How To Sand Floorboards

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How To Sand Floorboards

There is nothing quite like the glow of a natural wood floor to lend beauty and warmth to a home. But with use and abuse, what was once a beautifully polished wooden floor often loses its lustre and becomes damaged.

Thankfully, restoring the beauty and shine to a wood floor that has seen better days is not difficult. It does take effort and a little time, but with the right tools and some clear instruction on what to do, the job is easily a DIY.


Getting Started

The equipment needed for this job (if not already owned) can be acquired from a local hardware store or be bought online on eBay. A floor sanding machine will be required to do the bulk of the sanding work, while an edge sander will be needed to get a tight finish along skirting boards. A shop staff member should be able to show you how to use both, including how to install the sanding belts. A hand scraper may be required to get into the corners of the room, and note that the cleanup afterward will require a vacuum cleaner.


Preparing the Room

Before the boards can be sanded, they must be prepared. Nail heads or protruding boards will quickly destroy sand paper, so these must be removed prior to sanding. Any sticky residues must be removed, and gouges or dents filled in with wood putty.

Sanding produces an enormous amount of dust, which gets into every nook and cranny. To minimise the spread of this dust and prevent damage, all furniture and fixtures must be removed from the room, including window treatments, light fixtures, artwork, and carpeting. Electrical outlets and switches need to be sealed over, and any air or heating ducts must be covered and sealed with plastic and tape. Doorways must be covered over with plastic and the edges sealed with tape. All windows should be opened.


Sanding the Floor

Sanding should be done diagonally, from one corner of the room towards the opposing corner, at a 45 degree angle to the direction of the floorboards. This is to encourage smoothing of any irregularities in the wood as they are encountered. When turning the sander on or off, it should always be tilted back, with the sand paper belt lifted off the floor to avoid gouging the wood.

For the first rough sand, 24 grit sandpaper is ideal. Each section of the floor should be sanded over until all of the finish is gone, then the process should be repeated on the adjacent section. The sanding machine should be in motion constantly, moving slowly and steadily and never pausing in one spot without the sanding belt being lifted off the floor first.

Once the entire floor is done, the outside circumference of the room will need to be sanded separately using the edge sander, as the floor sander cannot work flush to the skirting boards. Once the edges are done, the corners of the room will need to be scraped with the hand scraper until they are free of finish. Some hand sanding may be required as well.

Once this has been completed, the room needs to be vacuumed and swept until all of the dust is gone, then the process needs to be repeated with first 40 grit, then 80 grit sand paper, then finally with 100 and 120 grit paper. After each sanding, the room must be cleaned of dust scrupulously, so the dust does not clog the sandpaper on the next sanding and render it ineffective.

The final sanding should leave the floor smooth and almost soft. Once it is done, vacuum and sweep the room, then wipe down every nook and cranny.


The Final Finish

Once the final sanding has been completed, the floor is ready to be finished with your choice of stain or varnish. There are numerous options for floor finishes, depending on the preferred look for the room in question, so careful research is required in order to make an appropriate choice.

Regardless of which finish is being applied, the fumes are intense, so it is important to wear a mask and have any available windows open while applying it. The floor must be absolutely spotless before any finish is applied, as any dust or dirt will be permanently captured in the finish and highlighted on the wood. Each finish comes with its own set of instructions right on the can, so care must be taken to read these before applying the finish to the newly-sanded floor.

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