How long does it take water-based polyurethane to dry on a wooden floor?

After installing hardwood floors or furniture, you might use a polyurethane finish to coat the surface.

And you might be interested in using a water-based type of polyurethane.

If you plan to apply water-based polyurethane to your hardwood, you must know about its dry time.

Usually, it takes about four hours for water-based polyurethane to dry on hardwood floors.

After 4 hours of not wearing shoes, you can walk carefully on the floor with socks.

But it will take about 30 days to cure.

In this article, you’ll learn all you need about water-based polyurethane coating. Let’s dive right into it.

What Is Water-Based Polyurethane?

There are two types of polyurethane, the oil-based type, and the water-based type.

The water-based polyurethane has an advantage over the oil counterpart as it dries a lot faster than the oil-based type and the odor it emits is not too harsh.

Moreover, the finish is clear and long-lasting.

However, the durability of water-based polyurethane is shorter than that of oil-based.

Adding urethane after the polyurethane finish will make your surface resilient against scratches.

It is also easier to clean the tools used for the finish. You need to wash it with water.

Water-based polyurethane releases fewer harmful chemicals, so it is safe for the environment and your health if appropriately handled.

You can dispose of the container in regular trash bins instead of throwing it in the specialized waste container. It is also safe to use this water-based polyurethane around children.

The Advantages Of Using Water-Based Polyurethane On Hardwood Floors

Polyurethane is one of the resilient surface finishes for your hardwood.

Polyurethane will add a defense layer and extend the floors’ life for another 3 to 5 years. If you re-apply polyurethane every 5-6 years, you won’t need to refinish your floors fully.

Moreover, water-based polyurethane doesn’t require much time to dry.

More details about dry time and contributing factors will be explained later.

Another reason to choose water-based polyurethane is that it is safer for the environment. If you use oil-based polyurethane, it contains dangerous chemicals that affect both humans as well as the environment.

Moreover, it would help if you properly dispose of the oil-based polyurethane not to cause harm.

By choosing water-based polyurethane, you indirectly save the environment from dangerous compounds.

The Downsides Of Using Water-Based Polyurethane

Water-based polyurethane can’t resist heat as much as the oil-based counterpart can.

Applying water-based polyurethane is a little harder since the coating tends to run on the surface.

Aside from that, the finish doesn’t appear glossy. The surface also tends to display brush marks.

There is some water-based polyurethane that can be impaired when it is exposed to water for a long time.

The finish also tends to stay on the surface of your furniture or floor instead of permeating into the wood; thus, it makes the color of the wood lighter.

Moreover, water-based polyurethane is subject to watermarks on your furniture and can increase wood grains.

If you are on a budget, water-based polyurethane is a bit more costly than oil-based ones, and the price is usually twice.

Water-Based Polyurethane Dry Time

Water-based polyurethane coating generally takes 24 to 48 hours to dry. However, it would help if you waited for a month (30 days) for it to cure completely.

Here are the details of polyurethane curing time on a hardwood floor:

  • After waiting for 4 to 6 hours of water-based polyurethane application, it is safe to walk on the floors.
  • After 6 to 24 hours, you can walk on it with socks. However, you need to avoid using shoes and walking bare feet. You need to ensure not to allow your pets to walk on it during this time.
  • After waiting two days, moving your furniture back is safe.
  • It will take a whole month for the hardwood to cure. Thus, waiting for a month before you can put rugs on your surface is recommended.
  • If you can’t wait to put the rugs, it is relatively safe to put the mats back after waiting for only two weeks.

The Differences Between Polyurethane Curing Vs. Drying

Although the terms curing and drying might feel the same, it’s not.

Those two terms are different and should not be confused. Here are the differences between polyurethane curing and drying

The “drying” term means that polyurethane coating on your surfaces or furniture doesn’t look “tacky” or looking “wet” anymore; thus, you can use another coat.

When the polyurethane coating has dried, you can walk on the floor.

However, it is preferable if you do not walk barefoot or in shoes, as this may leave undesired prints on the floor.

When water-based or oil-based polyurethane is cured, it has created a shiny and rigid barrier in the form of a plastic-like shape that will give protection to the floor and surface once it has dried.

The solvent will make chemical reactions with oxygen.

As a result, the reactions will make polymer molecules fuse strongly.

What happens when more than one layer of coating is put on?

Here’s what happens when you apply multiple layers of coating.

For each coat you apply, one after another, it will make the resins fused with the previous coats.

Then each layer will cross-link together, making them blend to shape a plastic form that will protect the surfaces.

What Are Factors That Can Impact The Drying Time Of Polyurethane?

Here are a few contributing elements that can affect how long the polyurethane will dry:

1. Water-Basedsed Polyurethane’s Dry Time Is Affected By Wood Types

Some woods create chemicals that will prevent the polyurethane from drying or curing. Some of those woods are aromatic cedar and rosewoods.

They produce natural oils. As a result, these chemicals will prolong the curing and drying time of the finish.

2. Polyurethane Types

Some polyurethane has additional drying agents and different stains and solvents for color. These added ingredients can affect the dry and cure time.

3. The Levels of Humidity and Temperature Affect Polyurethane Dry Time

Polyurethane doesn’t do well with high temperatures.

The suitable temperature for polyurethane is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 21 degrees Celsius.

Any temperature higher than that added with a decreased humidity can tremendously delay the drying time.

If the temperature is low, the amount of time needed to dry something will be extended by approximately half a day. This will also suspend the curing time.