off doing 1 stain (and choosing a darker one). If you do 2 coats stain, the poly won’t adhere properly and can peel. Instead, I would try a 50/50 blend of ebony and jacobean (or some other ratio if need be).
We are having new 4″ X 3/4″ sawn cut red oak floors installed all downstairs in out home. We brought the oak flooring into our home three months ago and it was installed just two weeks ago..we are still waiting for these floors to acclimate to the environment of our home… The installer is trying something to help speed up this process..he put a sealer on the floor to trap the moisture and will be returning to keep checking the levels and hopefull be able to sand and start the finishing sooner this way. We live in Half Moon Bay California on the coast. Have you heard of this and do you agree? Thank you for your reply. Gail
Something sounds really wrong here. It should not be taking that long for the wood to acclimate. Is this a new home? Do you have the HVAC system on? Is your home sealed? Is this below grade? Perhaps this is not a suitable environment for hardwood. (BTW, if this is below grade, you should NOT be installing solid hardwood floors. Why did the installer install before acclimation was completed? The floors should never be installed before they have acclimated.
Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you. But, it sounds like you may have a major issue on your hands.
Can I cover my polyurethane floors with something that will protect them and will allow them to breathe during curing?
No. If you want them to properly (and quickly) cure, you want to leave the bare. No area rugs (or drop clothes, etc) until 30 days, if it’s oil based poly. If it’s waterborne, 15 days should suffice. Furniture is generally okay after 4 days (as it doesn’t smother the floor).
Hello! Your site has been very helpful. We just bought a house and are having the floors done before we move in. Learning what we did today, we are pushing moving day back 2 weeks and letting the inside of the house sit and dry.
Aside from that note, what do you recommend for cleaning the floors? Also, how long should we wait before cleaning it? It’s the original wood, house built in 1936, and it’s gorgeous. We are having the polyurethane finish done right now. I’ve never done more than dust mopping with a dry cloth or vacuuming hard wood floors, but would like to get in there and keep it nice, which probably requires something more akin to mopping?? I’m new to nice wood floors. Thanks so much!
Hi Erin. I’d recommend Bona Hardwood cleaner for the floors. See this article which has a link to where you can buy it on Amazon (as well as other useful items such as felt pads).
I would prob wait 4 days before cleaning. Use microfiber pad or swiffer, not a mop. You don’t want to soak the floors as that can ruin them. Hope that helps.
We just bought an old home with original cherry floors. My husband sanded the floor 3 times with grits 35, 80 and 100. We swept and vacuumed many times then used a tack cloth. Put on a dark chestnut oil based stain. We ran air conditioning and fans. (We applied the stain with a Varethane mop head and then wiped with a rag). Was this a mistake? It is still tacky today, which is 24 hours. We did not go ahead with the oil poly. What would you suggest? We have to move in this week and are just sick about all the work we did already. Please help soon! Thanks so much!
At this point, you’ll just need to wait. Often, it takes 48 hrs for the stain to dry, especially if you used Minwax. Also, many do-it-yourselfers don’t sand or apply stain correctly (e.g. it may be too thick) and often things take much longer when you do it yourself. Or, it may just be humid and/or too hot in the house (make sure the temp is between 65 and 75 and temperature controlled. I would wait another 24 hrs and if it’s not dry, then I would call in a local professional to look at and advise. Be prepared that you may need to start all over again and call in the professionals to do it right. I can’t tell from here.
Please note that very few do-it-yourselfers are able to sand floors correctly (perhaps maybe 1 in 10) and if you are renting a home depot or cheap machine, I would not expect good results. And, bear in mind that cherry is a very soft wood and even more challenging to sand, especially for amateurs. Please also note that cherry is expensive and at some point, if it’s not working you will probably want to pay someone to do it right (vs. risking having to replace the floors.
Right now, you will just need to wait…and then from there, you may need to make some challenging choices, including postponing your move.
Oh, and just a heads up, I don’t think you’ll be able to move in this week, even if all goes well. The soonest you’ll be finished is Thursday (or maybe Friday) and from there, you’ll need to wait 4 days before moving in your furniture.
So I sanded down my red oak floors to 120 and applied a (too thick) layer of minway oil based satin — 24 hours later attempted to buff and found two gummy spots. Temp in the house is 78 and humidity is high — should I just wait it out for another 24-48 hours and try to buff again?
I hate to say this Matt, but you’re probably going to have to start again. Also, assuming you did natural, you don’t buff until the 3rd coat of poly, not 2nd. You’re welcome to try and wait and see if it works, but I’m kind of doubting it will.
