How to Sand Floorboards

So, you have repaired your wood floor. You’ve filled in the gaps, repaired the splits and even successfully replaced parts of the floorboards that looked like you could fall through at any moment. First of all, Brava for you! You have done an excellent job! But there are a few more steps to go to make that floor showroom quality.

Solid wooden floorboards will demonstrate their age by signs of wood warps, splits and even the dreaded wax residue buildup. This can be remedied by sanding the floors down to the original condition. (WARNING: This is not to be done to laminated floors as they are made from several layers of plywood with a thin layer of laminated wood on top.)

Sanding is usually a 3-step process, which is sanding the main flooring area with a coarse or medium-grade belt, repeating with a fine-grade belt and then finishing off the edges.


Rented electric floor sander

Rented edging sander or belt sander


Safety goggles

Protective earmuffs

Hammer and nail set

Hook-blade scraper (if needed)

Cork sanding block

Tack cloth or rag

Coarse, medium and fine grade sanding belts

Medium and fine-grade sandpaper

Vacuum cleaner

Before you begin, you need to strip the floor of any covering and repair any damage to the floorboards (if you haven’t already). Be sure that there are no tacks, nails or staples protruding above the floor surface. This could rip the sanding belt and possibly damage the sander. If you are renting your sander this would definitely not bode well with the rental company! If nail heads appear during the sanding, you may need to drive them down with a nail set.

The obvious task will be to remove all furniture from the room as well. Sanding is a dusty task so covering your furniture (once it has been moved to another room) and taking down all pictures should be something that you need to do also. Completely cover and seal other items such as built-in bookcases and chandeliers with plastic sheeting and tape. Also, tape over door edges to prevent the dust from entering other rooms and open all windows to let the dust escape.

Be certain that you read the instructions to your sander completely and understand how to operate it and how to fit the sanding belts securely.

Before starting a floor sander, tilt it backward. Make assured that the power cord is well out of the way (usually this means over your shoulder). Turn the power on and lower the sander as you move it forward. Hold on very firmly to stop it running away from you. It may be funny in the movies but no quite so amusing when it happens in real life!

If you are working with warped floorboards, fit a coarse belt to the machine and sand diagonally across the room by starting in one corner. Be certain to go over each area several times before moving on.

Be sure to give the room a quick once-over with a vacuum before moving on to a medium-grade belt. (NOTE: If you have floorboards are not warped, you can begin with this belt). Re-sand the floor and work along the line of the floorboards. Remember to keep your eyes open for nail heads that may protrude during the sanding process. If so, get out your nail kit and drive them below the wood.

Once this is completed you may now move to a fine-grade sanding belt on the machine and sand again along the line of the floorboards. Go around the edges of the room with the edging sander or belt sander. Turn the power on before you lower the sander to the floor. Move the sander in a circular motion and allow it to overlap the area sanded by the large floor sander. Start with the medium-grade paper and then finish with the fine-grade paper.

Most sanders won’t reach the corners of rooms or under certain immovable forces such as radiators. Utilize a hook-blade scraper or sandpaper wrapped around a sanding block. Do not use the sanding block at the baseboards unless, of course, you are looking to re-do your baseboards as well! Use the sandpaper to blend in the areas that were sanded by the machine.

Now sweep up all the dust and vacuum the floor for remaining dust. Then use a tack cloth or damp rag to remove any leftover dust particles, which could ruin the finish that you will lay down.

If you have never used a sander before, here are a few pointers that might help you and your neighbors. Sanding is noisy. And it can be very noisy to your neighbors. So make sure that you wear earmuffs to protect your hearing and you do your sanding when it’s least likely to disturb your neighbors. This means no midnight sanding parties please!

Another good tip is to never let your sander, once it is on, sit in one place or hold it back. This will cause the sander to gouge the floor! Comedies utilizing a sander for comic relief are not far from the truth so be careful.

By the way, congratulations! You are now at the halfway mark in having beautiful hardwood floors!

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