How Long Does It Take For Refinishing Hardwood Floor

It is always best to plan ahead for a hardwood flooring project as you may have to be out of the house (and probably should be!) while the job is underway! Besides the overall size of the job, another important factor is the type of polyurethane that you pick.  Oil based polyurethane takes twice as long to dry as a water based poly, and only one coat can be applied per day.  If you are going with a stain on the hardwood flooring, this adds at least one additional day to the project as well. 

Sanding Times

In general, we can sand about 1,000– 2,000 sq ft in one day.  Newly installed, unfinished hardwood is easier to sand, while a re-sand of treated and/or older hardwood flooring is a slower sanding process.

Portrait of smiling family sitting on the floor leaning on couch in new empty apartment. Guy pointing finger aside at free space embracing wife, choosing wall color and interior design repair, banner

Other Factors That Slow Hardwood Floor Refinishing Timelines

  • If you have used Murphy’s Oil or other similar products on your hardwood floors, this makes for much slower sanding, as it gums up the sandpaper and is very difficult in general to sand out of the wood.
  • Polyurethanes applied a long time in the past can also be difficult to remove or sand completely out of the flooring and thus, these projects take more time.
  • Any repair work/patching or removing of carpet, staples, etc., adds additional time to a hardwood flooring project.
  • Flooring that has suffered moisture damage and is cupped or rippled will need additional sanding time as the wood floor will have to be sanded at a 45 degree angle to flatten it before proceeding with normal sanding that follows the grain of the wood.
  • Humidity also plays a huge role in a refinishing timeline. Humid conditions slow drying times of everything:  stain, polyurethane but Humidity can be mitigated, however, with a climate-controlled interior!
Apartment with nobody in it ready for professional renovation. Plastic sheet. Home during renovation, decoration and painting. Interior apartment improvement maintenance. Roller, ladder for house repair

Oil Based Polyurethane

For a natural (no stain) sanding job with 2 coats of an oil based polyurethane finish, the minimum amount of time needed to complete a job of any size is 2 days, and for 3 coats of oil based poly a minimum of 3 days.  We recommend at least 2 coats of oil based polyurethane + a lacquer sealer coat as a minimum for hardwood flooring.  Extra coats = extra protection, but only one coat of oil based polyurethane may be applied per day, as it needs 24 hours to dry before applying another coat.  For example, a job of 500 sq ft – 5,000 sq ft finished natural with 1 coat of lacquer sealer and 2 coats of polyurethane would take 2 days to complete (without any of the above mentioned time-delaying factors).  The first day would be sanding the floor to bare wood, applying one coat of sealer and then applying the first coat of oil based poly.  The sealer dries quickly and the first coat of poly is applied right after it is dry.  The final, or second coat would be applied on the second day, after the first coat poly has had sufficient time to dry.  If the customer has elected to get 3 coats of oil poly, one additional day would be added to this timeline.For natural (no stain) jobs over 1,000 sq ft and under 3,000 sq ft, it would take us 2-3 days to get the floor sanded, sealed and one coat of oil based poly applied.  Add one additional day for each additional coat of oil based polyurethane.

Recommendations and drying times for oil based poly:

For a refinishing job with oil based poly, we recommend that customers and their pets be out of the house completely, as the fumes are noxious and are not safe to inhale while the product is drying.  24 hours after application, an oil based poly can be walked on with socks only, though the smell will still be very strong and not safe to inhale for extended periods of time.  We recommend removing shoes to walk on a hardwood floor newly treated with an oil based poly for at least 3 days after the final coat is applied.  Oil based poly takes a bit longer to fully cure and harden, and thus our recommendation is to wait a minimum of 2-3 days before putting any furniture on the floor.  A week is most ideal!  Do not allow pets (especially dogs) onto a floor newly treated with an oil based poly for at least one week after completion.

Water Based Polyurethane:

For a natural (no stain) sanding job with 3 coats of a water based polyurethane, we can complete a job of 500 – 3,000 sq ft in one day.  We recommend a minimum of 3 coats of water based polyurethane as it coats in thinner, but harder layers, than an oil based poly.  Water based polyurethane dries very quickly and up to 4 coats can be applied in one day.Jobs 2,000 – 5,000 sq ft, 2-4 days for completion.

Recommendations and drying times for water based poly:

For a refinishing job with water based poly, it is possible to remain in the home while the project is underway if bedrooms are not being done.  Water based poly can be walked on with socks only 3-5 hours after coats are applied.  We recommend removing shoes to walk on a floor treated with a water based poly for at least 3 days after the final coat is applied.  Water based poly dries and cures faster than oil based poly, but we recommend waiting a minimum of 3 days before putting any furniture on the floor.  5 days is more ideal!  As with oil based poly, do not allow pets (especially dogs) onto a floor newly treated with a water based poly for at least one week after completion.There is one water based product on the market that fully dries and cures in 24 hours…e.g., safe for furniture, normal traffic, etc.  If a client is in a rush to have a project completed, we recommend and use Bona Traffic HD (High Durability), which is the top of the line water based polyurethane: it is extremely durable, a beautiful and contemporary finish, and is ready for normal traffic in a quick 24 hours.  It is pricey, but worth it for many reasons!


Floor stains require additional sanding as well as an additional day for drying.  We take the time to “water pop” or open the grain with a small amount of water applied to the floor via a damp rag, which also takes additional time, but the results are worth it!  For a stain, add 1 day to project for jobs under 800 sq ft, 2 days for jobs 800 sq ft – 1,500 sq ft, 3 days for jobs 1,500 sq ft – 2,500 sqft, 4 days for jobs 2,500 – 4,000 sq ft, and so forth…24 hours after a stain has been completed, 3 coats of water based poly could be applied in one day, and 1 coat per day for oil based polyurethane.

Skip to content