Hi ! I can’t find any information on this. Because of a car accident I sleep on a double high queen size air bed. The bottom is vinyl. my floor was refinished with water-based urethane.
how long do I need to wait before I can put that bed back in my room? it’s not an area rug, but it’s in a small bedroom and probably as large as an area rug for that room would be. when I treat the air bed the same as an area rug or can I put a sheet or blanket down underneath of it? I don’t really want to wait a month to put the bed back in my room!
also, what about things like with your clothes hampers with a flat bottom, and shoeboxes in the closet? floors were refinished there too. Thank you for your help!
Hi Tom. If you have a vinyl bottom to bed/bed is smothering the floors in the same way that an area rug would, I would say treat it as an area rug. Since you did water based, that would mean wait 2 weeks. That being said, if you feel the odor is completely gone from room and you really need to get back in this room, you can try 1 week. For boxes, shoes, etc, I’d say wait 3-4 days.
I am planning on putting refreshing my oak floor and wanted to use a tinted water based Ppolyeurethane produce. Any experience with the tinted polyeurethane?
Generally, the tinted polyurethanes don’t hold up as well. If you do this, definitely do an extra layer. We have occasionally mixed in a bit of tint to the top layer of poly when the customer wants the floor a tad darker. This may happen after they’ve selected/approved their stain, but then have second thoughts after and want it a bit darker. We would only add it to top layer (for proper adhesion).
Generally, the tinted polyurethanes don’t hold up as well. If you do this, definitely do an extra layer. We have occasionally mixed in a bit of tint to the top layer of poly when the customer wants the floor a tad darker. This may happen after they’ve selected/approved their stain, but then have second thoughts after and want it a bit darker. We would only add it to top layer (for proper adhesion).
How long do I need to wait to put the doggie bed on my refinished floor? Is it the same as a rug (2 weeks – a month) or do you consider it furniture?
Yes, I would treat it like an area rug and wait a minimum of 2 weeks. Make sure the smell has completely gone away. Also, you may want to move it around for weeks 3-4.
We just had our floors refinished. Poly was put down yesterday at noon and the floor guy said we could walk on it today. I walked on it (socks only) this morning. It was still a bit tacky in areas and it left a light footprint in some areas. Will we be able to simply clean the footprints with Bona, or will he have to come back screen and put poly on those areas?
Hi Kurt. I could have sworn that I answered this question a few days ago. Anyway, you should be waiting 24 hrs before walking on the floor w/ socks, and more if it’s humid. No, the cleaner will not solve this problem. Most likely, they will need to screen and recoat to get rid of this. Occasionally, this doesn’t work as it’s deeper. (We had a customer where a contractor created footprints and tried to fix the issue with screen and recoat. It’s hard to say if they just didn’t do it right of if it was too deep). Later, we screened a 2nd time and it was better, but not perfect. Then, she eventually had us full sand and refinish the area (it was a hallway to all the bedrooms so it was rather inconvenient for her. Of course, she charged the contractor for their mess up. In this case, you will probably need to pay your contractor to fix it. Sorry, I wish I had better news to share. Either screen and recoat or buy an area rug. (But wait 30 days for that area rug).
We just had our floors refinished. Our flooring guy finished around 2 yesterday, and said to let it dry overnight. I walked on it this morning (socks only) and it was still a little tacky. There were a few spots where a footprint showed up. Will this come out by cleaning the floors or will he need to come back to buff and poly the area again?
Kurtis – Generally, with oil based poly, you need to wait 24 hrs before walking on the floor. If it’s very humid, you may need to wait longer. If there are now footprints, you’ll need to buff and recoat. It will not come out with cleaning.
We just refinished our hardwood floors my question is how long do we wait before we can clean the floors.(I have a steam floor cleaner)
Wanda – I would probably wait at least 4 days for that…and probably 30 days. I would call the manufacturer of the steam cleaner. In general steam cleaners are not good for wood and can ruin the floors, especially from the heat. I know the manufacturers of the steam cleaners will tell you otherwise but their usage will invalidate all hardwood manufacturer warranties, so that should be telling you something. I would recommend use Bona cleaner with a swiffer or microfiber mark at 4 day mark and wait at least 30 days before using the steam cleaner if at all.
If the floors were just done and there is some dust, for the days 2-4 try swiffer only and no liquid of any sort. Better safe than sorry.
My landlord just refinished the floors and we have been staying away while it dries. We live in Washington state and its been raining a lot. Each day we return, the smell is still VERY strong. I’m 20 weeks pregnant and have two young children. Curious if you know how to gage the safety of our return with chemicals? Should their be no smell left? Is there a general time frame for drying in a humid climate during the winter? It seems like a very poor time to do such a project. I appreciate any expertise on the matter. Thank you!
