How Long Does It Take for a Wood Floor Finish to Dry?

May 31, 2024

Refinishing your wood floor is the best way to return its shine and lustre. A finish not only boosts your floor’s appeal but also makes it durable by protecting it from wear and tear. However, it can only do so when it’s well applied and given enough time to dry and cure. But how long can it take for a wood floor finish to dry?

Generally, it can take anywhere from 4 to 24 hours (per coat) for a wood floor finish to dry. But that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. That depends on the type of your finish, humidity, coating thickness, and many other factors that can affect the overall drying time.

Here is what you need to know about the waiting period, the factors that influence it, and how soon you can begin using your floors after refinishing.

Understanding Waiting Period Of A Wood Floor Finish

Before we move on to the factors that influence drying times, there is a crucial waiting period you need to understand.

After refinishing, your wood floor finish goes through 2 stages before returning to its normal, fully-durable state.

Drying Period:

Drying is the time it takes for the finish components to fully evaporate and become dry to touch. This means if you touch the finish, it should neither leave an imprint nor stick to your hands, if it has dried well.

Curing Period:

Curing is the time a wood floor finish takes to fully adhere to your floor, harden, and reach its maximum durability. Your finish will stop emitting fumes, will become resistant to most traffic, if it has cured well.

Note that, you don’t have to wait for the finish to fully cure before you begin to use them. A well-dried wood finish can start taking up some light traffic and activity gradually as it cures.

5 Factors Affecting The Drying Time Of A Wood Floor Finish

Now you know about the drying and curing time, here are the factors that affect the time it takes for a finish to dry.

1. Type Of Floor Finish

The type of your floor’s finish, whether oil or lacquer finish, will decide the drying time significantly. Although there are a lot of finish types for wood floors, let’s consider 3 of the common ones.

→ Water-Based Polyurethane

As they are made up with water as a solvent, water-based polyurethane finishes are the quickest to dry. It takes around 4 to 8 hours for a single coat of finish to dry.

→ Oil-Based Polyurethane

Due to thick, oil-based content, these finishes take a bit longer to dry, taking between 12 to 24 hours to dry per coat.

→ Hard Wax Oils

Hard Wax Oils penetrate wood grains easily but still take up to 4 to 24 hours to dry fully.

2. Humidity & Temperature

Besides the type of your finish, the climate is also a major factor affecting the drying time of the wood floor finish.

When it comes to humidity in the air, the less it is, the faster the drying. Relative humidity of around 50% is ideal for proper drying. However, dehumidifiers and better ventilation can make it more effective.

Apart from that, it also depends on your room’s temperature to decide how quickly the finish will dry. Too low temperatures can delay the drying time and so, 70° F is the ideal temperature to maintain. Indirect heating (not in excess) can also help speed up the drying.

3. Thickness Of Application

Usually, finishing a wood floor takes 2 to 3 coats. The thickness of your finish coat can also indirectly affect the time for its drying. The thinner the layer, the quicker the drying. This is especially applicable when you are using a finish that’s water based or the one that has less solid content.

Such finish layers will dry more quickly than thicker ones. Moreover, finish applied with floor applicators or rollers are more even and thinner to dry more quickly than those applied with brushes.

4. Type Of Wood

Some wood floors types and their content can also affect the drying time of the finish that’s applied to them. The natural oils present in some wood types (like cedars and Rosewood) can slow down the drying process.

Moreover, softwood types (like pine, spruce, etc.,) have wider grains to absorb the finish easily and so, they take less time to dry as compared to hardwood types.

5. Sheen Type

Although not a major factor, the type of the sheen of your polyurethane finish will also decide how long it will take to dry. There are basically three types of sheens.

Satin will be the fastest to dry as it is the least glossy. Likewise, semi-gloss will take a bit longer than Satin while the finish with high-gloss sheen will take the longest to dry.

How Long To Wait Before Walking On Your Refinished Wood Floors?

As mentioned above, there were several factors affecting the amount of time your wood floor finish takes to dry. However, it’s best to stay off your floors after refinishing for at least 48 hours after the final finish coat.

Thereafter, you can expect your floors to bear light foot traffic after 2 days and light-weight furniture after 3 – 4 days.

Besides this, if you’re unsure about the drying time of your floor’s finish, follow your finisher’s guidelines. You can also contact our professionals at Floor Sanding Co. to help you assess your floors for the correct duration to dry and cure properly.