It's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hardwood's a-gonna dry
December 10, 2014 7:11 PM   Subscribe

How long should we wait to move into a house that's just had floors redone?

Bought a house a few weeks ago and currently the hardwood floors are being refinished. Every room has hardwood except the kitchen and bathrooms. My contractor says he's using fast-drying polyurethane and that we will be able to enter the house and begin moving our stuff in within 24 hours of him finishing the final poly coat. BUT everything I read online advises waiting 72 hours or a week! Also, I am sensitive to fumes and we have a baby so I'm wary of how long it will take for the off-gassing to end. Obviously, it would be great to get in there asap, but I don't want to screw up the floors or live in toxic fumes. How long do we wait?

*Also, if it matters -- this is in NY in the winter. Temps are about 30-40 right now.
posted by RingerChopChop to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
If it were me, I'd follow the finish manufacturer's recommendation. If it seems fume-y, I'd open up the house for a day or so. But I don't have kids or sensitivities. If it's a water-based finish, the fumes won't be bad.
posted by humboldt32 at 7:54 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

We only did two (large) rooms in the Adirondacks in October. The workers finished on Tuesday night and we moved stuff in on Saturday. No problem whatsoever. There was a new floor smell, but that went away quickly when we had been there two days. Not sure of the exact product put on the floors.
posted by 724A at 9:03 PM on December 10, 2014

I've done too much polyurethane, and messed more than once. Follow these instructions:

"Floor will accommodate light foot traffic 12-18 hours after the final coat of Minwax® Super Fast-Drying Polyurethane for Floors. Avoid heavy traffic and do not replace furniture for 72 hours after the final coat of Minwax® Super Fast-Drying Polyurethane for Floors. When replacing furniture, do not slide. Do not install rugs or clean floors for 7 days to allow finish to cure properly."
posted by the Real Dan at 11:04 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I wouldn't worry about messing up the floor unduly, but since you say you're sensitive to fumes and have a baby I wouldn't plan to spend much time there for at least three days with a lot of ventilation in the meantime. You might start moving the furniture first. (If it were me I'd be giving it a week if I could, since I know this stuff bothers me more than others and I would be very unhappy smelling it). Source: refinished floors in three condos; upstairs neighbors just did theirs a few weeks ago; sensitive to fumes.
posted by chocotaco at 3:32 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd wait 72 hours, then I'd lay brown paper down for the move in process. If you can, open windows in the day time to air out the house While you're waiting, that will help with fumes.

Congrats on your new home!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:00 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

3 days should be enough time for the poly to cure enough that you won't damage it. As to fumes: see if he's using water based poly or the older solvent based stuff. If the latter, you might want to give it a week to clear the fumes.
posted by mr vino at 5:11 AM on December 11, 2014

I have done a floor with oil-based polyurethane, and have done extensive woodwork and trim with the water based stuff. The oil-based drove me out of the house for most of a week, and even after that I had to keep all the windows open for a while -- that stuff is seriously toxic, but it has some advantages, too. The water based version isn't nearly as bad, though I could still smell it for a couple of days, so I would agree on the 72 hours timeline as being reasonable. One day will still have a smell and as noted above is faster than the manufacturer would suggest moving in furniture, etc.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:24 AM on December 11, 2014

Best answer: I wouldn't open the house up, since it's NY in the winter. That will just slow down the drying/curing process and increase the possibility of damaging the new finish. I'd run the heat at a reasonable temperature 60-75 degrees day and night, then after whatever interval you feel comfortable with (sounds like 3 days) open the windows and air it out prior to moving in.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 6:31 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best advice ever: "When replacing furniture, do not slide." Really you can go in after 24 hours, and you can even place furniture ( PLACE, don't push) on some of those things that go under the legs to distribute the weight. (Maybe even some scrap wood for now). Sliding will leave grooves in the finish.
posted by Gungho at 6:44 AM on December 11, 2014

If your contractor hasn't already started, you should look into PolyWhey. We used it on our floors and it was fast drying, surprisingly low fume, and seems super-durable. I could tell our contractor was very skeptical about using a byproduct of the cheese-making process, but he was very impressed by it, both from its ease-of-application and its durability.

We got it because we had a baby and were being extra-careful, but we've found zero downsides to it so far (aside from a slightly higher cost, I think).
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:01 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We had our main floor redone with water-based poly last June when I was 7 months pregnant. There is a significant difference between the oil-based and the water-based, so make sure your web research is talking about the product they used.

Our installer said we could move back in within 24 hours, but that we shouldn't walk around barefoot or put down rugs for a few weeks. We also did not let our dog walk on the floors for a few weeks.

I had no qualms about sleeping in the house 48 hours after the floors were finished. There were no strong fumes, and we really did not air the house out. We did some painting before we moved back in, and the paint fumes were stronger.
posted by aabbbiee at 11:32 AM on December 11, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the good info, everyone! I just talked to my contractor and he said he used water-based poly. Phew! Sounds like that is the better option for us.
posted by RingerChopChop at 11:55 AM on December 11, 2014

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