I just refinished a hardwood floor. How to speed up the drying process?
September 25, 2013 9:43 AM   Subscribe

I used Minwax polyurethane (oil-based) to refinish a hardwood floor. It's been a day and still is a bit tacky. I understand that I should wait until the floor completely dries to move furniture back in, but I don't have anywhere else comfortable to sleep and I am getting antsy (it is my bedroom/workroom!) Any ways to speed up the drying process? Maybe I could use an electric ceramic heater - or is that dangerous? Or maybe a fan? How stupid of an idea would it be to move some of the furniture back in (in particularly my workstation) approximately 24 hours after the finish has been applied?

Small point - I don't mind so much if the finish doesn't look 'perfect'. I just want to protect the wood. There was carpet on top before since I moved in; I took that up, and found an already-finished hardwood floor which I just refinished.
posted by Thanquol180 to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
Just wait. It's only a day or two. Can you couch surf with a friend for the night?

You don't want to walk on a tacky urethaned floor, and oil, in cool and moist conditions will take a while to cure/dry.

Be patient. You won't regret it.

Fans may help, but by the time you rented them, got them home...hell, spend the night in a motel.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:46 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

The mental model I use for paint (and polyurethane) is that there are two phases: 1) The paint "dries", as the solvents and stabilizers used to make the paint liquidy and easy-to-apply evaporate 2) The paint "cures" as it hardens and reaches its final hardness.

The drying stage is almost certainly done by now, so a fan probably won't help.

Heating the room may speed the curing process a bit, although you should try to raise the temperature as evenly as possible. So I'd avoid the spot-heater and just turn on the central heat.

A well-finished surface is a thing to be proud of. Do whatever you can to give it time and you will enjoy the result for years.
posted by IvyMike at 10:08 AM on September 25, 2013

No....just no....

If you start placing heavy furniture on it too soon, you are going to really mess up that floor. It will be rough, the finish will be uneven and hairs/dust will be stuck to it for good.

Turn up the heat, leave a window open and wait the 72 hours you are supposed to...unless your future in-laws are are coming to town tonight and will forbid you to ever marry that perfect life partner if they can't stomp in your workroom or something, just stay off the floor. If you must stay in the place, camp in the kitchen or bathroom or something.

Take this as an opportunity to explore that part of your personality that is driving you to 1) need back in your space too soon, and 2) do something that you know will mess up your own hard work.

Personal disclaimer....I grew up in a house with parents who always thought they were smarter than the experts, always took shortcuts and, consequently, always messed things up just a little bit.
posted by BearClaw6 at 10:42 AM on September 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

We had our floors professionally redone last year. We had to wait 72 hours to re-enter the house. (Only to find that one of the crew had gotten a foot print in the finish and the whole thing needed another coat and another 3 days.)

Here were the instructions:
Day 1-2: no touching it at all.
Day 3: we could walk on it in socks, but they really preferred that we wait the full 3 days.
Day 3-10: Walking is okay, but no rugs or heavy furniture.

That day 3-10 gap is when the floors are dry, but not cured. It was a huge PITA, but the floors look great.

Give it the extra day.
posted by 26.2 at 10:56 AM on September 25, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies so far. This is my first DIY project, and mistakes have been made but it was a good learning experience.

Based on the replies I'm getting so far, I'll hold off going in the room for another day or two then. Feel free to post if anyone has another viewpoint.
posted by Thanquol180 at 11:09 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Open windows in other rooms, maybe put a box fan in the doorway. You want to minimize dust in the finish. Ceramic heater might help, but make sure the room is ventilated.
posted by theora55 at 12:12 PM on September 25, 2013

Polyurethane fumes are not good for your health, you should not sleep in that room for a day or two after it isn't tacky.

"Low odor" polyurethane still isn't good for you when it's uncured, but you can't smell it as well.
posted by yohko at 2:23 PM on September 25, 2013

Spend a night in a motel.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:48 PM on September 25, 2013

Hardwood floors are a wonderful thing, and while I'm nthing at this point...yeah, it is most definitely best to wait out the drying process if your aim is to protect the floor properly. Walking on a slightly tacky finish in socks isn't likely to be problematic, but moving furniture in should absolutely wait, otherwise you could end up with nasty gouges or "drag marks" that break the finish seal (making the floor more vulnerable to moisture damage, etc.).
posted by aecorwin at 3:47 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Fans, the stuff is off gassing, believe it or not, get the solvents out. It will still take time, looking casually at Minwax's site, they say 18 hours for one, bah!

Open a window, point a fan out and wait 2 days. Stuff will cure for weeks. But after 2-3 days should accept furniture.
posted by Max Power at 6:16 PM on September 25, 2013

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