DIY Tools

Top Tips for Using a Floor Sander

Use a floor sander effectively in order to complete your hardwood refinishing project more quickly and easily.

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Random Orbital Sander

Joe Provey

The best machine for do-it-yourself floor sanding is a random orbital sander with a large rectangular base, such as the one shown here. I’ve found that Clarke-American random orbital sanders, outfitted with large rectangular pads, to be the easiest to use. They are available at most home centers in the rental department.

Sander Base Pads

Joe Provey

Rectangular pads attach to the random orbital sander base and provide a cushion for the abrasive sheets. Four-disk units have little or no padding under the disks, so the abrasive does not lie flush to the floor, which reduces the available sanding area and slows the process.

Sander Abrasive Sheets

Joe Provey

Abrasive sheets attach to the pads. When you lower the machine to the floor, it is imperative that it be running at full speed. Also, it’s important not to move it too quickly across the floor surface. Above all, never turn the machine off while it is resting on the floor.

Circular Scratches

Joe Provey

Circular scratches are caused by either moving the sander too fast along the surface, or by turning the sander on or off while the sanding pad is resting on the floor. They may not be very noticeable while you’re sanding, but will definitely show up when you apply the finish.

Extension Cord

Joe Provey

Ask the rental store for a properly sized extension cord for the sander and secure it, as shown, to the pigtail so as to prevent inadvertent shutdowns. When operating any electrical equipment or power tool, be sure to heed manufacturer warnings and safety precautions.

Orbital Palm Sander

Joe Provey

A smaller orbital palm sander, combined with a scraper for corners, can be used around the floor perimeter. For large jobs, consider renting a professional floor sanding edger.