Hardwood Flooring
Hardwood Flooring

How long should I wait to move back in after refinishing my wood floors?

A frequent discussion I have during estimates is regarding when people can have their home back. When can they walk on the floor? When can they put back area rugs? I’ll dive into this as best as possible.

Cure time- A finish is technically cured when 100% of the solvents have left the coating. This is quite variable between the types of finishes. A general rule follows:

  • Waterborne finishes-(7-10 days)
  • Oil modified polyurethane- (30 days)
  • Conversion varnish-(30-60 days)

Keep in mind that the cure time is not a good measure for judging when the floor is durable enough to move back into the home. The cure time of a finish simply is a measure of when the floor will no longer emit a smell and will have achieved the best optical clarity.

Dry Time-This is a pretty simple term. When the finish no longer sticks to your feet when you walk across the floor, it is dry. Most finishes dry within 3-12 hours per coat.

Despite mass marketing by certain companies, I don’t encourage any homeowner to be present during the application of floor finish whether it is low VOC or solvent based. VOC(Volatile Organic Compund) is one way to measure the toxicity of a floor, but some components of toxicity may not be able to be measured using VOC because they may not be airborne (i.e. volatile)such as iso cyanate, the chemical hardener in waterborne finishes. In addition, Acetone (think nail polish remover) is one chemical with VOC that is exempt from measurement. In the end, don’t become a victim of marketing, all finishes have a degree of toxicity until they dry and the air in your house clears.

My general rules for returning to your house for most finishes:

  1. Allow 24 hours following the application of a final coat until you return and walk on the floor
  2. Allow one week until you put down area rugs.
  3. Replace the felt on your moving furniture and allow 2-3 days before using chairs that move or slide.

I hope that this helps explain the practical side of having your floors refinished.

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