Monday, 20 April 2020 10:09

Sanding Floors - Stage 3: Floor Sanding

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The sanding stage of the job is tough. It is very hard on your back and your knees, but if you persist it will get easier once you establish a technique. This is the dirtiest, most difficult and challenging stage of the job. Don't be too fussy about your floorboards, particularly if they are old, or in bad shape as each floorboard is going to exhibit its own unique imperfect character.

  • Equipment Hire - for the main floor area use a drum sander (A). For the edges use a hand held edge sander (B) or a orbital edging sander or large belt sander (C). To get in the corners use a mouse sander (D). Ensure you get a sander with a sawdust catcher. Whatever sanding tool you use, ensure you move it in the direction of the grain. You can hire these sanders from Bunnings or Kennards Hire. It's cheaper to hire these for 24 hours, but remember there is only so much work you can do before you get exhausted.

  • Noise and sawdust - the sanding devices are all very loud, so perform the work during business hours only. Ensure you wear suitable eye and ear protection as well as wear a mask. 
  • Drum Sander - this is very heavy and will generally need 2 people to lift it due to its awkward shape and weight dristribution. If the dust bag breaks and you don't want to make the trip back to the store, use a pillow case for the bag as an alternative. For small rooms, due to the lengh-wise size of the drum sander and the direction of the grain on the floor, you might not be able to operate it in the direction of the grain, therefore you will have to use a smaller belt sander.

  • Edge sander - very awkward to use and without the right technique you could do more damage to the floor and skirting boards. Due to the difficulty in operating this device, I resorted to using a combination of small belt sander, small orbital sander and small mouse sander.
  • Mouse/triangle sander - used for getting into tight corners, around door frames and corners. I got the same result by folding a piece of sandpaper in half and just using my hands, but of course this took longer.
  • Sanding Techniques - for any type of sander, always start/stop it when it is not touching the surface.  When starting the sanding, ease the sander onto the surface whilst moving forwards and when ending the sanding, lift the sander off the surface. Once you do this a few times it will become easier. If you start/stop the sander when it is touching the surface, you will gouge the floor. To speed up the sanding or if your floorboards are warped, alternate moving the sander with the grain and at 45 degrees to the grain. On your final run at the lowest sandpaper grit, only move with the grain. Only use this technique if your wood is in poor condition or previously stained and you have to take alot off.

  • Room selection - start in the first room that isn't going to be the main room. Use this room as practice area before you tackle the more visible areas such as the dining/lounge/family living areas. Once you have mastered using the drum sander after a few runs you will be ready to tackle these "more visible" areas.
  • Sanding technique - on your first pass, start with the drum sander for the main floor, then move to the orbital sander for the edges using the same grit for both. Rinse and repeat for each grit.
  • Sandpaper grit - using various grits depends on the condition of the floor and whether you can get the same sandpaper grit across all the sanding tools that you will use. A poor floor is one where the floorboards are uneven, warped, split, contain uneven gaps as well as covered in paint, oil, grease, dirt and stained and a good floor is one that is new and unmarked. Change the sandpaper regularly as you will get the job done faster or if the lower grit allows, use a wire brush to clean the sandpaper and get more life out of it. If you go over the same area and that mark is just not being removed, it might be time to change the sandpaper.


  • Standard required - don't be too fussy about getting it perfect as wood itself is imperfect and no 2 floorboards are similar. It's more important to keep the character of the house intact with a "rustic" finish by sanding/repairing the original floorboards. Chasing a perfect finish will just go unnoticed to the untrained eye. If your standard is too high, you will find this sanding stage will become unbearable like I did, as it takes a lot of time and effort to get a floor in poor condition to look good. If you want to achieve a flawless professional look, the floorboards will have to be in perfect or near new condition with no gaps. 
  • Sawdust - seal off rooms with plastic sheets when sanding. The fine sawdust will get in everywhere!
  • Skirting boards - take them off or leave them on? The skirting boards were off when I did the sanding. I took them off for reasons other than to sand the floor, but it gave the floor a consistent level finish where the skirting board edge met the floor, because I was able to get in closer to the wall for a flatter finish. I suspect the professionals don't remove the skirting boards, as this would be more work that will add to the cost, plus I don't know how they get so close to the edge without making a curve in the floor where the skirting board meets the floor.
Read 306 times Last modified on Thursday, 14 May 2020 13:32

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