Erica – Bear in mind that as you are pregnant, your sense of smell is stronger. Normally, most of the smell dissipates after 3-4 days. It can take longer if it’s humid. It would help if you can open the windows (as long as it isn’t raining) and also use fan. Bear in mind that 3-4 days is what we normally see, but it can be longer if it’s humid, and it could be significantly longer if a cheap polyurethane was used, and for you personally, the smell may linger more. I hope that helps.
Hi there! Thanks so much for publishing such an informative site. I’ve been trying to formulate an answer to my question based on your previous replies, but I think it may be easier just to ask… We’re having our floors refinished as we speak and the contractor has indicated they will finish up by Thursday at the latest. Our movers are moving us in on Sunday and we have furniture/boxes that are destined for each room. I wanted to allow for the installation and painting of moldings to follow, so our original thought was to drop the contents of each room in the center (possibly after covering the floors with kraft paper to protect) however now I am concerned about curing etc. Should we 1) proceed as planned with/without covering floors; or 2) try to temporarily store the contents of those rooms elsewhere where the floors have not been refinished and leave the floors alone for some time. If the latter, is there a time when protective paper could be put down safely? Thanks so much!
Wait 4 full days before putting anything such as furniture, boxes, paper or drop cloths. If you can store boxes in non wood areas that is ideal (e.g. bathrooms, kitchen (on counters, too), tile areas, basements, etc. If they finish Thurs, it’s most likely Thur afternoon, so Friday is Day 1, Sat day 2, Sun day 3, Mon day 4, so Tues morning is good to do any of these things. (This assumes it’s oil based. If water borne, take 1 day off of that). Most likely you will need to wait for the base molding/painting and do under same timeline…unless they will not be using drop cloths (which I kind of doubt). Theoretically, you could have a contractor come in after 2 full days (in this case Sunday) and install base molding carefully and if they are not using shoes, but painting should wait. And, they may want to do both at same time fore efficiencies.
Whatever you do, make sure there is NO tape (of any type) on the floor. It will remove the poly. drop cloths are better.
Also, BTW, Cardboard boxes prob have more of an impact on curing than furniture does as it smothers the surface more.
After you put furniture in, whenever you can put boxes on top of furniture, that will be easier for floors (and your back).
Sorry that this is a pain, but I’m giving you advice based on best practice and in my opinion, it’s better safe than sorry.
Thank you so much for the quick and detailed reply! I would prefer it be a pain than make a costly mistake…
You’re welcome, Blake. Yes, I agree, better safe than sorry. Thanks for stopping back. I really appreciate that.
HI, I am looking to have my hardwood floors sanded and refinished with a dark stain. The wood is either red or white oak (possibly mixed).
I got 6 quotes and everyone is either using different products and procedures. Some of the cheaper quotes were using Minwax Dura seal stain with Absco (Oil based poly) while the higher end quotes were using Fabulon Stain with Bona Mega Clear HD (water based). Is there a big difference in these?
Most were suggesting 3 coats and only giving 24 hours to dry between coats.
Also what is your opion of the “water Pop” method?
First, Duraseal stain is best. You can read more in this recent article. https://theflooringgirl.com/hardwood-flooring/minwax-vs-duraseal-stain-better-hardwood-floors.html
Second, yes, I’d recommend 3 coats of poly.
Third, 24 hrs between each coat of poly is sufficient (unless they use minwax stain…in which case you may need to wait longer for 1st coat of poly…as you’ll see in the article). If they are using water poly, then they can go sooner between coats.
Bona Mega is certainly more expensive than oil based poly (BUT, doesn’t hold up as well). If you do water based, I’d recommend Bona Traffic HD (see more here: https://theflooringgirl.com/hardwood-flooring/which-are-the-best-polyurethane-brands-for-floors-which-do-i-recommend.html
I would avoid Absco like the plague.
Finally water pop is great, but costs more. If someone wants to water pop, it’s a sign that they are excellent at their craft. You can read more about water popping here: https://theflooringgirl.com/blog/water-popping-hardwood-floors-advantages-when-does-it-make-sense.html
I hope this helps. (and, I’m not surprised that you are getting different estimates…scope of work is different.)
I am thinking of sanding real oak click together flooring and vanishing but some of them have gaps in between. My question is should I fill in between the gaps or just leave these due to allow movement in the floor?
Tara – If you have a floating floor/click together, you won’t be able to sand it well at all. It will move when the sanding machines are used.
And, in general, no you would not fill the gaps as that is needed for expansion and contraction and will come apart and look worse. If you have lots of big gaps, though, with clickable wood, it may be a sign that you have some bigger issues (e.g. floor wasn’t installed correctly and/or subfloor uneven and they it wasn’t leveled or moisture issues. I would call a professional to look at the floor.
