Went to Home Depot yesterday and see they have two sanders for rent.
One is a belt sander and the other is a large orbital. Both are
intended for floors. I just need to take the varnish off an old floor.
Is the big orbital the best tool for this? The room is 15x20ft. Any
idea how long this will take me or suggestions on the grit to begin
Grit and time will depend on condition of the floor and the species of the
wood that you are dealing with, not to mention the number of bump-outs,
obstructions, heat grills and other things you have to work around.
I see the first two replies didn't answer your rather direct question.
Generally one uses the belt sander for the bulk of the floor; the
orbital is for the edges and corners.
Use the coarsest grit you can get to start, then work your way up to a
It won't take all that long. However, you really need to be careful with
those machines, especially the belt sander. If you've never done this
before, you might want to practice first. If you let the sander sit a
little too long in one spot, you've got a nice gouge you then have to
try to smooth out. It's worse on softwood floors (fir, pine) than
hardwood (oak or maple). The trick is to keep the machine moving, and to
use an overlapping pattern.
The thing that takes far longer than sanding is the subsequent dust
removal necessary to do a decent job of varnishing.
Washing one\'s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the
powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.
The belt sander is faster but unless you are experienced using one it is
very easy to dig big gouges in the floor. Get the orbital, it will work
fine and it is also easy to do corners with it. Start with the coarsest
grit available (24?) for the varnish removal and any necessary leveling;
once that is done, work up through at least 2 grits to remove marks left by
the previous coarser grit; finish up with the screen...it *is* a screen, not
sandpaper. Total time? Been a long while since I did it but - a guess
only - three hours.
He'll need to use a hand held sander for the edges and other places
where the large sander won't fit. Still the big orbital will get the job
done fairly quickly. I think they buy back the unused sandpaper.
We used the oribital on a hundred yo oak floor that is about 12x30. We used
(and finished) with 20 grit. We spent about 24 actual sanding hours.
Looking back, we should have used the drum, but we were not familiar with
it's use and didn't want to ruin the first floor we tried. We have since
used the drum, and it takes some getting used to to avoid serious damage,
but if you have a place to practice for about 30 minutes, you'll be ok.
Another "trick" in learning/beginning is to start w/ a lesser grit
paper--the work won't go so fast, but you can get the hang of how to
handle the machine w/ much less danger of digging a serious gouge or
As Steve says, once you've got a little cockpit time, then you can go to
the real stuff w/ more confidence.
To answer your questions if I can.
At the local HD they had two types of sanders the Clark Square buff machine
and a large orbital with 4-6 heads.
All of the posted responses to date have been discussing the merits of a
true drum sander and a smaller single wheel orbital sander. The response I
have read are correct for those machines but do not address the questions
I have never used the multihead orbital. I have used the square buff model.
It does a decent job for old finish removal if the floors are in otherwise
decent shape. The beauty of the machine is that you can not ruin your
floors with gouges like a newbie would with a drum sander. I did an
acceptable sanding job on about 750 square feet in one hard 8 hour day.
When I say acceptable I mean is was okay for rental property. I am not sure
I would have been satisfied if I had to look at it every day. A few more
passes with the finer grade of paper might have made it better.
Unless your market is radically different from mine I think with some
careful shopping that you may find that you can get a real pro to do sand
only for no more than twice the true cost (machine, paper, misc) of the
rental. This was the choice I made the next time I needed a different house
sanded. The real expense of the refinish is the many trips needed to
properly finish the floor over several days.
Good luck with your project.
Please come visit www.househomerepair.com
I rented the orbital at HD a year ago, and was satisfied with the results.
Expect to spend a lot of sandpaper, much more than the cost of the rental.
But the outcome was nice.
One nice thing about the orbital is that it has a dust bag. While the
dust bag itself is useless, if you remove it and hook up a shop vac to the
port, your sanding is virtually dustless. I don;t think we spent more than
10 minutes cleaning up afterwards.
If you mean the square one that has the 4 individual round pads, that's
the one I used about 9 mos ago. Did like a 10x12 floor and it came out
awesome. VERY easy to use. Once started you can actually hold and guide
with one hand (not recommended though of course).
It gets VERY close to edges and well into corners and doesn't gouge like
the drum type I've heard can. A small electric sander will get the edges.
You could even get away with a finishing sander.
The other thing I tried was using a pole with a lamb's wool (?)
applicator/cover they had there. Application is fast resulting in no
brush marks or lines. Poly is always "flowing & settling" with previous
Thanks to all for the responses. I guess it is a drum sander and not a
belt. These items look like what was in the store...
If I tried the drum sander what grit would be safe for my initial
"education period" with less chance of doing damage? I guess I'd be ok
if I just kept the unit in constant motion? Will the drum sander use
less paper? If I went with the safer orbital what would be appropriate
starting grit for removing one layer of old varnish? Thanks again.
If you're starting out a drum/belt sander is a much riskier
proposition for you. Unless you have 'the touch' you'll leave ripples
in your floor. Even some "professionals" leave ripples in the floor
with a drum sander. They're particularly hard to use in smaller rooms
as the start and stop marks are almost all in the same place.
The U-Sand orbital sanders that HomeDepoo rents are excellent
machines. Like everything else you rent, don't take the first one you
see. I end up Frankensteining a machine together by using the skirt
from this one, the bag from that one and always choose the one with
the best condition pads (remove the leftover sandpaper so you can see
the pad itself).
You would be hard put to mess up your floor with a multi-head orbital
sander. If your floor is in reasonably flat condition you can start
with 36 or 40 grit paper. The 24 grit is for floors that need more
work with gouges and such. Skipping grit sizes is usually
counterproductive - you _might_ save a little money, but you'll
definitely spend more time than you have to.
You can expect to have the rental machine for the full day. It's very
unlikely that you'd be able to rent the machine, bring it home, sand a
15' x 20' floor and return it within four hours.
After you've run through a grit size, and you feel it's ready for the
next step down in grit size, vacuum off the floor (always vacuum
between grits!) and wipe a section with a rag dampened with denatured
alcohol. That will show you if the swirl marks are all of a uniform
size. If the swirls are not uniform it means you are not spending
enough time on a particular grit size. It is _much_ harder (read
almost impossible) to take out coarser swirl marks if you are using
too fine of a grit paper.
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