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Home & Garden

A Step by Step Guide to Sanding Floors for DIYers


Hardwood floors are guaranteed to last a lifetime. Yet, that doesn’t mean they are not impervious to scratches, stains, dents and other forms of damage that may diminish their natural beauty over time. Consult your local hardwood flooring specialist for floor sanding services when they’re starting to look rough, about once every decade. Or, if you’re the DIY type of homeowner, follow this step-by-step guide to regain those smooth, gleaming floors that made you fall in love with your home in the first place!

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Acquire All Equipment

You can’t start sanding without the proper equipment. You will first need to rent a drum sander, edging sander, and a floor buffer from your local hardware shop. Make sure to get extra sanding belts, discs and screens to get the most out of your equipment. It’s also a good idea to have the following items on hand:

  • Dust masks or respirators – to protect your lungs from airborne wood particles.
  • Shop vacuum – recommended but optional for efficiently cleaning up dust.
  • Plastic and masking tape – to seal off vents and doorways.
  • A hammer and nails – to fix loose floorboards.
  • Hardwood flooring cleaner and a microfiber mop
  • Hardwood floor finish, a paintbrush, and a roller paint applicator
  • Sandpapers of 24, 60, 80, 100 and 180 grit.

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Prepare the Room

Once you’ve got all your equipment squared away, prepare the room(s) to be sanded with this checklist:

  • Remove all furniture from the room. Stow away any belongings you don’t want exposed to microscopic wood particles.
  • Gently pry off the shoebase, or quarter-round molding, from the base of the walls so your sander can access the wood floor underneath.
  • Uninstall any doors that may block the sander when opened or closed.
  • Cover the vents and doorways with plastic to prevent dust from entering your air system and traveling through the house. If possible, turn off your HVAC system entirely to minimize airflow.
  • Examine the floor for any loose boards, and nail them back in place to prevent the sander from catching on them.
  • Clean the wood floors with hardwood flooring cleaner and a microfiber mop.

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How to Sand the Floor

The sanding process occurs in phases, moving from coarse grit to finer grit, and moving from edges to open floor:

  1. Sand the edges or any hard-to-reach areas of the room by hand with 180-grit paper.
  2. Sand the open floor with your drum sander using coarse grit of 36.
  3. Follow up with the edger along the room’s perimeter with the same grit.
  4. Leave the room for ten minutes to let the dust settle, then vacuum thoroughly.

Repeat the process of drum sanding, edging, and vacuuming three times until you’ve sanded the whole floor with 36, 60, 80, and 100 grit.


It’s crucial to vacuum between each sanding pass to prevent large dust particles from creating more scratches on the wood under the sander. Remember to use a felt vacuum attachment to avoid scratching the floor. Sweep in the same direction as the wood planks to access any powder that settled in-between the floorboards. After the entire sanding process is complete, vacuum the room once more before buffing.

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How to Buff the Floor

After a thorough sanding and vacuuming, your floors will already start to look gloriously smooth again. However, don’t leave out the critical step of buffing the floor, too. Apply a 120 or 150 grit screen to your buffer, and pass it in broad arcs across the entire floor. The buffer polishes the floor and mixes the edger’s round sanding pattern with the drum sander’s straight pattern. The resulting even scratch pattern will be better capable of absorbing finish consistently.

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Final Tasks

Once buffing is complete, remember to vacuum up the dust once more. In addition, use a dry microfiber cloth mop to grab up any remaining particles. Now, you’re ready to apply the stain (if applicable) and polyurethane finish using a 3-inch paint brush along the edges and a roller paint applicator along the open floor. Once these layers are dry, remember to re-apply the shoebase around your walls and bring your furniture and belongings back into the room.

Infographic created by Foundation Repair Services, Industry-Leading Screw Pile Foundation North Carolina

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In Conclusion: Maintenance Is Beauty

Hardwood floors are a coveted home feature for their timeless elegance, durability, ease of cleaning, and aesthetic versatility. Even with all these desirable advantages, wood floors still need to be maintained properly. Keep your hardwood floors in tiptop shape with a thorough sanding, and they’ll reward you with countless years of beauty and functionality to come.