Hello! You seem to have great knowledge in hardwood flooring and my family really needs some help. We had a professional come in to refinish our oak floors last Tuesday 6/19 and told my family that we would be back in our home in two days (Thursday). The contractor saw that I had a dog, an infant and a toddler. He didn’t ask my preference for flooring seal and just went ahead with an oil based poly – something I didn’t know anything about but trusted that he was the professional and that I would be home in two days. So here we are, Wednesday 6/27 in a hotel bc I could not return to my home with my children and my asthmatic father due to the very strong chemical smell from the poly. We just moved from CA to VA and the humidity is quite high in the area. I’ve had powerful commercial fans blowing at four windows in the home, ac set between 70-75 and all windows open. My question is when do u think it would be ok to return with my children? Is there a point where the floor stops off gassing and the smell just lingers without being harmful? I’m very concerned. And I just want to return to my new home and settle in after this ordeal. But the smell is still pretty offensive that i just can’t imagine taking my kids inside. Any information or advice would be so incredibly helpful!
Lesley – I’m sorry to hear this and it sounds like you’re contractor was up front with you. Usually, most of the smell dissipates after 4 days after the last coat. But, this can vary based on humidity and ventilation, as well as poly being used.
If the contractor used a cheap polyurethane such as absco, it can take much longer. I’ve heard a number of people complain about the smell from absco for a VERY LONG time. find out what was used.
You are doing the right thing by ventilation w/ fans. Also, usually, it’s better if it’s a tad cooler such as 65 to 70, rather than 70-75. and, make sure the fans are ventilating outwards and not inwards. Open the doors as much as possible for better ventilation
Wait until the smell is more tolerable for your family before moving the family back in. Generally, 4 days is sufficient for furniture and you should wait at least 2 weeks for the dog…but, if you get doggie socks, that is fine, too (go to resources menu on upper right and you’ll see an article for supplies and doggie socks which you can buy on Amazon). Or, keep the dog on tile/carpeted areas.
usually, it takes a full 30 days for floors to fully cure and smell to 100% dissipate (like if you put your nose down to floor), but most is usually gone by 4 days and certainly by a week (unless you are super sensitive to smell).
It may be the humidity that is making everything worse, so see what you can do to lower humidity in house (e.g. use AC and put on higher, use dehumidifier).
I hope this helps.
I had my floors recently refinished. I have white oak floors that were stained in Duraseal Coffee Brown with 3 coats of Glitsa water based finish. The coffee brown was very dark when it went on but 2 weeks later it has dramatically lightened. What could cause this? The contractor applied 2 coats of finish within hours of applying stain and applied final coat the next day. Could the stain be defective or did the contactor error.
It’s hard for me to say, but it sounds like this may be due to lighting and that there isn’t a problem with the floor stain nor poly. The stain goes on dark and dries a bit over the first 30 mins or so, but after that should not really be changing, nor should it change much with the poly. It sounds like your issue happened later…perhaps due to lighting or sunlight from the windows or something. If there was a problem with the stain, you would be seeing blotchiness…and you would have seen it the day the job was finished. If there was a reaction with stain and poly, it also would have been seen right away. If your floors look normal but just lighter, it’s most likely the lighting.
BTW, if the floors look fine and you just want it a bit darker, then speak with your contractor. They may be able to do a screen and recoat and do a 4th coat that is tinted to make it a bit darker. Of course this would cost extra.
You could also call the stain and poly manufacturers to see if they have any ideas.
We recently put down new white oak floors and our installer used bona woodline poly saying it is one of the best finishes for long term. He finished first two coats of poly 1.5 weeks back and the third coat on last Saturday feb 2nd (it’s a 3000 sqft home). I didn’t realize oil based would take that long to fully cure and now I am reading that there are offgassing for months for some oil based finishes. Also with chicago weather I can’t really keep all windows open right now. my wife is pregnant, we have a 5 yr old as well so am very concerned now when I can / should move back in the house. Currently the move is planned for tomorrow so trying to get some quick advice if I should just reschedule the move to few weeks out. Please help.
Hi Jay. I’m so sorry for the delay (I am hundreds of comments behind). Sorry to hear about this. It sounds like the installer wasn’t listening. Bona Traffic HD is awesome and their oil based poly is not good. He should have used a water based poly given that she is pregnant or at least explained the options and prices. Oil based poly smells more and takes longer to dry. You have to wait 24 hours between each coat and 4 days after last coat before putting furniture down. At that point, it still may smell and it’s going to smell more to your wife since you have heighted smell when you’re pregnant. It will take a full 30 days before it fully cures and all the smell goes away. I’d keep your wife out longer. I doubt that there is a health concern after 4 days, or even after 7, but the smell will be super annoying to her so it will feel unsafe and she may not sleep as well which is probably not so great.