How Long to Refinish Hardwood Floors: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide

Refinishing hardwood floors can transform a room, bringing back the original charm and luster of the wood. But if you’re wondering how long this process takes, you’re not alone. Timing can be crucial, especially if you’re planning around a busy schedule or other home renovations.

From sanding to staining to sealing, each step requires its own time frame. Understanding the duration can help you plan better and set realistic expectations. So, let’s dive into the factors that influence the time it takes to refinish your hardwood floors.

Key Takeaways

  • Assess the Condition of Your Floors: Before starting, evaluate the state of your hardwood floors to determine the scope and time required for refinishing.
  • DIY vs. Professional Refinishing: Choosing between do-it-yourself and professional services impacts the time, cost, and quality of the project.
  • Size of the Area Matters: Larger spaces take more time to sand, apply finishes, and dry compared to smaller rooms.
  • Type of Hardwood and Finish: Different woods and finishes require varying amounts of time for sanding and drying; water-based finishes dry faster than oil-based ones.
  • Step-by-Step Refinishing Process: Includes thorough preparation, meticulous sanding, and careful application of stain and sealer to ensure a high-quality finish.
  • Curing and Drying Times: Allow ample time for finishes to cure and dry, taking into account optimal environmental conditions to avoid delays and ensure a durable, even finish.

Understanding the Refinishing Process

Evaluating the Condition of Your Floors

Assessing the state of hardwood floors determines the scope of the refinishing project. Worn-out areas, deep scratches, and discoloration indicate a thorough refinishing is needed. Floors with minor scuffs and surface-level blemishes may only require a light sanding and re-coating. Moisture damage or warping requires more intensive repairs before refinishing can proceed. Evaluating these factors ensures accurate time estimation for the project.

Choosing Between DIY and Professional Refinishing

Deciding between DIY and professional refinishing affects time and quality. DIY refinishing is cost-effective and flexible but demands significant time, effort, and skill. Mistakes can lead to increased costs and inferior results. Professional refinishing, while more expensive, ensures a high-quality finish and precise execution within a predictable timeframe. Weighing these considerations helps in making an informed decision tailored to specific needs and constraints.

Time Factors in Floor Refinishing

The Size of the Area

The overall size of the area to be refinished significantly impacts the project’s duration. Larger spaces naturally require more time for sanding, applying finish, and drying. For instance, a small room of around 200 square feet may take one to two days, while an entire floor of 1,000 square feet could extend to three to five days. It’s crucial to plan accordingly and consider the furniture removal and replacement in these areas.

Type of Hardwood and Finish

Different hardwood species and finish types can affect the refinishing timeline. Hardwoods like oak, maple, and cherry vary in hardness and response to sanding. Softer woods (e.g., pine) might require gentler sanding, which could prolong the process. Likewise, finishes such as oil-based polyurethane need longer drying times compared to water-based options. A water-based finish might dry within two to four hours, whereas an oil-based finish could take up to 24 hours per coat. Multiple coats are often necessary, adding days to the project. Choosing the right combination based on your floor’s needs helps streamline refinishing.

Step-by-Step Breakdown of the Refinishing Process

Preparing the Floors

Preparing the floors involves several key steps. First, I clear the room of all furniture and rugs. Next, I clean the floor thoroughly to remove dirt and debris. I inspect the floor for protruding nails, securing any that could damage the sanding equipment. Finally, I tape off adjacent rooms and vents to contain dust.

Sanding the Wood

Sanding the wood requires methodical precision. I begin with a coarse-grit sandpaper to remove the old finish and level the surface. I sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid scratches. I then use medium-grit and fine-grit sandpapers for a smooth finish. For edges and corners, I switch to an edge sander or hand sand. After sanding, I vacuum and wipe down the floor to eliminate dust.

Staining and Sealing

Staining and sealing involve choosing the right products and applying them correctly. I select a stain color that complements the room’s design. Using a clean cloth or brush, I apply the stain evenly and wipe off any excess. After the stain dries, usually within 24 hours, I apply the first coat of sealer using a brush or roller. Allowing proper drying time between coats, I typically apply multiple sealer layers for durability.

Additional Considerations

Curing Time for Different Finishes

Different hardwood finishes require varied curing times. Oil-based polyurethanes generally cure in about 30 days, while water-based polyurethanes often take about 7 days. If using acid-cured finishes, expect a curing period of approximately 60 days. Wax finishes typically cure in around 21 days. During the curing phase, avoid heavy traffic and placing furniture on the floor to prevent damage.

Drying Time and Ideal Conditions

The drying time of hardwood finishes varies based on environmental conditions. Optimal conditions include temperatures between 65°F and 75°F and humidity levels between 40% and 60%. Oil-based finishes usually dry in about 24 hours, while water-based finishes can dry within 6 to 8 hours. Ensure proper ventilation to expedite drying and minimize odors. If conditions fall outside these ranges, expect extended drying times and potentially uneven finish quality.


Refinishing hardwood floors is a significant undertaking that demands careful planning and consideration. By assessing your floors’ condition and deciding between DIY and professional help, you can ensure the best outcome for your home. Remember to factor in the time required for each step, from preparation to curing, to achieve the best results. With the right approach, you’ll restore your hardwood floors to their former glory and enjoy their beauty for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

What factors determine the need for hardwood floor refinishing?

The need for hardwood floor refinishing is determined by the floor’s wear, scratches, discoloration, and any moisture damage. These factors help decide whether light sanding or extensive repairs are necessary.

Should I opt for DIY refinishing or hire a professional?

Choosing between DIY and professional refinishing depends on your budget, time, and desired quality. DIY refinishing is cost-effective but time-consuming, while professional services typically offer higher quality and faster completion.

How long does it take to refinish hardwood floors?

The duration of refinishing hardwood floors depends on the area size, type of hardwood, and finish used. Typically, the process can range from a few days to a couple of weeks, including curing time.

What is the step-by-step process for refinishing hardwood floors?

The refinishing process involves preparation, sanding, staining, and sealing. Proper preparation and each sequential step are crucial for achieving a high-quality finish.

How long is the curing time for different floor finishes?

Curing times vary for different finishes: water-based polyurethanes take about 7 days, while acid-cured finishes can take up to 60 days to fully cure.

What are the ideal drying conditions for refinishing hardwood floors?

The optimal drying conditions for refinishing hardwood floors include temperatures between 65°F and 75°F and humidity levels between 40% and 60%. This ensures the best results for the finish.