Sanding wood flooring

Sanding Wood Flooring 

Authentic wood floors add character to a room. You can create a great wood floor at a fraction of the cost of buying a new one. Check out our other articles on stripping wood flooring and sealing wood flooring. Sanding wood flooring however is a stage on its own in the floor restoration process that needs to be thought out in its own right.

The first step is renting equipment suitable for sanding wood flooring. As with many DIY projects having the best equipment is half the battle. Renting quality equipment is a far better option than buying cheap items which don’t work as well and are hardly ever used. Professional standard equipment suitable for sanding wood flooring is readily available for hire.

Best Sanders for Sanding Wood Flooring

For the most part two types of sanders are used for sanding wood flooring. Drum Sanders and Orbital Sanders. The type most suitable is usually determined by the size and shape of the room you are sanding wood flooring in.

floor sanding

modern drum sander with dust extraction

Drum Sanders designed for sanding wood flooring are constructed with a 7 inch wide drum into which a 20 inch sheet of sandpaper can be inserted. Although the rotating drum is ideal for sanding wood flooring, the big disadvantage is that owing to the shape and size of some rooms you may find yourself sanding wood flooring against the direction of the grain. Sanding wood flooring against the grain however leaves sanding scratches.

So in certain circumstances sanding wood flooring with an



floor sanding

orbital floor sander

Orbital Sander is a better option. Orbital sanders contain an oscillating 18 by 12 inch pad suitable for sanding wood flooring in all spots so are ideal for sanding wood flooring in small areas such as pantries where the drum sander light inevitably cut across the grain. Orbital sanders however are a much slower method of sanding wood flooring than drum sanders. They do nevertheless ensure that no repetitive scratching arises when sanding wood flooring in spots where using a drum sander would involve sanding wood flooring against grain.

If you are sanding wood flooring with either of these types of sander you’ll need a 20 amp circuit to operate the machine reliably. Less might result in circuit breakers tripping occasionally and anything less than 15 probably won’t work at all.


floor sanding

fixing loose boards and sinking nail heads


floor sanding

edge sander- it goes where the drum sander wont










  1. If possible, remove the moulding or baseboard so sanding wood flooring closer to the wall is made practicable
  2. Glue, screw or nail down any loose boards
  3. Rotten or damaged boards may need replacing altogether. Most floor boards can be prised up using a wide blade chisel If necessary nail battens along the edge to make the boards flush with adjoining ones. Screw the new boards into place ensuring that the screws heads are at least 2mm below the board surface
  4. Ensure that loose nails are countersunk. Sanding wood flooring with loose nails or anything else sticking up will tear the sandpaper. Use a nail punch if necessary
  5. Close up any gaps which might cause draughts or spoil the appearance of the floor. If you can it might be advisable to lift up all the boards, move them together and fill in the resulting gap at the edge of the room with a new board. But if there are just one or two gaps, it’s simpler to fill them with a sliver of floor board timber. Put glue on the side of the sliver and hammer it tightly into the gap. Minor damage and dead knot holes can be filled with filler
  6. Sanding wood flooring throws up a lot of fine dust, so clear away as much of the furniture and hanging fittings as possible
  7. Hang drop cloths over the doors to prevent dust escaping to other rooms
  8. Tape up the cupboards and doors of items which can’t be moved out
  9. Wear clean shoes such as carpet slippers otherwise you may cause black marks on the floor
  10. Sweep and vacuum the floor before you start

Sanding Wood Flooring with a Drum Sander

You need to rent both a Drum Type Sander and a separate disc type floor edger (for sanding wood flooring around the edge and any other places inaccessible to the large machine). You also need a vacuum cleaner and hammer, both of which you probably already have, but will also need to buy the following

  1. Ear Plugs, Safety Glasses and Dust Mask. Sanding wood flooring throws up fine dust which can cause serious permanent injury if inhaled in any quantity
  2. Set of Nails
  3. Some Coarse, Medium and fine sandpaper suitable for fitting the sander. The Hire Shop will advise
  4. A Wide Blade Chisel
  5. A Detail Sander or Hand Scraper for sanding wood flooring in spots where the machine can’t reach or for features for which the machine is not suitable
Ensure you read the operating manual which comes with the floor sander carefully. It will tell you how to insert the sandpaper and it may even have some helpful advice about sanding wood flooring which relate specifically to the machine.Begin with the coarse sandpaper. Line up the sander alongside one of the walls. Lower the sander drum gradually and move steadily forward. If you have cupped boards this first stage coarse sanding may need to be at a 45-degree angle to the grain. Do not stop in one place when sanding wood flooring with a drum sander, the surface will sand down excessively on that spot. At the end of the run lift the drum and back up to where you started and move to another row with 3 or inch overlaps in the rows. When you’ve finished the room turn around and repeat the process from the opposite direction.Remove as much of the finish with your coarse sandpaper as you can. The coarse paper doesn’t plug up as easily as the finer papers. If you are sanding wood flooring installed recently and which has no surface finish, you may, unless you are sanding wood flooring where irregularities which need sanding down are evident, skip the coarse sandpaper stage completely.When the process of sanding wood flooring with the coarse paper is completed, sweep and vacuum the floor and repeat the process, first with the medium sandpaper, and then with the fine one. Sanding wood flooring at the edge is successfully achieved by fitting a 7 inch coarse disc to the edger and running it along the wall using smooth sweeps. If necessary scrape and sand the corners.When you’ve finished sanding wood flooring fill in any cracks with filler, and vacuum the walls to prevent any clinging dust falling onto your new wet varnish surface, then finally wipe the floor with a cloth dampened in white spirit.Sanding Wood Flooring with an Orbital SanderThe process is broadly the same as with a drum sander but can be much slower. Orbital sanders do however get into the corners and edges better and are easier to handle. They can if required be fitted with screen or a very fine sandpaper to polish the floor after sealing. This final stage is one that professional floor installers add to produce a professional outcome, but be careful not to sand off the new finish.