How to Use a Drum Floor Sander

Dave / Wikimedia Commons

Want nicely sanded floors? Does your floor have "issues" with discoloration, bumps, and other not-so-niceties? Then, a drum floor sander is probably in your future.
Drum floor sanders are monsters: heavy, powerful, capable of injuring you. Drum sanders are also the only way to really sand down a bad floor. But be careful: you're also stripping off a significant amount of floor in the process.

1. Rent Or Buy It?

This is one piece of equipment you will not, by any stretch of the imagination, want to buy. Drum sanders are very expensive, and they have only one use. Search "rental yards," along with your city name, on the Internet. Or look in the Yellow Pages.
Be careful. Drum sanders are beasts that even normal rental yards may not have. Confirm that they have these sanders on hand.

2. Buy a Range of Sandpaper Grits

Sandpaper grit refers to the roughness of the sandpaper. You will be buying long strips of sandpaper, unsuitable for any other use. But the good news is that most rental yards will buy back unused and clean sandpaper. Confirm first. Definitely, buy up a good supply of sandpaper.

3. Have Rental Yard Put on Sandpaper

This is a nice little tip - ask the rental employees to put on your first piece of sandpaper. Most people are unfamiliar with putting sandpaper on a drum sander, so it helps to watch someone do it.

4. Don't Lift Sander By Yourself

Seriously, get help from the rental yard guys. In the prime of my youth, I was barely able to heft a drum floor sander onto a truck bad. Remember, you'll also need help when you get it home.

5. Avoid Extension Cord

One time, I melted my orange extension cord into a "donut" on the reel because the drum sander was drawing too much power--the cord simply could not handle it. Best advice is to avoid extension cords altogether, using only the cord on the sander. Second best advice is to buy an extension cord of the same wire gauge as the sander's cord.

6. Dust Mask and Safety Glasses

If you're the type of person who likes to work without safety equipment, this is not the time. Even though the drum sander has a dust bag, it only collects the majority of dust--the rest goes in the air. Also, safety glasses are a must. Drum floor sanders create sparks when they hit nails, and are capable of shooting particles as fast as a bullet.

7. Sand Opposite of Drum Motion

Though this may seem obvious, you will be pulling the floor sander. This means that you are moving the sander in the opposite of the drum motion. Do not attempt to get close to trim, baseboard, doors, walls, etc. You can damage these items with a drum sander.

8. Sand Lightly, with Grain

Use only the weight of the sander. No extra pressure is needed. Following the grain of the wood, pull the drum sander in straight lines, overlapping each line the way you would when mowing a lawn. Stop frequently, so that you can rest your arms and empty the dust bag.

9. "Step Down" Your Grits

You will probably need to sand one or two more times, with finer grits.