When it comes to refurbishing your hardwood floors so they look new again, a sander is your best friend. Actually, you’ve got a few new friends in the sander isle at your local rental store, because to sand a wood floor to perfection before finishing, you’ll likely need to use more than one kind of sander. Depending upon the condition of the floor, you’ll use a variety of sanding techniques, too.
For instance, if the floor is flat or new, plan to sand it up and down, following the grain of the floor boards. However, if the floor is uneven, painted or varnished, plan to sand it across the grain at a 45-degree angle to remove unwanted finish and avoid damaging the wood.
Step 1. Prepare for the Messy Job
Sanding involves dust, noise and mess – and it’s best to be prepared for it. A few precautionary measures you should take before beginning any sanding:
- Wear a respiratory mask, ear protectors and other protective clothing
- Prevent dust from spreading to other areas of the house by covering doors, windows and even air grills for duct work
- Work in a well-ventilated area, opening windows if necessary
- Prep the room and the floor by removing all furniture, draperies, base shoe molding, any protruding splinters or screw heads, nailing down any loose floorboards and sweeping the surface clean of debris
Step 2. Choose the Right Sander/s for Your Floor
Types & Function of Sanders
All sanders use sandpaper specially made for each type. It’s best to change the sandpaper as soon as it’s spent. It’s also critical to progress through sandpaper grits, from coarse and up, to remove finishes, flatten the wood and polish off any scratches. In addition, sweep or vacuum the floor clean between grit changes. Here’s a rundown of the types of sanders and their function:
Drum Sander – uses a rotating drum wrapped in sandpaper, which can be replaced by unscrewing the retaining strip, feeding a fresh sheet of sandpaper around the drum, then re-securing it. Drum sanders do the heavy-duty work of removing old paint and varnish with a continual application of sanding grit, producing a smooth finish. Start be sanding diagonally in one direction across the floor, changing direction for the next set of diagonal runs followed by a final run in the direction of the wood grain.
Orbital or Rotary Sander – uses a rotating sanding disk that produces the same smooth finish regardless of the direction of the wood grain or sanding runs, leaving no swirl marks. Best used for the first sanding of the floor rather than between coats of finish or paint.
Edging Sander – uses a disk of sandpaper to sand areas of floor that are close to the walls or baseboards. Usually hand-held, this specialty equipment is mounted on a big motor and includes a bag for collecting dust.
Corner Sander – uses a vibrating sandpaper head in a triangular shape that fits nicely in corners and other small spaces like under a radiator.
Buffer – uses a rotating sandpaper disk to screen, which blends the edge-sanded perimeter with the drum or orbital-sanded area, polishing out sanding scratches. Buffers also give a sanded floor a final buff or polish before finishing.
Step 3. Apply the Finishing Touches
Once the floor is sanded, screened and buffed to the desired smoothness, sweep and vacuum to remove any remaining dust or debris. Touch up any rough places with hand sanding. Wipe with a damp sponge and let dry.
Choose your finish and apply. Two coats of water-based varnish can be applied in as little as one day, with light hand-sanding between coats.
If your wood floors are scratched on the surface, you can clean and remove the scratches without having to sand down to bare wood. Find out how by reading our blog, Spruce up Your Wood Floors in Time for Winter Entertaining.
Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your sanding projects. From drum sanders to rotary sanders and everything in-between, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.