Refinishing hardwood floors is not the long and arduous task that most people assume. No one likes having their house ripped apart for weeks at a time during their home improvement project. It is stressful and creates a lot of disruption within your home. As this is one of the most common concerns when looking to have work completed in your home, it is easy to understand why it would be a concern for homeowners looking to start a hardwood floor refinishing project.
The timeline is always the first question a homeowner has. The great news is that most professionals can have your wood floor refinishing project completed with minimal interruption to your home or business. To give homeowners an accurate idea of how involved and how long it takes to complete a project, it is essential to know what the process looks like as there are a few different factors that determine the length of a project.
- The size of the area,
- How quickly the contractor is able to work within that space
- The amount of damage to the old floor
- The contractor’s requirements, and of course,
- Your own specifications.
The two most time-consuming factors regarding your hardwood floor refinishing project are sanding and applying a polyurethane finish to the wood.
Sanding is one of the two most labor-intensive parts of wood floor refinishing. Your contractor has to sand every square inch of the floor to ensure that the finish goes on seamlessly and evenly. Typically, a contractor can sand about 1,500 to 2,000 square feet in a single day – naturally, the larger the area, the longer the job takes. The state of your floor can also affect sanding times. For example, if you have a brand-new hardwood that is unfinished, it is much easier and less time-consuming to sand. In comparison, an older floor that has been treated in the past will take more time and effort.
Some of the things that can affect the required time needed to sand a hardwood floor properly are:
- Using Murphy’s Oil or other similar products on your floor. This causes a sticky buildup that makes it difficult for the sandpaper to exfoliate the wood effectively.
- Old polyurethane that has been applied in the past.
- Any previous repair work and patching were previously completed on the floor.
- If a hardwood floor has experienced moisture or another form of damage that has compromised the integrity of the wood. If the wood is warped, cupped, or rippled, it requires extra time to sand it down so that it is flat and even with the rest of the floor.
Another essential factor that can help determine the time required when refinishing hardwood floors is the polyurethane used to finish the hardwood. The drying time is what affects the length of the project and the majority of homeowners the most. The reason is that nothing, absolutely nothing, can be placed back on the hardwood until it has dried completely. Otherwise, homeowners run the risk of ruining all of the beautiful hard work that was just put into refinishing their floors.
There are two different kinds of polyurethane that contractors can use to refinish a floor – oil-based and water-based. Depending on the polyurethane that you choose to complete your project, drying times can vary a few days. Here is what homeowners need to know about each type of finish.
Oil-based polyurethane takes longer to dry than water-based. With a dry time of about 3 days from the first to the final coat, it requires 8-10 hours of drying time in between coats. For those looking to have their floors stained, add an extra work day to the project. Weather and humidity can also play a significant role in how long it takes for the polyurethane coats to dry.
After the final coat has dried for a full 8 to 10 hours, pending weather, you and your family can walk across the floor, but only with socks – no shoes or bare feet. At a minimum, you should wait at least 12 hours before moving any furniture back into your room, and 30 days before you bring any area rugs in. This gives the floors the time they need to dry and cure properly. It is also important to try and keep your dog and their nails off the floor for about four weeks after the final coat is applied.
Water-based polyurethane typically dries quicker. Rather than taking 8 to 10 hours to dry like oil based finishes, water-based take about 2 hours each coat. This is a popular option for homes, and even more so stores and restaurants as they need to maintain their foot traffic.
If you are in a particular rush to finish your hardwood floors, water based may be the better option. The best thing to do is to have a discussion with your contractor and listen to their recommendations.
So, How Long Does It Take?
While each project can differ significantly regarding dry times, it is safe to say that your project is going to take at least a week. This doesn’t mean that a home will be completely disturbed for the entire week. However, between sanding and drying times, the length of your project depends on the size of your floor’s area. Larger floors take more time than those taking up less surface area. When talking to a contractor, be sure to discuss your concerns with your timeline, but remember that hardwood floor refinishing is a relatively quick home improvement project completed with little interruption to your home.