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How to Sand Hardwood Floors

With so many people stuck inside in 2020 due to COVID-induced lockdowns, the home renovation market is on the up.

Do you have a client who’s finally ready to tackle that kitchen refinish? Perhaps the garage could do with some built-in storage? Do their scratched and dented hardwood floors have you Googling, “How to sand hardwood floors?”

Now go ahead and jump into our essential guide to sanding and refinishing hardwood floors.



Tools and Supplies

Tools and Supplies

While a hardwood floor refinish is almost always the preferable (and least expensive) option, sand can wear away the grain pattern. Getting the right gear is the first step to achieving the floors of your client’s dreams.


Getting the Right Equipment

Whether you’re resurfacing floors or preparing to sand upcycled timber flooring in a new home, you’re going to need similar supplies.

Get some masking tape rolls and plastic sheeting to protect other parts of the home from wood dust. You’ll need a heavy-duty vacuum for all that refinish dust, and you need to buy or rent the right kind of floor sander.

It’s a good idea to consider what kind of finish applications you want to use at this stage. Buy the amount you need in advance so you can move onto floor finishing quickly.


How to Choose the Ideal Floor Sander

There are three main floor sander types: a drum sander, an orbital sander, and an edge sander. Some smaller, hand-held sanders, like a belt, disc, and palm (or vibratory) sander, are suitable for a small refinish job.

Which sander you choose depends on a few factors. The square footage of the floor you want to refinish, the type of wood you’re sanding, and the finishes you wish to use after the sand. Depending on how old or damaged the floor is, or if the room you’re working in has an awkward shape, you may end up using more than one type of sander.


Brush up on the Terminology

It might seem like hardwood flooring has been around forever, but that’s not the case. The tongue-and-groove planks we know and love today only became popular in the early 19th century. Still, that’s long enough for an entire industry–with specific tools, machinery, and terminology–to develop.

Just like other industries, clients, suppliers, and other contractors will take you more seriously if you know the right words to use. Brush up on your flooring terms to ensure you get the best prices and buy the correct equipment and products for your needs.



How to Sand Hardwood Floors: Sanding Safety

Before we dive into the how-to, let’s have a chat about floor sanding safety. Knowing how to stay safe is as important as having the right equipment.


Manage the Dust

Manage the Dust

We all know that people in the mining and construction professions are susceptible to lung diseases caused by dust. But did you know that the dust you create when you’re sanding and refinishing hardwood floors is also harmful?

The EPA recommends several strategies to minimize your exposure to dust. Mist surfaces with water before sanding, scraping, or refinishing, and cover any areas you don’t want dust to land on with a plastic tarp. Use the tarp to seal off doorways, too.

If you can, use a fan to blow dusty air out of the work area (such as out of a window) or rent a portable air cleaner. And if there are children or pets in the home, make sure they're out of the area.


Wear Appropriate Clothing

Wear Appropriate Clothing

It might be evident that sanders kick up a lot of dust, but it’s easy to forget that these refinishing machines are also noisy. Keep your eyes, ears, skin, and lungs healthy by investing in some inexpensive but essential protective gear.

You don’t need to wear special clothing, but if you have some old painter's overalls and work boots lying around, don’t be shy to don them for the floor refinish. Otherwise, a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and some sturdy shoes are the next best thing.

You can easily rent or buy all the safety gear you need. Essentials include an N95 respirator, created to stop particles 0.3 microns in size, earplugs or earmuffs, work gloves, and goggles.



Ready, Set, Go: Let the Sanding Begin

No matter the wood floor style, hardwood floors are among the trending home renovation must-haves in 2021. Knowing the ins-and-outs of how to sand and refinish hardwood floors is a skill worth investing some serious time in.


Ready the Area for Sanding

Ready the Area for Sanding

First up, you need to clear the room you’ll be working in of all furniture and accessories. Seal off doors and windows with tarp and tape before you start the refinish.

As a contractor, you’ll likely be bringing in some heavy sanding and refinishing machines. Contact your client to make sure they have room for you to park right outside their home.

If you’re lucky enough to have discovered beautiful hardwood floors hidden under old vinyl tile or worn carpet, you’ll need to remove it before you can get started with refinishing. For example, mastic glue can be tricky to get off, so you’ll need to apply a solvent, then sand and wipe down the floor.

Some older adhesives might contain dangerous materials like asbestos. Get them tested before attempting to remove them.


Start Sanding

Start Sanding

Move the sander over the wooden floors slowly and evenly, and use a series of sanding grades to get an even finish.

If the dust level is hard to control with other methods, use a sander fitted with a vacuum to keep it at manageable levels while refinishing.

In some cases, the sander is too big to fit into the corners of a room. This is where small hand-held grinders come in handy. You can fit your edge sander with various tools to get into even the tightest of spaces.

Once you’ve finished sanding a floor, don’t forget to give everything a thorough final clean before moving onto sealing or recoating.



Knowledge Creates Great Floors

Whether you eventually want to waterproof your hardwood floors or simply oil them, learning how to sand hardwood floors to a professional level is an essential first step. We hope this guide goes some way into helping you create the best floors for your clients.

Are you itching to get that residential or commercial flooring job underway? Request a demo of Onfloor Technology sanders and other flooring products today.

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