by | Jul 3, 2024

Hardwood Floor Sanding: 5 Best Methods to Ensure Success


Hardwood floor sanding is a crucial process if you want to restore the natural beauty and durability of your wooden floors. Whether you’re tackling the task yourself or hiring professionals, understanding the fundamentals ensures you get the best results. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you need to know:

  • Overview: Sanding removes the old finish and imperfections, revealing fresh wood.
  • Importance: Prepares the floor for staining and sealing, enhancing both appearance and longevity.
  • Benefits: A smooth, beautiful floor surface that is more resistant to wear and tear.

I’m Francisco Romero, owner of Romero Hardwood Floors Inc. With over 15 years of hands-on experience in hardwood floor sanding and installation, I’ve seen it all. Let’s make your floors look as stunning as they were meant to be!

Steps for hardwood floor sanding - hardwood floor sanding infographic step-infographic-4-steps

Preparing Your Room for Hardwood Floor Sanding

Before you start sanding, proper preparation is crucial. This ensures a smooth process and a fantastic result. Here’s how to prepare your room:

Water Droplet Test

First, check if your floor needs refinishing. Sprinkle a few drops of water on the surface. If the water soaks in immediately, your floor needs refinishing. If the droplets bead up, a good cleaning and polishing might be enough.

Move Furniture

Clear the room of all furniture and rugs. This gives you space to work and prevents damage to your belongings. If you can’t move heavy items, sand one half of the room at a time and shift furniture as needed.

Remove Carpeting

Pull up any carpeting or rugs. Be careful not to damage the hardwood underneath. Use a utility knife to cut the carpet into manageable sections, but avoid cutting into the wood itself.

Hammer Nails

Walk around and look for protruding nails. Use a hammer to drive them down below the surface. This prevents the sander from catching on them and damaging the floor or the machine.

Secure Floorboards

Check for squeaky or loose floorboards. Secure them with finishing nails to ensure a stable surface for sanding.

Remove Debris

Sweep and vacuum the floor to remove all dust and debris. A clean surface helps the sander work more effectively and prevents scratches.

Seal Air Vents

Seal air vent covers with plastic sheeting and tape. This keeps dust from entering your ductwork and spreading throughout your home.

Plastic Sheeting

Use plastic sheeting to seal off doorways and other openings. This confines dust to the work area, making cleanup easier and protecting the rest of your house.

Room Preparation for Sanding - hardwood floor sanding

With your room properly prepared, you’re ready to move on to choosing the right sander for the job.

Choosing the Right Sander for Hardwood Floors

Selecting the right sander is crucial for achieving a smooth, professional finish on your hardwood floors. Different sanders serve different purposes, and using the correct one can make your job easier and more efficient. Let’s break down the types of sanders you might need.

Drum Sander

A drum sander is the heavy-duty workhorse for large, open areas of your floor. It uses a rotating drum to sand the wood aggressively and quickly.

  • Best For: Removing old finishes and leveling uneven floors.
  • Tips: Always keep the sander moving to avoid gouging the floor. Start with coarse grit sandpaper (like 40-grit) and work your way to finer grits.

Belt Sander

A belt sander is similar to a drum sander but uses a continuous loop of sandpaper. It’s less aggressive and easier to control, making it a good alternative for those new to floor sanding.

  • Best For: Large, flat areas where you need a bit more control than a drum sander.
  • Tips: Follow the wood grain and change the sandpaper frequently to maintain efficiency.

Orbital Sander

An orbital sander is less aggressive than both drum and belt sanders. It moves in small circles, which makes it less likely to leave marks on your floor.

  • Best For: Smaller projects or fine finishing work.
  • Tips: Great for DIYers who want to avoid the risk of damaging the floor. However, it may take longer to remove old finishes.

Floor Edger

The floor edger is designed to sand the areas that the drum or belt sander can’t reach, like the edges of the room and corners.

  • Best For: Sanding along baseboards and in tight corners.
  • Tips: Use the same grit sandpaper as your main sander to maintain consistency. Practice your technique to avoid creating swirl marks.

Small Orbital Sander

A small orbital sander is a handheld tool that’s perfect for detailed work in tight spaces where the floor edger can’t reach.

  • Best For: Sanding under radiators, stairs, and other small, hard-to-reach areas.
  • Tips: Use fine-grit sandpaper to blend these areas seamlessly with the rest of the floor.

Floor Buffer

A floor buffer is used for screening, which is the final sanding step before applying your finish. It smooths out the floor and prepares it for staining or sealing.

  • Best For: Final smooth sanding to remove any remaining scratches.
  • Tips: Use a fine-grit screening pad and move the buffer in broad arcs for an even finish.

By understanding the strengths and uses of each type of sander, you can choose the right tools for your hardwood floor sanding project. This will help you achieve a smooth, even finish that looks professional and lasts for years.

Next, we’ll dive into the step-by-step guide to sanding hardwood floors, starting with rough-sanding the floor.

Step-by-Step Guide to Sanding Hardwood Floors

Rough-Sanding the Floor

Rough-sanding is the first step in hardwood floor sanding. It removes old finishes, deep scratches, and stains.

