How Long Should You Stay Off Floors After Refinishing?

Nov 25, 2023

When those tired, worn floors are finally sanded down and treated to a fresh new finish, it’s only natural to be eager to admire your sparkling hardwood floors. However, it’s crucial to exercise some patience and avoid walking on the floors until the finish has adequately dried and cured. This raises the common question—just how long should you stay off refinished floors?

At Floor Sanding Co., we understand the temptation to enjoy your gorgeous floors right away. However, premature foot traffic can lead to unsightly scratches, scuffs, and dents in the uncured finish. By adhering to proper drying and curing times, you’ll safeguard your investment and enjoy pristine floors for years to come.

Factors Influencing Drying and Curing Times

Refinishing floors represents a monumental project, but the job’s not over once the last coat of polyurethane finishes drying. Premature foot traffic poses the greatest threat to newly treated floors, risking unsightly scratches, scuffs, and dents in insufficiently cured finishes. Just a few careless steps can sabotage months of time, effort, and expense.

While the temptation to enjoy your floors immediately runs high, patience pays substantial dividends. By adhering to optimal drying and curing times before normal activity resumes, you safeguard flawless floors to impress for decades beyond this short waiting period.

baby crawl on floor

Finish Types and Dry Times

When can you safely walk on floors post-refinish? Dry and cure times vary based on:

Finish Type

  • Oil-based polyurethane: higher oil content extends drying time to 24 hours between coats
  • Water-based polyurethane: lower oil enables rapid 4-6 hour drying between coats

Oil-based finishes offer unparalleled durability but require more patience. Newer water-based formulations facilitate faster project completion for impatient DIYers.


  • Additional finish coats lengthen overall dry/cure time
  • Floors typically receive 2-3 protective coats


  • Warmer temperatures around 70°F
  • Moderate humidity (30-50% RH)
  • Adequate ventilation (open windows, fans)

Optimal environments speed drying. Monitor conditions and utilize humidifiers/dehumidifiers to maintain consistency.

What Does Refinishing Hardwood Floors Involve?

Refinishing hardwood floors involves:

  • Sanding – The top layer of old stain and finish is sanded off to reveal bare wood
  • Vacuuming – Dust is thoroughly vacuumed to prepare for finishing
  • Staining (optional) – New stain can be applied to alter color
  • Protective Finish – 2-3 coats of durable polyurethane are applied. Oil-based and water-based options are available
  • Adequate dry time – Proper drying between coats allows finish to cure correctly (24 hrs for oil-based, 2-4 hrs for water-based)

The result is refreshed staining if desired, with a renewed protective barrier that resists scratches, scuffs, and wear for enduring beauty.

The Post-Refinishing Waiting Game

Here’s our top advice for transitioning floors back to normal use:

24-48 Hours: Light Foot Traffic

Exercise extreme caution, wearing socks at all times. Even slight contact risks imprinting imperfections into insufficiently cured finishes.

**3 Days: Replace Light Furniture **

Gradually ease lighter furniture legs back onto floors over a 72 hour period. Temporary floor protectants prevent indentation.

1 Week: Rug Placement

Area rugs trap moisture, slowing curing. Allow finishes a week to fully dry before rug placement.

10-14 Days: Heavier Furniture

The longer you wait to replace heavier furnishings, the less risk of lasting dents and scratches. Be patient!

No Shoes/Pets: First 2 Weeks

Rigid footwear and pets can damage tender finishes. Keep high traffic restricted during the critical initial curing phase.

When in Doubt, Seek Professional Input

Still uncertain if your floors are ready for use? Consult our technicians anytime to assess if sufficiently cured for normal activity.


Pro Tips for Optimal Floor Finishing Results

Beyond the waiting period, keep refinished floors fabulous with:

Preventative Care

  • Sweep/dry mop regularly
  • Vinegar-water damp mops for grime
  • Area rugs in high traffic zones
  • Fabrics under furniture legs
  • Humidity regulation

Restorative Upkeep

  • Annual professional deep cleaning
  • Touch up localized finish wear
  • Consider re-coating high wear areas every 5 years

React Quickly to Spills & Damage

Address issues immediately to limit water damage, staining, and necessary touch-ups. Don’t let problems compound!

Make Patience Your Ally for Picture-Perfect Floors

We realize the waiting game challenges even the most patient DIYer. But by enduring a short delay to follow ideal dry times, you ensure decades of durable, ultra-low maintenance floors ahead. Trust our decades of hard won know-how for making patience pay when transitioning new floors into use.

Still have uncertainties on appropriate wait periods or upkeep for your particular floors? Contact us at 0800 335 7565 or book a free survey for personalized recommendations ensuring the longevity of your phenomenal new finishes.