How Long Does Polyurethane Take to Dry? How to Speed Up The Drying Time?

A significant challenge for anyone finishing a hardwood floor is being patient through the time it takes waiting for the polyurethane coat to dry. While waiting for the natural drying process is always your best bet, there are ways to speed up the time it takes for the polyurethane to dry.

How Long Does It Take For Polyurethane To Dry?

After application, oil-based urethanes take about 24 hours to dry, while water-based urethanes require six hours of dry time. However, there’s a significant difference between dry time and cure time. Cure time refers to the time needed before the wood floor is ready to be used.

Depending on conditions, the curing time for an oil-based polyurethane can be as long as a month. Water-based polyurethane cures in about two to five days. The team at Artisan Wood Floors LLC offers multiple different hardwood floor refinishing options, and we can discuss the fumes from hardwood floor finishes, drying/curing times, as well as how to maintain your hardwood floors to keep them shining for years to come.

Factors Influencing Polyurethane Drying and Curing Times

There are several factors determining dry and cure time.

  • Polyurethane Type: The relationship between the type of polyurethane used with drying and curing times cannot be overemphasized. For a faster-drying wood floor finish, use water-based polyurethane, which takes six hours to dry before being ready for sanding and a second finish. An oil-based Polyurethane is going to take 24 hours before being ready for sanding or touching.
  • Type of Wood: Aromatic cedars and Rosewood may result in drying and curing delays because their natural oils slow the process. Instead, choose a wood floor species that does not produce chemicals that will inhibit the drying or curing process.
  • Humidity and Temperature: Polyurethane dries faster in lower humidity and higher temperature. At increased temperatures, the polyurethane will dry faster, at lower temperatures it will take longer. A temperature of 70F and 50% humidity is what it takes for the average dry times mentioned above.
  • Wood Surface: Sanded raw wood features open grains that readily absorb the first coat of polyurethane, offering a shorter drying time while subsequent coats take longer.

Four Tips for Speeding Up Polyurethane Dry Time

Tip #1: Utilize a Thinner

Using a thinner like Naphtha will help the polyurethane dry faster thanks to its higher rate of evaporation than spirit and turpentine. Polyurethane dries more quickly when the thinner can evaporate more quickly. That’s why Naphtha is the best choice for thinning urethane or any other type of varnish.

Tip #2. Use a Water-Based Type of Polyurethane

At the risk of redundancy, it cannot be stressed enough that if you want to speed up the drying time of polyurethane, you will want to use a water-based polyurethane. Compared to oil-based polyurethane, water-based polyurethane will dry faster. You can usually begin the subsequent hardwood floor refinishing process, including sanding and applying the topcoat, approximately six hours after application. You should also give the floor two days for curing, and then your hardwood floor will be ready to use. If time is an issue, which it likely might be if you’re reading this article, a water-based polyurethane will be your best bet.

Tip # 3. Apply Extra Heat

Applying heat is one of the best ways to increase polyurethane drying times. For example, some individuals will use a hair-dryer, a space heater, or a heat lamp to turn up the heat on a polyurethane coat. Although these methods speed up dry time, they do not speed up curing time. On days when the temperature is high, the polyurethane will more quickly dry and cure.

Tip # 4. Lower The Humidity

When it comes to hardwood floor polyurethane, lower humidity equals faster polyurethane dry time. So, one of the best solutions can be to use dehumidifiers to speed things along. Also, be sure to clean your air conditioner’s filter before starting your project. That will help you ensure steady low humidity within the workspace, encouraging a faster drying and curing time.

Speeding Up Polyurethane Drying and Curing Times

Both humidity and temperature are critical factors when checking on or attempting to speed up your floor’s polyurethane drying time. As a result, enhancing dry time requires an increase in temperature and a reduction in humidity. It is also very important to use a water-based polyurethane, especially if you lack the time or the patience you’ll need to wait out an oil-based polyurethane’s drying and curing times.

As a general rule, polyurethane can take as long as 30 days to completely and correctly cure. It would be best to give yourself a full 3- days before using your wood floors following a polyurethane treatment for the best possible outcomes.

When It Comes To Polyurethane Application, Trust The Professionals

The best way to ensure that your wood floors are done right is to hire a professional hardwood flooring expert. When you hire a professional for your Philadelphia Hardwood Floor Installation, you will save time and money while avoiding costly mistakes associated with not letting polyurethane applications dry and cure properly.

For more information about wood flooring options, contact the hardwood flooring experts at Artisan Wood Floors LLC at 215-515-7355. We have decades of hardwood flooring repair, refinish, and installation experience, serving clients throughout Philadelphia, New Jersey, and the surrounding area – remember to ask for Steve!



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