  1. Drum Sander: Start with a drum sander. It’s powerful and perfect for large areas.
  2. Coarse Sandpaper: Use 36-40 grit sandpaper for the first pass. This grit is rough enough to remove old finish and level the floor.
  3. Overlapping Strokes: Move the drum sander back and forth in overlapping strokes. Each stroke should overlap the previous one by about one-third of the belt width.
  4. Abrasive Belt: Replace the abrasive belt after sanding about 250 square feet. This keeps the sander working efficiently.
  5. Vacuuming: After each sanding pass, vacuum the floor thoroughly. This removes dust and debris, preventing it from clogging the sandpaper.

Sanding Edges and Corners

Edges and corners can’t be reached by the drum sander. Here’s how to tackle them:

  1. Floor Edger: Use a floor edger with the same grit sandpaper as the drum sander. This ensures a consistent finish.
  2. Small Orbital Sander: For tricky spots like corners and around radiator feet, use a small orbital sander.
  3. Scraper: For tight corners, use a scraper. It’s a manual tool but effective for those hard-to-reach spots.
  4. Practice Technique: Edgers and small orbital sanders can be tricky to control. Practice on scrap wood to get comfortable.

Screening the Floor

After rough-sanding, you need to screen the floor to smooth out any remaining roughness.

  1. Floor Buffer: Use a floor buffer fitted with a fine-grit screening pad (100-120 grit). This step is crucial for a smooth, even surface.
  2. Smooth Surface: Move the buffer in broad arcs across the floor. This ensures you cover the entire surface evenly.
  3. Fine-Grit Screening Pad: The fine-grit pad removes minor imperfections and prepares the floor for staining or finishing.

Removing Dust

Removing dust is essential for a flawless finish.

  1. Sweep: Start by sweeping the floor to remove large particles.
  2. Vacuum: Next, vacuum the entire area thoroughly. Pay special attention to cracks between boards and the edges of the room.
  3. Tack Cloth: Finally, use a tack cloth to wipe down the floor. This removes any remaining fine dust and hairs that could mar the finish.

Proper dust removal ensures that your stain or finish will adhere perfectly, leading to a beautiful, professional-looking floor.

Next, we’ll move on to applying stain and finish to your sanded hardwood floors.

Applying Stain and Finish

Applying Wood Stain

Applying a wood stain can dramatically change or enhance the color of your hardwood floors. Follow these steps for a flawless finish:

  1. Choose Your Stain: Select an interior wood stain that matches your desired color and is suitable for your hardwood type.
  2. Apply with a Foam Applicator Pad: Use a foam applicator pad to spread the stain in the direction of the wood grain. Work in small, manageable sections, about four square feet at a time.
  3. Remove Excess Stain: After a few minutes, use clean cotton cloths or paper towels to wipe off any excess stain. Some prefer wrapping a cotton cloth around a dry applicator pad for this step.
  4. Drying Time: Allow the stain to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions before moving on to the finish.

Tip: If you decide not to stain, apply a sanding sealer before the polyurethane finish for better adhesion and a smoother final look.

Applying Wood Finish

Finishing your hardwood floor protects it and enhances its beauty. Here’s how to do it right:

  1. Choose Your Finish: You can select from water-based polyurethane, oil-based polyurethane, or various wood oils like Danish oil, teak oil, or tung oil.
  2. Water-Based Polyurethane: Dries quickly and is less odorous but may be tricky to apply evenly.
  3. Oil-Based Polyurethane: Dries slower, providing a smoother coat, but the fumes can be strong, so wear a respirator.
  4. Wood Oils: These penetrate the wood, enhancing its natural look and providing moderate protection.
  5. Apply with a Lamb’s Wool Applicator: Use a lamb’s wool applicator to apply the finish in smooth, even lines. Avoid drips for a clean finish.
  6. Multiple Coats: Apply three coats of oil-based finish or four coats of water-based finish. Each coat should be allowed to dry fully, typically 24 hours, before the next application.
  7. Sand Between Coats: After each coat dries, lightly sand the floor with 220-grit sandpaper or #000 steel wool. This helps the next coat adhere better and ensures a smoother finish.
  8. Vacuum and Apply Subsequent Coats: Vacuum up the dust from sanding before applying the next coat. Repeat the process until all coats are applied.
  9. Reattach Moulding: Once the finish is completely dry, reattach any moulding you removed earlier.

Tip: To keep your lamb’s wool applicator from drying out overnight, store it in a tightly sealed plastic bag.

By following these steps, you’ll achieve a beautiful, durable finish that will keep your hardwood floors looking their best for years to come.

Hardwood Floor Refinishing Tips and Safety

Refinishing Tips

Consistent Sanding: When refinishing hardwood floors, it’s crucial to maintain a consistent sanding pattern. Use the same grade sandpaper on both the drum sander and the edger to ensure uniformity. For example, if you start with 60-grit sandpaper on the drum sander, use the same grit on the edger before moving to a finer grit.

