I get asked these questions all the time, so I figured this should be a helpful post!
1) How soon after the floors are finished can I be back in the house?
The answer to this question all depends on what products were used in sanding and refinishing your wood floors:
For polyurethane products, we prefer and recommend what in our opinion is the best product on the market – Bona Traffic HD. Not only is the Traffic HD a great-looking, crystal-clear polyurethane, it has extremely low VOCs (less than 150) and dries very quickly. If your house is finished with Bona Traffic HD, you can safely be walking around in the house with socks about 2-3 hours after the project is finished. If there are other rooms in the home that do not have wood floors and were not displaced of bedroom furniture, you can totally sleep there the same night the floors are finished as well! Socks only across the floors to access any other rooms in the evening... We recommend socks only for the first 24 hours after project completion. The manufacturer recommends the following for floors finished with Bona Traffic HD: The curing process takes approximately 3 days (80% cured after 1 day, 100% after 3 days). The floor may be walked on after 24 hours, but remains susceptible to scuffing or marring until completely cured. Do not replace area rugs until the floor has fully cured - 3 days.
Bona Traffic HD Water Based Polyurethane
Commercial grade, 100% non-yellowing, and fully cured in 3 days!
Bona also makes a very good mid-line poly that we use frequently, Bona Mega Clear HD. Mega Clear is a very good product for a bargain price. 100% non-yellowing, clear, and quick drying, though longer on the cure times and slightly higher in VOC-content, though still GREENGUARD Certified for Indoor Air Quality. If your hardwood floors have been sanded and finished with Bona Mega Clear HD, it is safe to sleep in the home about 2-3 hours after the project is finished, but again, only if there are other rooms that have not been robbed of their furniture – furniture should stay off floors for at least 24 hours after ANY project is completed. The manufacturer recommends the following for floors finished with Bona Mega Clear HD: The curing process takes approximately 7 days, (75% cured after 1 day, 90% after 3 days). The floor may be walked on after 24 hours, but remains susceptible to scuffing or marring until completely cured. Furniture can be moved back in carefully after 3 days. Do not replace area rugs until the floor has fully cured – 7 days.
Bona Mega Clear HD Water Based Polyurethane
100% non-yellowing, quick drying, low odor/fumes!
If your floors were finished with oil polyurethane, not only should you cry because the house will stink for days and days after they are finished, but also because they will turn an ugly yellow/orange color in a few years…but there is more on that topic in an older blog post Oil Based polyurethane vs Water Based Polyurethane. We haven’t used oil poly in a long time. If your floors are finished with oil polyurethane, there is no traffic AT ALL for a minimum of 24 hours after the job is finished. 48 hours after the job is completed, socks-only traffic on the floor. We recommend a minimum of 2 days of socks-only traffic for floors finished with oil polyurethane. The house is not inhabitable for a minimum of 2 days after the job is completed, and better to stay out for at least 5 as the fumes/off-gassing is not advisable to breathe in, even if there are other rooms to sleep in. No area rugs on floors finished with oil poyurethane for at least 14 days, though most manufacturers of oil polyurethane specify to allow 30 days to full cure.
I don't have any photos of recommended brands of Oil polyurethane, because we don't recommend to use it!!
This photo exhibits the way you may react upon walking into a house recently finished with oil polyurethane.
We are doing a lot of hardwax oil finishes these days. Both Rubio Monocoat and Woca, our favorite, are 100% VOC-free, natural, plant-based products. Both can be walked on in 6-8 hours with socks only to access other rooms in the house. Obviously there are no fumes or smells with these all-natural hardwax oil hardwood flooring products. Floors finished with hardwax oils are useable for light traffic in 36 hours. It is advisable with hardwax natural oil finishes to use cardboard in the high traffic areas if moving in furniture prior to full cure. Make sure to take up cardboard at the end of every work day until the floors are fully cured, if putting down for ongoing construction. Rubio Mononocoat is fully cured in 7 days. Woca Hardwax Oil is fully cured in 5 days. With hardwood floors that have been finished with hardwax oils, it is very important to avoid getting ANY liquids on the floors during the curing process!
2) How soon after the hardwood floors are finished can I move my furniture back onto the wood floors?
Bona Traffic HD – Furniture can go back onto the floors after 24 hours. No area rugs for 3 days.
Bona Mega Clear HD – Furniture can go back onto the floors after 24 hours (EXTREMELY CAREFULLY), though 2 days is more advisable for this product. No area rugs for 7 days.
Oil polyurethane – Furniture after minimum 3 days. No area rugs for 14 days.
Hardwax Oil finish – Furniture can go back onto the floors in 36 hours. No area rugs for 7 days with both Rubio Monocoat and Woca is advisable. It is also important to mop the floors after fully cured with their respective cleaning products, as it will create a patina of sorts and help to strengthen the floor - keep this in mind before moving in furniture!
3) How soon after the wood flooring project is finished can I cover the floors for painting?
All floors can be covered for painting after they are fully cured. Covering floors prematurely can lead to peeling finish! Covering floors stops the curing process because it is blocks the wood floors from getting air/oxygen. Also, NEVER tape anything directly to floors – we recommend ONLY to tape paper to paper or cardboard to cardboard!
Bona Traffic HD – fully cured in 3 days
Bona Mega Clear HD – fully cured in 7 days
Oil poly – fully cured in 7-10 days
Rubio Monocoat 2C Hardwax Oil – fully cured in 7 days
Woca Hardwax Oil – fully cured in 5 days
4) Why no area rugs or covering the floors before full cure, but furniture is OK? Most furniture is on legs, thus not extinguishing much of the floor from getting air. Covering the floors with area rugs or paper will inhibit the flow of oxygen and air to the floor surface, thus stopping the curing process. Covering floors prematurely with area rugs or paper/drop cloths for painting before they are fully cured can lead to peeling finish, easily-scuffed floors, and general underperformance.
5) How soon after finishing can I clean wood floors?
Do not use any liquids AT ALL for cleaning any newly refinished hardwood floors until they are fully cured. See above for full cure times of our most frequently used wood flooring finishes. 24 hours after floors have been sanded and finished, they can be swept with a soft bristle broom ONLY. No vacuums until floors have fully cured. Please follow manufacturer’s recommendations as to recommended cleaning products. For floors finished with any type of polyurethane, we recommend to use ONLY the Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner, which is an excellent product that will not damage the finish. Stay away from Swiffer, Mop N Glo, Murphys Oil, etc.!
Each hardwax oil manufacturer, like Rubio Monocoat or Woca, makes an accompanying cleaning product, and we recommend to use the specific products and guidelines as prescribed by the manufacturer. It is also important to mop the floors after fully cured with their respective cleaning products, as it will create a patina of sorts and help to strengthen the floor!
PICTURED ABOVE ARE VARIOUS CLEANING PRODUCTS MADE BY RUBIO MONOCOAT AND WOCA
Thanks in advance from your flooring professional for following these guidelines!!! :D