As spring arrives, you’re likely gearing up for a home renovation project. In our previous post,
we emphasized the importance of time in remodeling. But it’s not just about time; it’s also about the sequence of tasks.
 Have you ever wondered about the best order of tasks for your renovation project? Let’s take the example of painting the interior walls and refinishing the floor. Some suggest painting the walls first, then sanding and finishing the floor; others advise painting the last. So, who is right? There are valid arguments on both sides, making it a genuine dilemma.

I invite You to See my Arguments, and You will be Informed and Prepared for Your
Renovation Project

I proudly opened my business in the fall of 2007. My first business was Victor’s Hardwood
Flooring and Interior Painting. Soon after, I became a hardwood floor enthusiast and decided to work only with hardwood floors. Michigan Hardwood Floor Services marked the beginning of a lifelong passion for hardwood floors. While my focus shifted exclusively to hardwood floors, I gained some experience in painting, which helped me see the hardwood floor project from a different perspective.

As a National Wood Flooring Association Certified Professional, I always follow their
guidelines. One key principle that these guidelines emphasize is the importance of completing
wood flooring as one of the final tasks in any remodel or new construction project, specifically
after all the wet work is done. So, when faced with the common question of whether to start with painting the walls or refinishing the floor, I confidently assert that the hardwood floor should always be the last step.

Let’s Take it Step by Step!

Sanding and refinishing hardwood floors is a process that involves following several steps. While I won’t delve into the details here, I’ll focus on the finished materials part. Usually, in the refinishing process, five layers of moisture-content materials are applied: one coat of full filler, stain and water base sealer, and two coats of water base finish. Each of these materials has its own dry time.

Dry Time Versus Cure Time

 But what is dry time? Dry time is when you can put your hand on the floor, which does not stick or leave marks, indicating the finish has dried. In the case of water base finishes, the average dry time is between 4 to 8 hours. It is highly recommended not to walk on the floor for the first 24 hours and no bare feet or shoes on the floor for a minimum of 72 hours. It is good to stay away from the floor for at least 72 hours, and after this time, cautiously, you can put the furniture and appliances back on the floor. Very importantly, though, there are no rugs or floor covers for at least seven days. Why seven days, you would ask? For the water base finishes, the average cure time is seven days. 

But What is Cure Time, and Why is It so Important? 

Cure time is a key concept in hardwood floor refinishing. It refers to the time it takes for all the solvents and liquid carriers to evaporate, allowing the stain, sealer, and finish to bond together strongly and fully harden. The cure time is influenced by the house’s environmental conditions, and it’s important to maintain normal living conditions during this period to facilitate the curing process. Understanding this concept will help you better manage your home improvement project.

Will Painting the House Offer Normal Living Conditions?

Wooden parquet is a living material that consequently reacts to environmental changes. It responds to variations in air humidity and adapts accordingly to a greater or lesser extent. Suppose the wooden parquet is in a very high-humidity room; the wood will tend to absorb some of the existing humidity.

Painting the house too soon after refinishing the floor can lead to high humidity, which can be detrimental to the floor. Consider this scenario: you apply 5 gallons of paint on the walls. Whether you intend it or not, the moisture from this paint will be absorbed into your newly refinished floor, potentially causing the wood to expand. This situation underlines the importance of being cautious and maintaining normal living conditions after refinishing the floor.

Dust is No Longer an Issue! 

I have heard many people complain about dust when sanding wood floors. In the past, sanding and refinishing hardwood floors was a problem and involved a lot of trouble and, above all, dust; that’s why many people chose to sand and refinish the hardwood floor first and then paint the walls. Nowadays, any company that sands and refinishes hardwood floors and respects itself has a system that minimizes the dust produced during the sanding process.  For instance, our Bona Atomic DCS Trailer Dustless Sanding system uses advanced dust collection technology to collect up to 99.9% of the dust, ensuring a clean and dustless environment. The dust that is removed in the sand and refinish process is no longer an argument for having a hardwood floor done before painting.

Ladders on The Newly Refinished Floor are An Issue

It’s important to note that if you paint first and then the sanding and refinishing process is complete, the paint may require some touch-ups. However, it’s much easier to fix paint than hardwood floors, and this approach also reduces the risk of splattering. When painting the ceilings, workers will need ladders, which can pose a risk to your new floors if not handled with care. While a bucket of paint and a roller or paintbrush won’t cause significant damage if set down or dropped, larger equipment should be used cautiously to avoid any potential floor damage.

What Do we Do when Baseboards are On Place?

The other common concern I often hear is, what do we do when we have baseboards in the room? I’ve found a practical solution. First, I apply tape to all the baseboards surrounding the sand and refinish area to prevent stain drops. With these simple precautions, stain seeping under the tape is rare. However, a touch-up on the baseboards will suffice if it does happen.

How About Shoe Molding?

I also remove all the old shoe molding and, most of the time, install new ones. Before installation, I pre-paint or pre-stain the shoe molding, depending on the homeowners’ preference, and proceed with the installation. Then, I fill the nail holes and touch them up, buff the floor, and apply the last topcoat of finish.

Painting Walls Or Refinishing Floors? Where Should I Begin?

While there is no single correct answer, keep in mind that painting is a more cost-effective option compared to floor sanding. It’s worth considering that while you can always touch up the walls, repairing a damaged wood floor can be a significantly more complex task. The complexity of floor sanding, with the potential need to recoat the floor or re-sand the entire surface to fix the damage, should be approached with caution. So, when faced with whether to start with painting the walls or refinishing the floor, and based on my work experience, I confidently assert that the hardwood floor should always be the last step.

 Whatever your project—sanding and refinishing hardwood floors, replacing the carpet with a beautiful hardwood floor, or looking for a custom hardwood floor installation—Michigan Hardwood Floor Services is here to serve you with our attention to details, patience, and skills.


Michigan Hardwood Floor Services is a proud member of National Wood Floor Associations