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5 Tips for Sanding a Hardwood Floor

Written by Joe Perritt
Updated July 13, 2016
hardwood flooring and a fireplace
Sanding a hardwood floor is a delicate process. Here are some tips to help you before you get started. (Photo by Summer Galyan)

Refinishing or sanding an existing wood floor can be a more delicate process than you might expect. Here are tips to help you sand a hardwood floor without destroying it.

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If you're thinking of updating the look of your hardwood floors, take time to know what to expect, whether you do the project yourself or hire an experienced flooring pro.


Reduce dust

Sanding a floor requires the use of heavy-duty rotary sanding tool that can kick up an immense amount of dust. Most rotary sanders have a vacuum attachment, which will reduce damage to your lungs and home.

Here are other ways to reduce dust damage:

• Use plastic sheeting or something similar to block off areas that aren't being worked on.

• Cover electrical outlets, air vents and windows. The dust kicked up from these power tools can jam your windows, damage your electrical outlets and even pose a serious fire hazard.

• Wear a respirator and safety goggles. High-speed rotary sanders can propel even the tiniest slivers of wood at extreme velocities.

Check floor's depth

Always check your floor depth. If an existing floor is only 1/4" thick, consider hiring a professional. Thin floors are notoriously difficult to sand. You can easily weaken the structural integrity or even sand down to the subfloor.

Make initial repairs

Before you attempt to sand or refinish your floor, repair any splits or gouges. In addition, make sure to inspect for metal nail heads. If you find any nail heads, make sure to countersink them a bit to avoid shredding the sandpaper or damaging the sander head.

Be consistent

You will need to use different grit types, starting with the roughest and ending with the finest. This will ensure a smooth result and allow stain and sealant to adhere properly. When using a rotary sander, be consistent with how much time you spend sanding any particular area. If the unit is on and you sand one spot for too long, you bevel the floor, which will require a very challenging repair.

Remove trim

Remove baseboard and quarter-round trim before you sand. Sanding can lower the floor height, creating a gap between floor and trim, and it can scuff trim.

For more information, see the Angie's List Guide to Hardwood Flooring.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on Feb. 4, 2013.

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