Can I Sand a Floor With a Regular Sander?

By rubbing tiny particles of sand rapidly over the surface, you can remove roughness and smooth down the grain of a wood floor. During the life of a floor, from the installation of the wood planks until the time you refinish it, you will sand it down more than once. Some sanders work better than others do, depending upon the reason for sanding and the type of wood. Sandpaper, sanding blocks, palm sanders, belt sanders and orbital sanders all play a role in the installation or refinishing of a floor.

Sanding a New Floor

A belt sander sands in only one direction.

If you're installing new flooring, it may come prefinished, meaning the stain and topcoat are already in place.  If this is the case, no sanding is necessary If you're installing unfinished planks, you'll have to sand the wood before you apply the wood stain and must sand afterward in addition to sanding between each finished coat You may complete the initial sanding, before applying wood stain, with a walk-behind random orbital sander that rotates at high speed while the entire sanding head revolves to reduce the risk of cross-sanding marks on the wood.

You may also use a belt sander on the floor, but use only a fine-grit sanding belt to reduce the risk of sanding away too much of the wood surface Fine sanding is necessary after you apply wood stain that tends to raise the grain of the wood.  Hand sanding produces the best results at this stage.

Using a regular 120-grit regular sanding paper or a foam sanding block, sand lightly only in the direction of the wood grain. 

Sanding to Remove Old Floor Finish

A walk-behind drum sander comes in handy if you're sanding off floor finish before refinishing the floor.  A drum sander features a spinning cylinder that grinds away hardened varnish or lacquer that are difficult to remove by hand.

This type of sander can quickly dig a chunk out of your floor, however, so practice using it on scrap wood before sanding the floor, and never let it sit in one position when the sanding drum is spinning. 

Sanding Different Wood Types

Soft flooring woods, like pine and cedar, sand quickly, but there is also a greater risk of damaging the wood when using a power sander.  Hardwoods, like oak, ash and maple, require more sanding to make them smooth enough to apply wood stain and wood finish.

When It's Advisable to Hand Sand

For all sanding steps after the wood stain is on you should sand by hand.  A 220-grit foam sanding block works well to smooth down the wood grain after staining.

The final sanding requires very find sandpaper, such as 400 microgrit, just to buff away any bits of dust that settle onto the wet floor finish between topcoats. 

About the Author

Glenda Taylor is a contractor and a full-time writer specializing in construction writing. She also enjoys writing business and finance, food and drink and pet-related articles. Her education includes marketing and a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.

Photo Credits

  • Electrical Sanding machine - isolated on white background image by Ivanov from Fotolia.com