How Long Should Painted Shelves Cure Before Installing?

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Glassware will stick to a shelf if the paint is not completely dry.
Glassware will stick to a shelf if the paint is not completely dry. (Image: Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

A custom shelving unit adds value to a home, providing attractive open storage for collectibles and books. By painting the shelving in a coordinating or complementary color, the unit can either blend into the decor or make a bold decorating statement. When painting shelves, however, extra drying time is required to ensure that the paint does not stick to any items placed on the shelves.

Things You'll Need

  • Acrylic urethane or polyurethane
  • Paintbrush

Read the directions on the paint can; drying times are listed. However, dry to the touch is not the same as cured paint. Generally, paint requires a minimum of two weeks to completely cure.

Consult the paint store representative. Depending on the brand and type of paint used, cure times may vary by a week or more.

Test the shelves after the paint cures for two weeks. Place a heavy object on the shelf and leave it overnight. If it can be easily removed without sticking or lifting up the paint, then the shelf is sufficiently cured. If the shelf still feels sticky where the item was resting, allow the paint to cure for another week to two weeks.

Apply two coats of acrylic urethane or polyurethane if the paint is still sticky after 30 days. Some latex paints remain sticky due to environmental factors at the time of painting, such as heat or humidity. Rather than sand and repaint, apply a coat of sealant to the shelving to solve the sticking problem.

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