Built-in Vacuums: Most drum and edger sanders come with built-in vacuums and dust bag systems. These features significantly reduce dust emissions and keep your workspace cleaner.

Wood Putty: After sanding, fill any holes or gaps in the floor with wood putty or wood filler. This step ensures a smooth and even surface before applying stain or finish.

Spot Test: Before applying a stain or finish, always do a spot test on a small, inconspicuous area of the floor. This helps you see how the stain will look and ensures you are happy with the color.

Felt Pads: When returning furniture to the room, place felt pads on the feet to prevent scratches. Avoid dragging furniture across the floor to protect your new finish.

Safety Precautions

Dust Mask: Always wear a dust mask or a HEPA-level N95 respirator when sanding. Fine dust can cause sinus problems and other respiratory issues.

Safety Goggles: Protect your eyes from dust and debris by wearing safety goggles. This is especially important when using a drum sander or edger.

Ear Protection: Sanding machines can be very loud. Use ear protection, such as earmuffs or earplugs, to protect your hearing.

Manufacturer’s Instructions: Carefully review and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for any sanding equipment you use. This helps prevent injury and ensures you don’t damage your floor.

Well-Ventilated Rooms: Work in well-ventilated rooms when sanding or applying stain or finish. Open windows and doors to improve airflow and reduce the concentration of fumes.

Proper Disposal of Oil-Soaked Rags: Oil-soaked rags can be a fire hazard. Store and dispose of them properly by hanging them outside, away from structures, until they are completely dry before disposal.

By following these refinishing tips and safety precautions, you can achieve professional results and maintain a safe working environment.

Frequently Asked Questions about Hardwood Floor Sanding

Can I sand hardwood floors myself?

Yes, you can sand hardwood floors yourself! Many DIY enthusiasts tackle this project to save on costs. However, it’s important to know that hardwood floor sanding requires specific tools, materials, and a fair amount of skill.

Cost Savings: By doing it yourself, you can save a significant amount of money. Professional sanding can cost between $1,150 to $2,500, while a DIY project can range from $600 to $1,000.

Potential Risks: The downside is the risk of damaging your floors. Improper technique can lead to uneven surfaces, gouges, or scratches. Always follow guidelines and safety precautions to minimize these risks.

What grit to finish sanding hardwood floors?

Choosing the right grit is crucial for a smooth finish. Here’s a simple breakdown:

  • Grit 40: This is a coarse grit used for the initial rough-sanding. It removes old finishes and levels the floor.
  • Grit 60: The next step is medium grit. It smooths out the roughness left by the coarse grit.
  • Grit 100: This fine grit is used for the final sanding pass. It ensures your floors are smooth and ready for staining or finishing.

Using the right grit sequence ensures that your floor is evenly sanded and free from scratches.

What is the best tool to sand hardwood floors with?

The quality of your sanding job greatly depends on the tools you use. Here are the best options:

  • Orbital Sander: Ideal for DIYers, this sander is easier to control and less likely to damage the floor. It’s great for achieving a smooth finish but may take longer on larger areas.
  • Drum Sander: This is the go-to tool for professionals. It’s powerful and efficient for sanding large areas quickly. However, it requires more skill to avoid gouging the floor.

For edges and corners, use a floor edger or a small orbital sander to ensure every part of the floor is evenly sanded.

By understanding these key aspects, you can approach your sanding project with confidence and achieve professional results. For more detailed guidance, check out our Step-by-Step Guide to Sanding Hardwood Floors.

Next, let’s dive into Applying Stain and Finish to complete your hardwood floor transformation.


Romero Hardwood Floors Inc is your go-to partner for all things related to hardwood floor sanding and refinishing. With over 15 years of experience, we have honed our craft to deliver expert services that guarantee results. Our team is dedicated to enhancing the beauty and longevity of your floors, ensuring they remain a valuable asset to your home.

Expert Services
We pride ourselves on our craftsmanship and attention to detail. Whether it’s sanding, staining, or finishing, our team uses high-quality, eco-friendly products to ensure your floors look stunning and are protected for years to come.

Competitive Pricing
Quality doesn’t have to break the bank. We offer competitive pricing without compromising on service quality. Our goal is to provide top-notch services that fit within your budget, making hardwood floor refinishing accessible to everyone.

Guaranteed Workmanship
We stand behind our work. Our commitment to excellence means that we guarantee your satisfaction. From the initial consultation to the final finish, we ensure every step meets our high standards.

Enhancing Property Value
Refinishing your hardwood floors is not just a cosmetic upgrade; it’s an investment. Well-maintained floors can significantly boost your property’s value. According to industry statistics, refinished hardwood floors can increase your home’s resale value by up to 2.5%.

Ready to transform your floors? Trust the experts at Romero Hardwood Floors Inc. Visit our Hardwood Floor Refinishing page to learn more about our services and get started on your project today.

For more detailed guidance, check out our Step-by-Step Guide to Sanding Hardwood Floors.


How to Sand Hardwood Floors: 5 Methods That Guarantee Results

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