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Sanding Your Hardwood Floor By Yourself - Possible? But How?

Half sanded floorThe purpose of this article is not to be a detailed DIY floor sanding article but to provide some general advice on the matter, mostly concerning the choice of equipment and the amount of work involved.

Can I Sand My Hardwood Floor by Hand?

Is it possible? Yes. Is it smart? Not by any chance. Floor sanding is easy on paper but if you want a quality result you have to put your efforts into it. This already demanding process becomes a real nightmare if you decide to use one of those small hand sanders in a vain attempt to save money. If you have a large room it becomes even harder. Given the amount of work involved, sanding by hand is not impossible but it’s simply neither efficient nor wise. The problem lies in the facts that first – handheld sanding equipment is meant to cover only very small areas and are mostly for places where larger and more powerful equipment is not able to reach.  And second – hand sanders quite simply lack the raw power which is needed to get the job done right. You can do a fine buffing with them but a full sanding? Unfortunately, for the DIY budding expert, you can’t.

If you are still not convinced your best bet may be to use a regular handheld belt sander because it’s a flexible and powerful machine capable of working on both rough and smooth surfaces with a simple change of the sandpaper. It can remove old finish pretty well and comes in a variety of sizes, the most common being 3x21- inches.

Can I Use Orbital Sander to Refinish My Floor?

No, we are not talking about the small, handheld random orbital sander which everyone has in its basement or garage. We have in mind the much bigger professional orbital sanders like Bona FlexiSand PD 1.5 and Lagler Trio.

Bona flexi sand 1.5

Now hands down, those are beautiful machines and quite useful too. They consist of a drive plate and several separately driven heads attached to it. However, they are designed to do the finer, finishing sanding rounds and won’t be able to deal with more severe types of damage.

When you undergo a floor restoration you prefer to work with a perfectly smooth and even surface. So a good choice is an orbital sander machine which is certainly not lacking in power but as a disadvantage to its design, it can't deal with uneven floorboards. You need another piece of equipment to do that first and only after that, the orbital sander can become effective.

However, orbital sanders do serve a purpose. The first rule when sanding a floor is to follow the grain. If you attempt to sand cross-grain you will find out that it tears the fibres of the wood. When you finally finish the floor the marks left during the sanding become visible and ruin the impression of a smooth surface.

If you apply a stain before the finish the negative effect will become quite noticeable. Imagine now, that you have a parquet where the blocks face different directions and form a pattern. How do you refinish that? With a machine that abrades in several directions at the same time, of course. This is where lies the true strength of the orbital sanders. 

A Drum Sander or An Endless Belt Sander

Herringbone pattern parquet

Please, do not confuse the handheld belt sander with the endless belt sander. Despite the similarity in their names, the endless belt sander is a dedicated floor sanding equipment while the regular handheld sander is a much smaller general-purpose tool.

Now on the current topic between drum sander and endless belt sander, the winner is the endless belt sander. Hands down. Why is that?

The drum sander is simply outdated and clumsy. Working with it is a slow and hard process and the result is inferior. In comparison, the endless belt sander (which our company also uses) has a clutch near the handle which allows it to regulate the level of the drum sanding the floor’s surface. This not only makes it a more comfortable piece of equipment but also grants the person performing the job a lot more control over the process.

Combining an endless belt with an edge sander for those harder to reach places will arguably provide the best possible results.


FlooringFirst! Services
158 Coles Green Road
London, NW2 7HW
T: 020 88309782