FloorsAdvisor.com is supported by its audience. When you buy using the links from this article, we may earn affiliate commision.

How Long Does Polyurethane Take to Dry?


Polyurethane is used for decorative and functional purposes and can levitate the look of your house instantly, but not doing so with care can ruin your costly hardwood floors.

In this article, you will get to know the types of Polyurethane available in the market and how long the complete process lasts. Make sure to read till the end to know what factors affect the time taken for this process. You will also learn about How Long Does Polyurethane Take to Dry.

Timeline of the Application Process of Polyurethane

Before you even open the can of Polyurethane, make sure you clear all the furniture over your working space. Make sure to properly sand dust the surface and broom away from the shavings. Keep the wooden surface as clean as possible.

Before we start with the timeline, you need to know the difference between drying time and curing time. The former is the amount of time you will need to wait before applying a second coat. In this process, waiting is as much of an importance as applying a coat. The latter is the time required for Polyurethane to completely dry up. This is exactly when you can walk on it and move in your furniture without worrying about damaging the fresh coating.

The drying time for water-based Polyurethane is eight hours whereas, for oil-based coating, it is twenty-four hours. You must test the water-based Polyurethane coated surface to check whether it is dried up or not approximately twenty-four hours after applying the second coat. The same, if you use an oil-based Polyurethane, would be forty-eight hours.

For the water-based coating, you can freely place all your furniture after a week. For the oil-based coating, you will have to wait only for three to four days. The curing time for the former is 20 days and for the latter, it is 30 days.

To be on the safer side to not ruin the flooring, you can attach furniture leg pads. This will avoid scratch marks and keep your floors shiny.

Factors that Affect the Drying Time of Polyurethane

The application of Polyurethane changes at extreme weather or climatic conditions. It depends on the type of wood flooring, the thickness of the coating, and humidity. Read along to know how you can deal with such factors and end up with protected wood flooring.

  • Temperature: The most important factor to keep in mind before you plan out your polishing is to simply check the weather. The best temperature at which Polyurethane dries up faster is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme cold conditions will cause a white substance to grow over the coating. On the other hand, extremely hot conditions might cause a chemical reaction between the wood and the coating.

If the floors are too cold to work on, try applying heat to them. Make sure not to overdo it, as too much heat can totally ruin the hardwood floors.

  • Humidity: The ideal percentage of moisture is 50 to 70%. If you experience extremely humid conditions, then opt for the oil-based Polyurethane. Water-based is sensitive to the moisture content in the air.

It is advisable not to start coating while it is pouring outside. This may cause mold or fungal growth which will eventually give your wood a rotten greenish appearance.

  • The thickness of layer: The thickness of each coat of Polyurethane also causes a difference in the drying time. The logic is simple. The thicker the layer, the longer it will dry up, irrespective of its oil-based or water-based. You are bound to have thick layers of coating if you apply it with a brush. The best way to apply a thin and uniform coating is to use a paint roller.

Types of Polyurethane Available in the Market

Do you remember that Polyurethane can be used for decorative as well as functional purposes? Here’s why? Concerning its decorative usage, Polyurethane comes in various textures, or scientifically speaking, it comes in different viscosity.

  • Satin sheen: A satin finish won’t give you a shiny finish as it almost has a matte finish over hardwood floors. It is the fastest drying Polyurethane type you can use.
  • Semi-gloss sheen: This plays the middle ground between a matte finish and a glossy one. It is durable but dries up slower than the satin finish.
  • High-gloss: If you’re on a budget but want your guests to think that you spent a lot on your hardwood floors, this is what you should go for. Besides everything, this type of Polyurethane can be used to coat indoor as well as outdoor hardwood floorings. It is highly durable but takes the longest to dry.

The overall completion time also highly depends on the type of Polyurethane you have chosen. You will confront two different concentrations of Polyurethane, i.e., oil-based and water-based. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages and both are used for specific purposes only.

Differences Between Oil-based and Water-based Polyurethane

The oil-based ones are preferred by homeowners having dark-shaded hardwood floors. It gives the flooring a peculiar shine or glow that compliments the wood. Oil-based Polyurethane is a lot cheaper than water-based.

Water-based Polyurethane is an eco-friendly option but on the other hand, you will have to buy more and more because it doesn’t last that long.

Oil-based Polyurethane Water-based Polyurethane
A hassle-free way to coat wood. You need to be careful to avoid the absorption of liquid into the wood.
It takes about three to five days to dry to completely have furniture over it. Minimum two days to dry up completely to have furniture placed over it.
It lasts longer and is more effective. Doesn’t last that long.
Has a peculiar odor. Does not have a strong odor.

To give your hardwood floors a rich, luxurious effect, you must go with oil-based Polyurethane. If you wish to bring out the natural look of your wood, water-based Polyurethane is the one for you. The former definitely takes more time to dry up. If we talk about longevity, you must opt for the oil-based version.

Claudia Boyd

Claudia Boyd loves to keep the floor shiny and clean. She knows so many homemade methods and techniques to make the floor clean without any damage. You can check her work at floorsadvisor.

Recent Posts