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Cure Time vs Dry Time

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One of the first things our clients will ask us once we put on the last coat of finish is “When can we walk on the floors?” The next question that usually follows is, “When can we put the rugs and furniture back?”

Cure Time vs Dry Time

Good questions and ones that need a good answer.

Let’s have a look at each closer.

First we’ll start with…

Cure Time:

In a nutshell, cure time is the time it takes for all of the solvents or liquid carriers to evaporate from the finish, for the fumes and smell to stop being emitted and for it to fully harden.

This all depends on the type of finish system you choose as well as things like the temperature, airflow and humidity levels.

Below is a guide showing the average cure times for different finishes…

Floor Finish Cure Time

Once a floor has fully cured it can be subjected to long-term normal wear and tear without having to worry excessively about damaging it.

But cure time shouldn’t be used as a guide for when to move everything back into your home.

You don’t need to wait for a floor to cure 100% before you move back in and replace all your furniture and rugs. Your floors will be durable enough to move in way before the fully cured time.

As you can see from the chart above, that’s a good thing.

So when is the right time to move back in? Well that brings us to…

Dry Time:

Dry time is when you can put your hand to the floor and it won’t stick or leave a mark. It’s when a finish has dried and cured enough so that it won’t sustain any damage from carefully walking over it.

The chart below shows the average dry time for different finishes…

Floor Finish Dry Time

Dry time allows us to have access to the floors in-between coats. That’s how we can apply multiple coats in a few days. With water based finishes we can do 2 coats on the same day in some circumstances.

We suggest you ask your refinisher for ‘permission’ before walking on floors between coats though.

During this time floors are very susceptible to contaminants like outside dirt and oils stuck to the bottom of shoes and feet, to water and other liquids such as dog pee (don’t ask!) and to whatever else can be brought in and trampled over them.

If you don’t have to go on them until the finish application is completely done, then it’s definitely better not to.

After the final coat is completed, we strongly suggest that there is no traffic on the floors for a full 24 hours. This will allow the completed finish to dry sufficiently enough to allow walking on it without damaging it.

Applying Finish

Which brings us to the next obvious question…

When Can Rugs and Furniture be Put Back?

In an ideal world, we would love our clients to wait a week before replacing their furniture, but… we know that’s not always convenient or even possible.

The commercial grade water-based finish we use is 100% cured after just 3 days. Within 24 hours you can carefully put your furniture back. It’s the fastest curing waterborne floor finish we know of. Very handy for floors that need to be back in action very quickly.

The single component water-based finish we use is cured in 5 days. But it is also sufficiently cured and definitely dry enough after 24 hours to have light traffic on it, and to be able to carefully (there’s that word again) replace the furniture throughout the house.

The hardwax oil we recommend ( Pallmann Magic Oil ) is fully cured in 24 hours. It is the fastest natural cured site applied floor finish available.

We strongly recommend you put brand new felt pads on all furniture before they are set in place so as to protect your new investment. The old felt pads that may have been on there before could have picked up dust and small debris during the move that could scratch and damage the new finish.

Be extra careful with rolling and sliding chairs during the cure time too.

As far as area rugs go, we really would like to see a full week pass before they’re put down over newly refinished floors, (unless you go with the commercial grade Pall-X Gold system which is 3 days or Magic Oil which is 24 hours). This will give ample time for the solvents etc. in the finish to evaporate unencumbered and for the floor to cure.

Updated June 2021

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33 Comments

A common misconception when it comes to flooring and applying a floor sealer is that “ drying time ” and “ curing time ” are the same thing, but in fact these terms describe two different but equally essential processes.

Hello,

We just had our hardwood floors refinished and are planning to move the furniture back 3 days after the last water based polyurethane coat is applied. Can we use hand trucks on ram board covered floors to replace furniture with felt pads?

Hi Lisa,

Yes if done carefully I can’t see why not. We use an AirSled to move heavy furniture back but not everyone has access to one. Take your time, make sure the floor is super clean before laying the Ram Board down and use soft wheeled dollys vs hard wheeled ones if possible.

Good luck. Tadas

Tadas Sadunas,
First a confession…I’m a stalker of your hardwood floors. But alas, I live a 12 hour drive from your business! So no one has heard of Loba in Chattanooga, TN. I have white oak stair treads. I have heard the tannin pull on white oak is horrible. I have 2K Invisible Protect. Do I need to seal it with a primer (EasyPrime) first before I lay down the 2K Invisible Protect? Thanks for help and keep making beautiful art that people live on!! -Stephanie

Hi Stephanie,

I have a stalker! Lol. Yes prime it with EasyPrime first. Don’t water pop. then 2 coats of Invisible.

