How to Sand Hardwood Floors with Orbital Sander?

Sanding Hardwood Floors with Orbital SanderHardwood floors are never a bad choice. They look elegant and can uplift any household interior. But, how to sand hardwood floors with orbital sander? This is very important to know.

They are all the rage these days. You can do one room or the whole house depending on your choice.

But here’s the catch:

They need refurbishing and refreshing after a few years to keep looking as good as they originally were.

And the bad news:

The refurnishing can cost you A LOT if you decide to hire a handyman for it.

So, in case you want to go easy on your pocket you should try to do it yourself. Here is a tutorial on how to sand hardwood floors with orbital sander, which will save you a lot of money.

How to Sand Hardwood Floor with Orbital Sander – 3 Step Guide

For all the DIY enthusiasts out there, here is our disclaimer; knowing how to sand hardwood floors with orbital sander by yourself is not an easy job. It will cost you a lot of hard work and time.

But, the contentment of doing it yourself is immense.

Let the sanding begin!

These are some basic steps involved:

  1. Sanding
  2. Staining
  3. Sealing

Out of these three, sanding requires the most patience and dedication.

Sanding Hardwood Floors – Prerequisites

Sanding a hardwood floor is a difficult task. It will use up most of your time while refinishing a hardwood floor and also can go wrong very easily. There are several things that you should take into consideration before starting the task yourself.

Choosing the Right Equipment:

Equipment for Sanding Hardwood Floors

Drum sanders and random orbital sanders are two of the most commonly used machines for sanding hardwood floors.

For a beginner who might just want to refinish a room or two in their lifetime, an orbital sander is a wise choice. They take more time to do the job, but are affordable, considering you only want to use it once or twice in your life.

Drum sanders, however, do not take up a lot of effort, but they are more likely to go wrong as they can both move with or against the wood’s grain. And for an amateur, this might not be easy to figure out.

Safety First:

Sanding hardwood generates a lot of dust and noise. So eyes, ear, and nose protection are a must. There are rough edges too, so make sure to put on gloves before starting.

If you do not enjoy suffering from allergies and irritations in your respiratory tracts, we recommend you use proper PPIs that include goggles, a face mask, earplugs, and gloves.

And remember:

Paper face masks will do you no good. You may look like a member of the SWAT squad, but only a proper respirator can protect your lungs from the extremely fine grits of sand.

Prepping the Room:

Make sure to clear the whole room of any furniture before starting with the job. Take help for moving heavy pieces of furniture. If there are any curtains or hangings in the room make sure to remove them.

If removing them is not possible, try to cover them as properly as you can, to protect them from dust and fumes.

Take help in bringing the orbital sander from the shop to the workplace as they are heavy and you do not want to break your back over them.

Clean, vacuum, and mop the entire room before starting. Run your hands over the entire flooring to ensure that there are no protruding nails or splinters that could hinder a sander.

Declare your workplace as a no-go zone since you don’t want any grit in your freshly sanded floor.

Evaluate Your Floor:

Make sure you know what you are doing before you start doing it.

  • Floor thickness:

Evaluate your floor thickness. At least 0.75-inch thickness is required for a floor to be sanded a reasonable number of times. Any less thickness needs professional sanding and you are better off not doing it.

  • Floor condition

How much hard work does your floor need while refinishing? How damaged is it?

Were there any nails placed in it?

How bad are the stains? Is your floor flat?

All these questions will help you decide the number of efforts your floor needs. You don’t want to needlessly spend days over something that cannot be saved, albeit a pro does it.

  • Floor material

All wood types are not the same. They do not respond similarly when sanded and stained.

The same goes for engineered and solid hardwood floors. Solid hardwood floors are easier to sand and reprocess, but engineered hardwood floors require a professional touch. If your floor is made of engineered hardwood floor, we recommend you do a concealed spot first, see how it looks, and then start for the whole room.

Sanding Hardwood Floors – How to Do It:

Now that you have decided to spend your weekend sanding and renewing your floor, here’s how you do it.

While skipping a step or two may look like saving a lot of time and back pain, but trust us it doesn’t. Any minor defects that are not too prominent while sanding, will definitely show once you’ve stained and sealed.

So read on carefully!

Start Light:

You ought not to start with very heavy grit. Start with coarser grits, say 60, and move to the finer variants such as 100 to 120 grit, as you proceed. This will help you avoid any damage to the floor.

This way, you can remove old scratches and stains with the coarser grits and achieve the smoothness of your desire with the finer ones.

Run the sander in rows. Overlap the last row by half a sander’s width.

Run the Corners:

Sanding Corners with Nose Sander

While running an orbital sander, it is possible to overlook the corners of your room. But you don’t want to do that.

In the corners where an orbital sander is unable to reach keep a palm sander handy. Use a sharp scraper to get into the gaps where a sander may not be too practical.

Clean the Dust:

After you’re done sanding the whole area, be ready to dust and vacuum. Clean all the nooks and corners for every dust particle or hair you’ve produced while sanding. Use a vacuum with a brush attachment to avoid leaving any scratches and marks.

Wipe all surfaces clean with a damp cloth to make sure everything is spotlessly clean. You don’t want any sand grains or hair peeking through your polyurethane coat at the end.

Stain It:

So now that sanding has made your arms sore, your nose irritated, and your eyes watering, it’s finally time to stain your sanded floor.

Apply the stain in an even layer. This is easier said than done. Even coverage is not easy for larger surface areas. The best strategy is to apply the stain in a smaller area and then using the area as a reference stain adjacent to it and rub off all excess. Make sure to avoid any overlap stripes.

Try to use an oil-based stain rather than a water-based one since they dry slower and have a longer working time.

Seal the deal:

Finally, it’s time to seal all your hard work in.

Many professionals skip this step, but it all depends on your floor and how you use it.

If your floor stains unevenly you might want to use a sealer. You can do a patch test to see if you need one.

Secondly, if your room remains in use a lot, say a living room where most of the crowd is present most of the day and there are chances of spillages and stains, then you should consider investing in a good quality sealant.

Oil-based polyurethane is a better option as opposed to water-based one. You will have to wear gloves as it is a potential skin irritant.

Make sure to spread the sealant evenly. A high-density foam roller helps in getting nice, even, thin coats that will dry quickly.

Be sure not to get stuck in a corner from where you cannot exit the room without stepping on the wet sealant.

And then you sit back and relax:

Leave the sealant to dry completely. It can take 48 to 72 hours before you have your glass smooth, shiny, summoned back to life floor.


Knowing and applying how to sand hardwood floors with orbital sander, is no easy task. There are so many do’s and don’ts and so much that could go wrong with it. While wooden flooring attracts a lot of interior design fanatics, revamping it is not an easy job.

There are so many steps and so much to remember. So next time you see someone doing it, by themselves or even with the help of a professional, take a moment to appreciate all the hard work that goes into it.