Choosing a Sanding Machine for Wood Floors

Sanding down your wood floor will remove scratches, nicks and indents. When you sand your wood floor, you are restoring its beauty. A floor with scratches looks worn and less elegant than a floor without scratches. Sanding also increases the longevity of the wood floor. A floor with scratches will be prone to have dirt rest in the grooves of a scratch. This makes the scratch susceptible to growing when the dirt moves around.

The first step to selecting the right type of sanding machine is to determine the type of wood floor you have. If you have moved into a home that already had hardwood floors, you may not know what kind of floors you have. Not all wood floors can be sanded multiple times. If you use the wrong kind of floor sanding equipment on your floor, the results will be not the desired look you are going for! In fact some wood floors (that are only imitation wood floors) cannot even be sanded down once!

If you have a solid tongue and groove wood floor, it is safe to say that you can sand these floors many times. They have a thick wear layer that is designed to be sanded down as needed. A solid wood floor is a traditional wood floor in the sense that these are the oldest type of wood floor. If you are living in a home that is older, chances are that you have a solid wood floor. The common specifications for these floors is the floorboards come in various in lengths and widths but the thickness is fairly standard. Most often, solid wood flooring comes in boards that are ¾” thick.

Engineered wood floors are a more modern invention. This type of flooring only came around in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They are designed to look like a solid wood floor, but are not. An engineered floor should not be treated like a solid wood floor. This type of floor is made up of thin layers or plies of wood laminate that are glued together. Because the wear layer on an engineered floor is extremely thin, these floors are only designed to be sanded down once in their lifetime. With these floors it is best to wait until they really need a sanding. In fact, many people say it is a bad idea to sand an engineered floor because the wear layer is so thin that you may permanently damage the floor by sanding too much down.

Laminate flooring is not made from real wood. It is photographs of wood. Because it is fake, there is no wear layer at all. These floors cannot be sanded ever. They are not designed to be sanded. Like engineered wood flooring, laminate flooring is also a modern invention that was founded in 1977.

One of the ways of determining what kind of floor you have is by figuring out its approximate age. If it is an older floor that predates the 1970s, almost certainly it is a solid wood floor. If it is a more modern floor that was installed in the 1980s or after, you should look at it closely to see if there are repeating patterns on the floor of wood grain. If there are, it is most likely a laminate floor that you cannot sand down.

A factory finished wood floor or engineered wood floor, there is one characteristic that is always common, a microbevel. This very small bevel or indent is visible where two pieces of wood come together

Now that you have determined that your floor is a good candidate for a sanding job, it is time to consider the sanding machinery. There are many different types of machines on the market for sanding floors. They all sand floors but they are specific to different types of wood flooring.

The random orbital floor comes in two different styles: the smaller handheld and the larger random orbit sander. This smaller handheld floor sander is great for soft woods like cork and pine but not so great for hard woods because it lacks the power needed to do a good job. The larger random orbit sander is best for hardwood floors like oak. Commonly, many varieties of random orbital floor sanders will leave sanding marks on your wood floors. These marks will be noticeable when you go to stain your wood floors.

Drum sanders also commonly called belt sanders are another variety of sander. As the wood flooring industry has evolved, so have drum sanders. Nowadays, they have a sanding belt. Unfortunately, often there are still chatter marks left behind on a finely sanded hardwood floor. As soon as a drum sander makes a single pass on a hardwood floor, you can see its pathway. It can be quite frustrating when you are working hard to avoid machine marks but they keep popping up!

Once you have considered the sander for your floor, you must realize that it will not do the edges. Your sander will not reach the edges around the room. You will need a special sander called and edger to do the edges or the perimeter of the room. This is a much smaller tool that is handheld.

Learning about the type of floor you have is the first step to understanding how to sand your hard wood floor. Choosing a sanding machine is important to doing a good job.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, please read my article, “How to sand wood floors without leaving machine marks“. This will help you out before getting started on your floor sanding project.