Tadas

is it ok to put cabinets and appliances into a new kitchne floor ten days after last oil poly layer was applied?

Hi Candy,

It will depend on the finish you used. But generally you should be OK if you’re very careful and they’re protected. 30-45 days would be better for oil poly to be fully cured.

There are products like the AirSled that can help in these situations as well, so the appliances aren’t being dragged across the new floors.

Tadas

I have recently re varnished my pub floor with yacht varnish how long before stools and chairs can be moved around without damaging the floor

Hi Barry,

Sorry just got to this now. The product you used should have the instructions for how long it will take to dry and then cure. Without the manufacturer information I’d just be giving it a wild guess sorry.

Tadas

My daughter had her wood floors in an older home sanded professionally.
They said they used 3 coats of polyurethane.
She has an older dog that had an accident on the floor and it wasn’t found for several hrs.
Evidently the urine had seeped through and darkened the wood and buckled it.
Before her floors were refinished she had never had that problem with dog urine.
It was always easy to see because it would puddle like water.
Not even water puddles but seeps in now.
You really can’t tell the floors have even been refinished now either. They no longer shine after a month of traffic
Is there a cure for the urine spot and how can she make her floors shine?
Thank you!

Hi Holly,

Most likely she will need to replace the damaged boards. Especially if they have darkened and discolored. Most of the time with big pet accidents, the urine seeps through the cracks and is wicked up through the wood. So the urine is all through it and can’t be sanded out.

Not sure what brand of finish the floor guys used, but it shouldn’t look bad and lose its sheen after only a month. Especially if they used a professional brand. Best bet would be to get the damaged area repaired and apply a new top coat in the sheen you want on top. Make sure the floor is thoroughly cleaned and properly prepared for a new coat, otherwise you could have adhesion issues.

Hope your daughter can get it sorted out.

Tadas

Hi! I’m currently refinishing a hardwood floor for a friends rental. I have it all sanded and filled and ready to seal and finish. They want to use a liquid wax based (i assume) floor finish called “Royal Ice” by wenco. And so my question is this…..what should I use to seal the wood prior to the liquid wax and how long do i have to wait for it to dry and cure before applying the liquid wax? Tenant is moving in a week or so and so I’m on major crunch time! Thank you for you help!!

Hi Eric,

I’ve never heard of this finish so i took a quick look. It’s designed for LVT and linoleum floors, not wood flooring. I wouldn’t recommend using this product. Go with a polyurethane type wood floor finish instead.

Tadas

I am using Pallman Pall-x gold 2 coats over Pallman clear sealer . Can I apply each coat over the other once dry to the touch? Do I need to wait 24 hours between all three coats? If I don’t have to wait 24 hours between coats , do I still have to lightly sand between the two coats of the Pall-x gold?

Hi Greg,

Yes you can apply multiple coats once dry. If this is your first time applying finish it would be best to apply the sealer, then when dry, the first coat of finish. Let that dry 24 hours and then abrade to make sure the floor is smooth and free of contaminants. Vacuum and tack really well and then apply the top coat. You’ll get better results without the added pressure.

Tadas

I renovated my home and added on to my living room, I sanded down old hardwood floors from my living room, extended my living room so it is larger and put brand new hardwood flooring down. Oil polyurethane was put down 42 days ago and there is still a little odor. How do I know when my floors are cured and safe to live in my house?

Hi Travis,

The finish you used should have a Product Data Sheet. That will tell you the cure time. But after 42 days it should be fully cured if you have adequate airflow.

For the odor, open up all the windows during the day to let the house ventilate for a few days. That should remove the rest of the smell.

Tadas

For the guy who still had an odor 42 days after an oil based finish, I also recommend he change his air filters if he hasn’t done that yet!

Good suggestion Bob.

Tadas

Hello,
I just had hardwood installed in my den and living/dining area. It turned out beautiful. I waited to start moving furniture 4 days later. No problems until I moved my piano. I used pads and a blanket under the wheels. The piano came off the pads for a short distance before I realized it and made wheel marks on my new floor. They are not scratches. It looks like more of a smudge/oil mark. I wish I could attach a picture to show you. Is there a way to fix this without having it resanded and stained. Glista MultiKote Swedish finish was used.

Hi Janet,

Sorry to hear that. It sounds like the wood has been compressed under the weight of the piano. There is a way to make dents look better by steaming the wood with a clean wet cloth and an iron filled with water. You would need to pierce through the finish so the steam can reach the wood. It’s a slow, tedious process, but worth trying before resanding the floor, which would be your other option.

Hope that helps.

Tadas

if a person uses oil base polyurthane and when finish see they left excess urthane in a location what can you do to correct the problem???????????????

