How To Sand Hardwood Floors

By Cezar

Do-it-yourselfers can, and often do, sand hardwood floors themselves. Whether or not that’s actually a good idea for amateurs, however, is a matter of some debate.

On this page we’ll show you how to sand hardwood floors yourself. We’ll also help you figure out if it might be better to have professionals do it for you.

Before You Begin

The first thing you should do before hardwood floor sanding is to assess the current state of your floors and determine what kind of wood they are made of. Some varieties of wood need to be treated more gently than others, and hardwood floors that are in significant disrepair might be best left alone or to the care of the pros.

At a certain point, hardwood floors become so beaten up that working on them can cause irreparable damage. Hardwood floors made of planks that are ¾-inch-thick, for instance, can generally endure three or four rounds of hard sanding. Beyond that, they become too thin to be worked on.

Some floors that appear to be hardwood floors are actually only hardwood on the surface. They’re plywood or some other manufactured wood product with a veneer of hardwood glued over them. These floors can’t handle hard sanding and may be able to endure only one round of softer sanding.

Even less friendly for sanding are laminate floors that look like hardwood. Some of them look so realistic that you can live with them for years without knowing the truth. These floors are not safe for sanding.

Bamboo floors are good for sanding despite bamboo being a grass rather than a wood. They are usually very hard and will require more time than most other hardwood floors.

Next up, if you decide that your hardwood floors are right for sanding, you should:

  • Clean the furniture and other items off the floor.
  • Hammer down any protruding nails.
  • Remove baseboards.
  • Put plastic sheeting over anything that you want to protect from airborne dust.

You’ll also need to get the equipment for hardwood floor sanding. We cover that in the What You’ll Need section below.

Lastly, be realistic about what sanding your hardwood floors can accomplish. Even professionals have limitations. Serious damage is unlikely to disappear entirely.

What You’ll Need

Before you begin hardwood floor sanding, you’ll need to get the right equipment. Many of the tools can be rented from a hardware store. We’re not going to recommend any specific outlets or manufacturers but rather will list out the general items you’ll need for sanding hardwood floors. Those items include:

  • Plastic sheeting
  • Painter’s tape
  • Wood filler or wood patch
  • Pry bar
  • Needle-nosed pliers
  • Edge floor sander
  • Drum or belt floor sander
  • Protective eye wear
  • Respirator mask
  • Hearing protection (optional)
  • Sandpaper
  • Sanding pole

You can sand hardwood floors with a hand sander, but that is remarkably labor-intensive. An upright drum sander—this is how to sand hardwood floors. Be aware, though, that drum sanders are not easy tools to use. If you’re not practiced with it, you can do a great deal of damage.

You might opt to sand the edges and corners with an edge floor sander because that tool offers more agility and finesse. The standing drum sander is often too cumbersome to sand the edges and corners.

Techniques for Sanding Wood Floors

When studying how to sand hardwood floors, keep in mind that simply renting or buying a bunch of tools is not the end but just the beginning. You may even want to practice on a piece of cheap wood first.

This is how to sand hardwood floors:

  • Always keep the sander moving. Keeping it in one place may damage the floor.
  • Move steadily and evenly to ensure that you’re sanding the same amount of every plank.
  • Work the drum sander with the grain of the wood, using 60-,80-, and 100-grint sanding disks as you make at least two passes in each direction over every spot.
  • Don’t jerk the sander around or try to strongarm it into what you want it to do. Doing so will only cause damage or an uneven job. Work with the sander, not against it.
  • Regularly bag up the sawdust, and keep it away from open flame and high heat.
  • If you pick up the sander for making a turn, let it back down gently. Dropping it with too much force can gouge your hardwood floors.

When to Call a Professional

If your floors have many gaps, cracks, splinters, or other damage, you will probably be better off with a professional flooring expert. Significant damage will only make it easier for you to create more harm. It also makes it more difficult to do a decent job.

Also, if you find that your hardwood floors are a lesser quality of wood or not truly hardwood at all (see Before You Begin above), you might want to call a professional. These jobs might require a level of control and finesse that is simply beyond an amateur.

If you’ve studied how to sand hardwood floors and aren’t feeling confident, then you should call a professional. While hardwood floor sanding is certainly something that do-it-yourselfers can accomplish, getting it wrong can cause expensive and irreparable damage.

Summary

On this page we explained how to sand hardwood floors and how to decide if you should call a professional. It’s a task that many amateurs elect to do on their own, but it’s not a job without risks.

Working smartly and carefully with all the right tools—this is how to sand hardwood floors in a way that will leave you satisfied rather than disappointed and stuck with permanently ruined floors. If you’re not sure you have the time and physical ability to do it right, you may want to call the pros.

At the end of the day, you work on your house to give yourself peace of mind, not to add stresses and regrets.

There is no “one size fits all” solution here! Each wood floor and its condition are unique. We will provide you with the best and most cost-efficient solution for your floors.

Get a Free In-Home Consultation & Estimation from one of our flooring experts

As a general rule, professionally refinished hardwood floors last 5 times longer vs DIY.