Four Types Of Sanders Typically Used For Refinishing Hardwood Floors

Posted on: 24 January 2017

Hardwood has a certain charm and beauty not often captured by other flooring materials. Natural hardwood is also durable and is one of the best flooring options to retain heat. Eventually most hardwood floors end up needing a bit, or maybe a lot, of TLC. Resurfacing your hardwood floors usually involves the use of specifically designed sanders. Since the purchase price of some machines tend to be on the high side, some contractors might consider renting the appropriate equipment for occasional use. Renting also does away with the storage problem, since certain types are large and heavy. The four types of sanders you're likely to need for your floor refinishing project are listed below, as well as your typical safety equipment needs.

Safety Equipment Typically Needed For Floor Sanding Projects

Though some rental sanders come with dust pipes and bags, the following equipment is strongly recommended.

  • Sturdy work boots, preferably with steel toe inserts
  • Thick, heavy duty work gloves
  • Protective eye goggles that surround the entire eye area
  • Mask, or in some cases, a respirator

Drum Floor Sanders

Drum floor sanders fall in that "bigger than you might expect" category. Roughly the size of an old fashioned vacuum cleaner, the sanding width is usually between 8 and 12 inches. These sanders use belt-like loops of sanding paper, starting with a rough grit to remove gouges, scratches, old varnish, and other surface imperfections. Once the really rough stuff is smoothed out, a belt with a finer grit is installed. The plus side is that you can cover quite a bit of territory in a fairly short amount of time with the drum sander. The downside is that the sander can gouge noticeable marks in the floor if you don't quite know what you're doing. When you rent one of these, at least for the first time, make sure you get operating instructions. Drum sanders are so powerful that they should only be used on solid hardwood floors, rather than laminates.

Vibrating Floor Sanders

Vibrating floor sanders are used on floors that aren't badly damaged and just need smoothing out before refinishing. They aren't as heavy as the drum sander and may also be used on most laminate floors. Vibrating floor sanders are also sometimes used to fine-sand floors after using a drum floor sander. The latter depends on how fine a grit you used on your final sanding session with the drum sander. For example, a drum sander usually starts with a 36 or 40 grit belt to take off the rough edges. Then you may opt to go to the vibrating sander for the finer grits. Just remember, the higher the number, the finer the grit and the smoother the floor. Vibrating sanders use a flat sanding pad on the bottom of the machine and tend to be slightly easier to move around.

Floor Edge Sanders

Edge sanders let you get close to baseboards and into areas that most drum and vibrating sanders can't reach. The sanding part is a 6 to 7-inch disc on the bottom of the machine. The machine is heavy enough that you don't need to apply much pressure; just steer it in the direction you want to go. Theoretically, these sanders may be used for your entire floor, but they do require bending over or kneeling down to operate.

Orbital Finishing Floor Sanders

An alternative to the edge sander is the orbital finishing sander. It is smaller, lighter, and easier to get into corners but you still have to kneel or bend over to use it. A flat sheet of sandpaper is attached to the sander's square pad, which vibrates in tiny circles to get the work done. This orbital motion allows you to sand in any direction. This type of sander takes longer to cover an area than the edge sander and is only intended for the final sanding stages of your floor refinishing project. 

For more information, contact a company like All-Star Equipment.