Hi Robert,

You’ll have to wait for it to dry and then sand it off and recoat it.

Tadas

how long before a walker with wheels can be used on a coat and buff floor

Hi Fran,

This will depend on the cure time of the finish used. But most finishes cure within a week or so and you will be good after that. If time is important, ask for a finish with a shorter cure time like a professional grade waterborne finish.

Tadas

We just had brand new walnut floors installed. The installer told us they put on 3 coats of oil-based poly (Poloplaz Primero) down although we’re a little suspect of this because they put all 3 coats on in a single day. We didn’t walk on the floors or replace furniture for 4 1/2 days after they were finished. We placed new felt on all furniture. Now about 10 days later we noticed that our furniture is leaving a ring everywhere the furniture is sitting. Do you have any idea what may have caused this, how it should be repaired and how to prevent it again after the repairs? Thanks.

Hi Kelly,

Not sure why this is happening. I’d have to look at it in person to be certain. I will say that 3 coats of oil-based poly is way too much to apply in one day. We would never do that. Best to get someone out to give you a professional opinion.

Tadas

My recent floor refinishing has left me with concerns and I would love another perspective. Circular drum sanding marks all over and uneven staining at the transition from wall to middle floor areas resulted in a re-do for three of the four areas. Unfortunately, there are more sanding and thus stain marks visible in the fourth area (bedroom) than I initially saw. The contractor made the decision not to re-do the bedroom down to wood but did eventually pit down another coat of poly to address things and highly textured areas.
The contractor sub-contracted the entire job although was much more involved in the re-do. He did not inspect the initial job until I called with concerns.
Now, at most doorways and along some but perhaps not all walls, there are tiny wavy sanding marks extending about 5-8 inches on, I believe, a layer of the oil polyurethane which is now covered by the final coat.
When asked about this my contractor said he doesn’t use the tool the sub-contractor used on my floors because is can cause this pattern. Further, he said he talked with the sub before/during the job about the tool being problematic, was assured it hadn’t caused problems before, and then apparently didn’t check the work. Now the sub has been instructed not to use this tool in the future.

I can see the change in finish in certain light from standing. I have other concerns including but not limited to filler not level with the floors and even cracking down the middle of the fill in at least two places, and why there are so many tiny voids in the surface of the poly. There are very few of these tiny holes on my family member’s floor and much less feel-able wood texture overall.

Durability was stated as one of my primary concerns, as well as floors completed to the level of craftsmanship my family received from this company. I care not for industry standards, as that was not what was agreed upon.

What recourse might I have? I can’t have them re-do the poly again due to time/job/stress issues. This has already gone a week over due to the re-do.

Thank you for your input.

Hi Rebecca,

Sorry for my delay in replying, it’s been extremely busy. Probably the best thing to do is find a local certified NWFA floor inspector and get them to come out and take a proper look at your floor. They will be able to help you with your options going forward.

Tadas

Hello. We just had our hardwood floors refinished in the entire house. The company did one coat of stain with two coats of polyurethane for shine. However, as I’m reading more information on wood floors, I’m reading that the product company used-Masterline-requires for the second coat of poly to be put on eight hours after the first coat. The company did both coats and sealed it within three hours or so. I’m reading that if this is done, the bottom layer can lift up. Thank you for advise.

Hi Maria,

Yes the stain needs to dry first, then the first coat of finish is applied. There should be at least 8 hours before the next coat so it can be dry enough to buff smooth, ready for the next coat. We don’t use Masterline or any oil-based polyurethane, but I think they have a rapid-drying product, even so, that needs 4-6 hours of dry time between coats. Three hours for all coats is definitely not recommended. And yes, delamination can occur if not applied correctly.

Tadas

We just refinished our hardwood floors. We sanded them and applied 1 coat of satin floor poly which was too dull for us so we then applied 2 coats of semi-gloss oil polyurethane re-sanding and waiting 24 hrs. between coats. We waited 4 days for it to dry. The odor is now gone but any time someone walks on it footprints are left which do not go away without buffing. We recently had the same contractors back to look at the phenomena. What a nightmare to see 5 sets of different footprints left from one end of the house to the other (these were clean footprints – no dirt involved). Did we use the wrong product? It was a poly meant for general purposes not floor specific.

Hi Randi,

Yes, general purpose poly isn’t recommended for use on floors. It’s not durable enough for the wear and tear floors are subjected to. Hard to say exactly what has happened (other than using the wrong product) without seeing the floor in person, but it sounds like the floor didn’t dry or cure properly between coats. Or it wasn’t abraded properly between coats. Or there is some sort of contamination.

Tadas

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