How to Sand Hardwood Floors with an Orbital Sander

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how to sand hardwood floors with an orbital sander

Sanding hardwood floors can be a big job no matter what the circumstances. However, trying to do it by hand with standard sand paper is even tougher. 

In this article, we will show you how to sand hardwood floors using an orbital sander. 

An orbital sander is the best way to sand down your home’s hardwood flooring to get it prepped for a new finish. It is also easy on the budget and can be done by almost anyone. 

Sanding Hardwood Floors Using an Orbital Sander: Basic Idea

In order to properly sand your home’s hardwood floors, you will need to follow some basic procedures. We will go into more detail, but the key steps are: 

  • Clear the floor of any furnishings 
  • Make sure the floor is at least ¾” thick
  • Choose the correct sandpaper 
  • Sand in an organized fashion

By following these steps, you can sand a room in a matter of days. This will ensure that you are doing everything right the first time, and save you time and effort in the long run. 

Clear the Floor

While this step may seem self-explanatory, it is very important that there is nothing in the room. It may seem adequate to simply cover any furniture and work around it as you go, but this isn’t recommended. 

The orbital sander will reduce any finish on the floor to dust and this dust will end up everywhere. 

Make sure that the room is completely cleared of any furniture, curtains and electronics. You may also want to wear a respirator of some kind to keep your lungs safe. 

You also want the floor to be cleared due to the fact that you will be sanding in a pattern. You do not want to break the pattern or have to stop and move furniture around in the middle of the job.

Check the Thickness of the Floor

uneven hardwood floor

Before you get started on sanding your hardwood floor, check its thickness. Your hardwood floor should be at least ¾” thick before attempting to sand it. 

The reason for this is that thin flooring could end up getting damaged by the sander. Orbital sanders can be powerful and you could end up sanding through it. 

In order to check the thickness of your hardwood floor, insert a business card in between the slats. Then, make a mark on the card and measure the thickness. 

If your hardwood floor is less than ¾” thick, it might be a good idea to hire a professional. They will have the experience to sand the floor without damaging it. 

Choose the Right Sandpaper 

There are many different types of sandpaper for orbital sanders. Sandpaper comes in different grits, which determines how rough it is and how much material it will sand off. 

For your first round, start with a 40-grit sanding disc on your orbital sander. This will remove most paints and varnishes fairly easily depending on how powerful your sander is. 

After you have completed the whole room with the 40-grit, you can finish it off with a finer grit. 

For most hardwood floors, you can finish sanding with a 100-grit sanding disc. This will get rid of any imperfections that may have been left behind from the tougher grit. 

Sand in an Organized Fashion

sand in an organized fashion

You should use an orbital sander in the same way that you mow a lawn. Pick a line to sand along and stick with it. 

You do not want to simply start sanding in all different directions. This could result in gouges and marks that will be difficult to remove later. 

Make sure that you sand along the grain of your hardwood flooring. Do not sand against the grain. 

You will want to move row by row along the length of each strip of hardwood floor slat. 

As you move on to the next row, make sure that you overlap at least half of the sander into the previous area. This will ensure that you are not missing any spots as you move along the floor. 

By sanding in an organized way, you can be sure that you are doing the job as efficiently as you can. You will not have to go back and re-sand any areas that you have missed. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to sand a floor with an orbital sander?
    The amount of time it takes to sand a floor will depend on how large the room is. However, for the most part, a room will take anywhere from 1-3 days to completely sand. This is taking into account the breaks that are recommended while you are doing the job.
  • Which is better orbital or drum sander?
    A drum sander actually cuts into the wood of your hardwood floor. While this may be quicker, there is more of a chance that you can damage your floor. Because of this, an orbital sander is the best choice for sanding hardwood floors. 
  • Can I paint floorboards without sanding?
    You can paint floorboards without sanding them, but it is not recommended. Paint requires a completely smooth surface on which to dry properly. If you don’t sand your floorboards before painting, you run the risk of an uneven paint job that looks unprofessional.


Now that you know how to sand hardwood floors using an orbital sander, you are ready to get started. By following the simple steps outlined above, you can get a professional-looking sanding job on a smaller budget. 

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Michael J. O’Connor is a writer and marketing specialist from the Bay Area of California. A graduate of Sonoma State’s Creative Writing program, he spent many years as a contractor and carpet layer, learning the ins and outs of flooring and general contracting. When he’s not typing away at his desk, he enjoys hiking with his dogs, woodworking and collecting rare books. See full biography here.

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