How long does it take to refinish hardwood floors

Home Builder with The Flooring Girl

refinish hardwood floors - westchester - time to refinishOne 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; those that don't realize the length of time sometimes need to postpone.


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:

hardwood floor refinishing - cherry stain - time for dryingIn 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.


time to refinish hardwood floors westchester NYPlease note that this general time line 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 the 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.


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).


refinish hardwood floors - westchester - how long for dryingIf 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'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 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 24 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.)



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.

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Barbara Hensley
RE/MAX Properties - Rockwall, TX
Homes for Sale in Rockwall County, Texas

Debbie - what a wealth of information! I have bookmarked this one to keep in my file for when I get asked the "how long does it take" question.  Thanks.  

Jun 05, 2012 05:04 AM #1
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Barbara - Thank you so much.  I hope it comes in handy.

Jun 05, 2012 06:41 AM #2
Anita Clark
Coldwell Banker Access Realty ~ 478.960.8055 - Warner Robins, GA
Realtor - Homes for Sale in Warner Robins GA

Debbie: A fantastic post that anyone looking to have their floors done will appreciate.  Gave it a nudge.

Jun 05, 2012 07:05 AM #3
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Anita - Thank you so much.  I appreciate that on both counts.

Jun 05, 2012 07:21 AM #4
Debbie Reynolds
Platinum Properties - Clarksville, TN
Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent

Debbie, My friends had new hardwood installed and it took over two weeks. The contractor said he had a bigger job that he had to get finished along the way, Reba McIntyre's house. So my friend got her time squeezed in.

Jun 05, 2012 07:44 AM #5
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

A friend just had their hardwood floors refinished.  They moved the furniture into their garage, and then took a mini-vacation in a rented RV for several days.  They had a really great time, and came home to gorgeous floors!

Jun 05, 2012 08:23 AM #6
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Debbie - Oh that is too bad.    That doesn't seem right at all.  We are usually able to work multiple jobs at once.

Myrl - Yes, it's nice to come back to feels like a whole new home.

Jun 05, 2012 10:34 AM #7
Ellen Caruso
Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty - Glen Head, NY

Deb, Since my husbands builds new construction we are lucky, the homes are usually empty, but must keep the drying time  under consideration when showing the home or scheduling other workers. Thanks for the timing estimates  although he would have alerted me to stay off limits if it was not dry.

Jun 05, 2012 11:05 AM #8
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Debbie that is longer than I expected, so that is good information to know

Jun 05, 2012 11:11 AM #9
Eileen Hsu
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY
Excellent information, we usually do not allow anyone in the apartment for almost a week if the owner just refinish their floor.
Jun 05, 2012 11:30 AM #10
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Debbie Gartner

The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers
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