Sanding Hardwood Floors: An Overview

  • 01 of 03

    Sanding Hardwood Floors: Overview of the Process

    Reclaimed hardwood timber floor in kitchen.
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    If you have solid hardwood floors and they're looking a little tired, there's no reason you cannot sand them instead of replacing them.

    Sanding hardwood floors can be an immensely satisfying DIY experience. With the right preparation (i.e., covering up non-work areas to keep out dust, moving furniture, selecting the right sander, etc.), hardwood floor sanding for an average-sized house may be no more than a weekend project.

    Essentials for Sanding Hardwood Floors

    1. It's Mainly Labor:...MORE Compared to replacing your hardwood floors, which entails significant labor and materials costs, sanding your hardwood floors is relatively cheap--it's mainly labor you're paying for.
    2. DIY Sanding: Another great aspect of floor-sanding is that anyone with enough motivation and a credit card can rent a professional-quality belt or orbital sander from a local rental yard.
    3. Solid Hardwood vs. Engineered Flooring: Keep in mind that if you have engineered wood flooring (a veneer of real wood atop a plywood-like material), you can easily sand all the way through the veneer. With solid hardwood, you likely will not have this problem.
    4. A Warning About Solid Wood: Solid hardwood flooring, though, cannot be sanded again and again. It may only be good for 5 or 6 sandings before you begin to jeopardize the structural integrity of the boards.
    5. Why Some DIYers Hire Pros: Floor sanding--drum-sanding in particular--is tricky business. Set the rotating drum down on your floor for a fraction of a second too long and you run the risk of gouging deep, irreparable valleys in your beautiful floor. That's why a lot of potential DIY floor sanders end up calling in professional floor refinishers.
    6. Orbital vs. Drum Sander: Orbital floor sanders are a piece of cake compared to drum sanders. When we discuss floor-gouges (above), we are referring to drum floor sanders. Drum sanders are difficult to handle well.
    Continue to 2 of 3 below.
  • 02 of 03

    Sanding Hardwood Floors with a Drum Sander

    drum sander to sand wood floors
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    Sanding your hardwood floor? Think you might need a drum sander? Ask yourself these questions before you go out and rent a drum sander:

    • Is My Floor Thick Enough?: If a floor has been sanded down 5-6 quite thoroughly in the past, it may not have enough thickness for yet another drum sanding. Check thickness of floor surreptitiously in places where pipes may go through the floor--radiator pipes are good locations for this. But keep in mind that edge-sanding may not have been done with as much...MORE force as sanding in the center of the floor.
    • Does My Floor Have Major Imperfections?: One reason homeowners will drum-sand is because their flooring is discolored or severely gouged or scratched. If this does not describe your flooring, you may not need to drum-sand your hardwood floor.
    • Am I Experienced?: Drum-sanding by DIYers is recommended only if you already have experience. The chances are good that you will ruin your first floor with drum-sanding.
    • Am I Strong?: You can get a rental yard employee to help you get the drum sander into your vehicle, but what about at the other end? In most cases, you will need a friend to help you haul the drum-sander out of your vehicle.
    Continue to 3 of 3 below.
  • 03 of 03

    Sanding Hardwood Floors with an Orbital Sander

    orbital floor sander
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    When your project doesn't call for heavy-duty equipment, such as a drum sander, you may want to consider sanding your hardwood floors with an orbital sander.

    If you're picturing an orbital sander to involve a large, rotating sheet of sandpaper, you may be mistakenly thinking of a floor polisher or buffer. An orbital floor sander does not move in circles. Rather, it's more like a vibrating sander, making short "orbits" as frequent as 3450 orbits per minute.

    Orbital floor sanders...MORE are heavy to pick up. But once they are switched on, they glide effortlessly across your floor.

    You won't be able to plane down imperfections in your hardwood floor, as you might do with a drum sander. Then again, you cannot accidentally gouge deep valleys into your flooring, as drum sanders can do.