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DIY Refinishing Hardwood Floors: Sanding

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At some point, refinishing hardwood floors is one of those home improvement things that just has to be done. But before you can refinish your hardwood, it has to be sanded down! If you’re looking to avoid the expense of paying a professional to tackle this project, we can help. We’ve broken down the tools and steps to the sanding process as part of refinishing hardwood floors, plus a few pro tips!

Tools Shopping List
Essex Silver-Line Floor Sander SL-8 with 25’ cord, dust bags and wrenches Abrasives – sander sheets, edger discs, screens
Essex Silver-Line Floor Edger SL-7 with 25’ cord, dust bags and wrenches Plastic Drop Cloth or Damp Sheet
Essex Silver-Line U2 with cord (for under hard to reach areas) Painter’s Tape
Paint Scraper Protective Gear – dust masks, ear plugs, eye protection
Wet/Dry Vac  
Broom and Dust Pan  


      1. Prep your room before you get started. Remove all furniture and decoration – anything that could be harmed or will be in the way – this includes heating grates.

        It’s worth stating – sanding is a messy, messy process. That being said, there are a few precautions you can take to limit the mess and make it easier to clean up. We recommend situating a box fan in an open window or door leading outside. Direct the fan so air is blown outdoors so it can assist in sucking free floating particles out. Make sure to secure the fan so you don’t have any accidents.

        In addition to your fan, wear protective eye gear and dust masks and cover all doors, cabinets and entry ways with plastic drop cloth and painter’s tape or old damp sheets. This will ensure dust and debris doesn’t take over the rest of the house, making a bigger mess and headache. Also, plug the vents if your house uses forced air. This will prevent the sawdust from circulating. It’s important to note, tape other than painter’s tape may damage the paint on the walls and trim around your entry ways. Painter’s tape is specifically made to avoid this issue.

        HOME IMPROVEMENT TIP: Wear non-streak shoes. No black soles!
      2. Before you get started, make sure your hardwood floor is free of staples and nails are even with the floor, not sticking up. Many people are hesitant to pull staples up, in fear of causing damage to the wood floor. Don’t be.

        Thoroughly sweep and vacuum the entire room, including the floor and any exposed walls, counters or other surfaces.
      3. Once your floor is free of the excess, it’s time to bust out the Floor Sander. For the first sanding, use your roughest sandpaper. This will even the floor out, remove old finish, and remove deep marks in the surface of the wood. From there, you’ll progressively work your way to the least abrasive sandpaper which will smooth scratches out and give the floor a nice even surface. When renting the Floor Sander, ask for instruction on how to change the sandpaper and be sure to ask any questions you may have about the process – you’ll be changing a fair amount of paper out and incorrectly installed sandpaper is the #1 problem renters run into.

        Before installing sandpaper, you may want to practice moving the sander, lowering the drum to the floor, and pulling it back up. Familiarizing yourself with the Floor Sander will help in reducing mistakes during the process. Once you’re comfortable, install your paper, secure the dust bag, check to make sure the machine is OFF and plug it in. Now is also a good time to put your earplugs in.

        HOME IMPROVEMENT TIP: Don’t use an overloaded circuit. If you do blow a fuse or trip a breaker, turn any equipment in use OFF before investigating the problem.

        Be cautious to move the sander at a constant and consistent pace to insure an even floor. To help in doing so, we suggest sanding the room in two sections. Start your first section by moving in a forward and backward direction along the same stretch of floor, slowly lowering the drum to the floor. Don’t press down on the sander, just move it back and forth working your way left to right across the room and the sander will take care of the rest! Pay attention to your speed when dropping the sanding drum and NEVER try to muscle the sander.

        HOME IMPROVEMENT TIP: Keep the sander moving! If you stall it in one place, you risk a visible, uneven wear in the floor.

        After covering the first 2/3 of the room, turn the sander off and turn around to face the opposite wall and begin sanding the remaining 1/3. Doing this prevents bumping into walls which will stall the sander in one place.

        HOME IMPROVEMENT TIP: Change your sandpaper often! If the process seems to be slowing, it’s probably time to change the paper to prevent flaws in your end result.

        After you’re done using the Floor Sander, sweep the room thoroughly. It’s much easier to see what you’re doing without the excess sawdust and it will help to keep on top of the clean up in the end.
      4. Once you’ve sanded the bulk of the room, it’s time to edge. Using the Floor Edger is much like using the Floor Sander. Start by securing the dust bag, installing the sandpaper (the same grit you used with the Floor Sander), make sure the machine is OFF and plug it in.

        Rest the edger on the casters only so the disc pad isn’t touching the floor. Turn the Floor Edger on and lower the disc pad. Run the Edger toward the wall, moving from the left side of the room to the right side in 12” – 18” sections. Like the Floor Sander, never stop moving the Edger when the disc pad is touching the floor and let the Edger do the work.

        After you’ve finished sanding the edges of the room, sweep and vacuum.
      5. By this point you will have sanded most of the floor, but not all. If you have difficult to reach areas as a result of toekicks or baseboard heating, for example, you’ll want to use the Essex Silver Liner U2. Using a pressure sensitive disc, this tool reaches perfectly under those tricky areas. Again, you’ll want to use the same grit of sandpaper used with the Floor Sander and Floor Edger.

        While these machines will do the majority of the work, there are crevices and nooks equipment just can’t reach. Grab a scraper, make sure the blade is sharp, and scrape any corners or areas that were missed. After scraping, go over the same areas with the sandpaper by hand.

        Sweep and vacuum the room thoroughly.
      6. Repeat the process using your less abrasive sandpapers.


Following these six easy steps, you’ll have a finish-ready floor in no time. For detailed steps to applying hardwood floor finish and help choosing between water-based vs oil-based finish, as well as other home improvement topics, check out our News section.

Make sure you have the right tools to get the job done! Contact Time Equipment & Rentals for information on renting a Floor Sander, Floor Edger, and other home improvement tools!


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