The average time it takes to complete a sand & refinish job is 3-5 days. Timeframe depends on several factors including the square footage of the floor, shape it's in, repair work, is it going stain or neutral, etc... The sanding process is the most time consuming and crucial to the outcome of the job.
First off, all furniture must be removed from the area to be refinished. If carpet is covering the flooring, all the carpet, tackstrip, and staples must be removed. Plastic is also hung up where needed.
Now is the time to do any necessary repairs due to pet or water staining, water/termite damage, or for any other reason. Repairs should be completed before sanding can begin in that particular area. Sometimes additional damage is exposed after initial sanding.
Prior to sanding, it is best that the house have working a/c or heat. This is to help keep the relative humidity at an acceptable level. Once a floor has been sanded it is especially sensitive to moisture. The temperature in the home should stay between 68-78 degrees. It is also advised that a/c or heat be left on at all times in a home with wood floors. This is not to say it needs to be set to run constantly, just enough to keep relative humidity and temperature at proper levels. Even after wood floors have been finished they are susceptible to moisture and can expand and contract. If you have a pier and beam type foundation it is crucial that there is proper ventilation under the home to allow air movement to help prevent stagnant moisture.
It's preferable that pets be blocked off from all the areas that are being sanded. It's pertinent that they be blocked off during the final sanding and finishing stages. It takes hours for stains and finishes to dry, if a pet walks across a wet floor, the paw prints may have to be sanded out to be removed.
Some floors require an extensive amount of sanding to remove old finish, varnish, wax, grime, paint, or whatever else may be on the floor. Each floor is different from the next, and our sanding process must be adjusted accordingly.
(Note: many times pet urine and water stains are concerns for homeowners. Unfortunately, these stains don't always come out during the sanding process. Why? Because the urine or water has penatrated and discolored the wood so deep it cannot always be sanded down far enough to remove it without destroying the floor). The best way to remove pet urine stains is to replace the affected flooring. In some instances staining a floor a darker color will help conceal urine/water staining to some degree.
The amount of sanding involved is also determined by whether you choose a stain color or a neutral sealer. Staining in general requires more sanding than if you choose a neutral sealer. This is because stain colors, especially dark stain, will highlight imperfections in the sanding process - thus a more intensive sanding process is required. Staining will usually incur additional charges for the additional labor and sanding materials involved. A neutral sealer will simply bring out the natural color of the wood itself, while stain can "transform" the appearance of the wood.
The Sealing/Staining Proccess
This is where the floor comes alive. Once the final sanding is done it is advisable that no one besides flooring professionals walk on the floor. Foreign substances such as oils, rocks stuck in shoe soles, water, etc... can affect the floor at this point. If you choose a stain color, blue painters tape will be used to mask off trim that could potentially come in contact with the stain. This is not always 100% full-proof, so some paint touch up may be necessary.
The process for sealing or staining is to apply the product with a wool mop and brush, then remove the excess that doesn't absorb into the grain. Sometimes it's neccesarry in larger homes to split the floor up into sections, and come back the next day to complete the process.
Once we're done we generally like to allow around 36 hours of dry time before applying our polyurethane on stain. This ensures there will be no problems with our finish adhering to the stain. If you choose a neutral color, we will usually apply polyurethane the next day.
Note-the sealing/staining process produces fumes. We do not recommend that homeowners be present or reside in the home during this process, do so at your own discretion.
The Finishing Stage
Here we are, almost to the end. We typically use water based polyurethane finish, but upon request we do have oil-based polyurethane available. Our normal process involves applying two coats of finish, which we can do in one day if using water-based. Oil based finishes generally take 8-12 hours to dry before re-coat is possible.
The odor associated with our water based finishes is minimal, so it's no problem if you need to be in the home. On the other hand, there is significant odor and fumes associated with oil-based finishes and you should not be present during the application of these products.
Dry times & cure times. When can I have my floors back?
Generally we like to have homeowners wait until the next day to walk on the floors, without shoes. This is to ensure that the finish is dry, and the "no shoes" is just a precaution to reduce the chance of rocks or grit being tracked on the newly finished floor.
As far as moving furniture back in we advise waiting about 7 days. Same goes for area rugs. You'll want to put felt pads under each piece of furniture where it comes in contact with the floor, and try not to slide the furniture around for a few days.
Precaution: As with any trade, be aware of the "fly-by-night" floor finishers. If you don't hire an experienced professional with proper equipment, you run the risk of causing damage to your floor. Sanding and finishing floors takes many years of experience and finesse - it is indeed a specialty craft.
What to expect when having your wood floors refinished
by Brian Kelley