The Fundamentals of Sanding Wood Floors

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Level 1 – Basic Sanding of Oak Floors for a Clear Finish

Writing technical articles for the NWFA magazine for a few years now, I had to take a break for a while. I am back now to writing on a regular basis to share all kinds of information with our beloved contractors.

Taking the trade from the start, I’d like to discuss basic sanding fundamentals. What you’ll read below is a short summary of what needs to be done on a floor to get it ready for a clear finish. That is what most people see; people who don’t understand the craft and the talent that it involves. I will then expand on each point in the next several blogs, and I will detail everything so much that you’ll get sick of how many details there are.

If I said 50 grit..you’d say 40. If I said Trio…you’d say Powerdrive. We all have our preferences of how to sand floors. If I put ten contractors at a discussion table to agree on one sanding sequence for one oak floor, well that could take forever. Reading this blog please understand that I know there are many ways to get somewhere. Your way is probably slower and worse than mine. But really, who cares? Yes, I had to say this to get you out of your reading coma. Laugh, it’s good for you.

Let’s begin:

  • You must cut the floor flat with the big machine. Remember that making the floor flat doesn’t happen when you go with the grain. Woodworkers flatten a piece of wood at an angle using a hand planer or handheld belt sander. You use a big walk behind belt or drum sander. Cut the floor at an angle, then go straight with the direction of the floor.
  • You must cut the floor flat with the edger. That includes all the areas the big machine couldn’t get.
  • Now that the floor is flat, fill it. You don’t have to full trowel it every time. Use common sense.
  • Sand the filler off with the big machine and the edger using a finer grit than your rough cut.
  • Smooth the scratch pattern with a buffer or a multi-disc machine.
  • Take care of the corners with scrapers and sanding paper.
  • Vacuum
  • Tack
  • Seal

Simple, right? Not quite. Sanding and finishing wood floors is art. In the next several blogs I will break down, analyze, and explain each step and what it means down to the very last detail of how you walk your big machine and/or what you think you know about scratch patterns.

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