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Tips for Refinishing Hardwood Floors

hand-floor-sanderDo you have unsightly hardwood floors in your home? Maybe you just pulled up your carpet and you want to liven up the space by refinishing the old hardwood to its original beauty. With a little knowledge and the right tools for the job, this is a task that most homeowners can accomplish themselves.

Choose the Right Tools

It’s important to choose a sander that will compliment the type of hardwood you have and the look you’re going for. If the wrong sander is used, you may not get the results you expected. Here's an overview of the different types of sanders.

Orbital Floor Sander

On an orbital sander, the sanding pad oscillates back and forth in a circular motion, which results in a slower, lighter sanding action. These sanders are generally ideal for hardwood such as oak, or hardwood that doesn’t have a lot of finish left. Orbital sanders are relatively easy to control due to the fact that they’re lightweight. This makes it ideal for beginners. Remember, these sanders should be lightly controlled by the operator and in motion at all times to protect the floor.

Drum Sander

Drum sanders use a sheet of sanding paper that slides onto a square drum. The paper glides on the floor as the drum spins and cuts through finish and wood with ease. A drum sander is more difficult to operate than an orbital sander, but it can finish large areas of floor quickly. Drum sanders are ideal for uneven floors, floors with heavy finish, or floors with several deep marks or dings. Make sure the person operating the drum sander is strong enough to control the machine and apply the necessary pressure.

Do’s and Don’ts for Refinishing Hardwood Floors

Know the type of wood you have before you begin a refinishing project. Hardwood can be sanded down several times throughout the life of the floor without worry, while engineered hardwood can only be sanded to the thickness of the top veneer.

Sand the floor several times. Each floor is different, but a general rule of thumb is to sand with 30-40 grit sandpaper first. The sandpaper will need to get progressively finer each time, going down to a 50-60 grit and then finishing with an 80-100 grit.

Don’t leave the sander in one spot for too long, whether it’s an orbital sander or a drum sander. This can cause chatter marks, or unsightly patterns across the floor, which may be impossible to remove.

Handheld Floor Sander

Neither a belt nor an orbital sander will reach the edges and corners around the room, so you’ll need a special sander called an edger. An edger is a much smaller, handheld sander that’s easy to operate.


Do place a dust collection bag on the edger to prevent sawdust from accumulating around your workspace.


Just like with the floor sander, don’t leave an edger in one place for too long. This can cause divots and imperfections in the wood.

Floor Buffer

Most people don’t think of a floor buffer being used on a wood floor, but this is an important step in the refinishing process.

Floor buffers, or floor polishers, are used to remove imperfections a sander may have caused, create finish intercoat abrasion and to flatten the floor. A floor polisher works by rotating quickly in a circular motion. There is a pad underneath the machine that buffs, or screens, the surface.

Floor polishers should be used with a fine screen after the last sanding is performed. When buffing, follow the same pattern as when you sanded, working along the grain and getting close to the walls. Use a sanding screen on an extension pole for the room's edges and corners.


Do examine the screen several times during the buffing process to ensure that it’s still in good condition.


Don’t buff the floor too quickly. Keep moving at a slow and steady pace, making sure to overlap the last pass by about ?.

Are you thinking about refinishing your hardwood floors? Rental Ranch rents sanders, buffers and other tools, and our staff would be happy to help you choose the right equipment for the job.