I am going to work on the floors of two room.
One is the family room, which has never been covered with carpet but
was initially coated or sealed with polyurethane 26 years ago by the
builder. The other room is the master bedroom which has been covered
with thick wool carpet for the same period of time.
The family room's floor needs refinishing because the wood stain and
coating has worn out especially toward the patio door where it has
been constantly exposed to the sunlight. I don't see much damage other
than the coat. The bedroom's floor needs minimum work. I am not sure
if it was initially coated with polyurethane.
I don't want to invest too much money for a sander but I don't want to
end up with a cheap one that would not do the job. I have not owned
one in my life and don't know much about them although I am quite
What do you suggest?
Rent an orbital type floor sander, they are less likely to damage the floor
if you are a novice. You checkout lots of sandpaper when you rent then
return the unused and pay for what you use. HD has them (with big
rectangular pads) but hardware stores which sell Varathane may also have
that system which uses round pads and gets closer to the edge.
For edges buy a random orbital sander (like black and decker etc) and a 50
pack of 60, 120 grit paper.
If you needed to remove more material (very badly gouged floor, new floor
install, patch-in repair) then a drum sander or rotating floor buffer style
sander would work better. Since they remove more material, you need to keep
moving to prevent scarring the floor, they take more skill.
Thank you for your help.
I am a bit confused though. You said I should rent an orbital sander
and that I should also buy a random orbital sander. I suppose you are
telling me not only to rent a big one but buy a smaller one.
I saw one (http://tinyurl.com/mxu4x ) on the Internet. Would this one
sufficient for a job to apply stain and poly to one room (12X20) at a
time? How big is the rental unit?
Hold on there. You do NOT want to consider sanding a floor with
anything that weighs less than about 100 pounds. Your link shows a
sander that would be good for sanding, like, a night table. If it were
already pretty smooth. With no finish.
If you dig back in this newsgroup, I remember one guy that was trying
to sand a normal sized bedroom using a 3x10 inch hand held power sander
(which is a lot more powerful than your tinyurl one, even). He was
doing like 3 hours per evening on the weekends, getting done about 4
square feet per weekend. If I remember, he had already put in something
like 60 hours, and had about 6 months to go for just the one room. And
probably burned out multiple sanders too.
For a floor, people here (and me too!) are suggesting that you rent a
"floor sander". The machine will cost you $30 to $70 per day, depending
on the store and model. Sandpaper will cost easily $100 - $200 for a
medium sized room if you need to do multiple passes (coarse grit to get
out the gouges, then medium, fine, and maybe even a very fine grit).
Purchasing one is out of the question -- several thousands of dollars
probably. These machines are heavy (100+ lbs), big (think: lawnmower
size), and noisy (jet engine?).
The three (ok, four) types of floor sander are:
Drum sander: the "traditional" model. Long sheets of get fastened onto
a drum which spins. Don't rent this. Its incredibly messy, can eat
through your floor in seconds, is very hard to control for a novice,
and your floor will come out looking wavy and bumpy, because its so
hard to keep he thing steady and at a perfectly even pace. This is the
only model that will easily pull off a hard finish or quickly strip
down enough material to get rid of deep gouges, so if you need one,
hire someone instead of renting. Since the machine can't get close to
walls (6 - 8 inches remaining) a second hand orbital sander is needed
(below). A homeowner type sander would not be strong enough to do all
Orbital floor sander, aka "Squar Buff". A giant version of the dinky
little hand sanders, Giant square (1.5x1.5 feet) sandpaper just gets
velcroed to the bottom, and the thing just vibrates the hell out of the
floor. Pretty easy to use, and can get pretty close to walls. But if
you bump a wall it leaves a big dent (vibrating so much it's like
hitting the wall with a hammer). I put some scrap wood strips along the
walls to protect the moulding and walls. This makes a mess, but it goes
pretty quickly (not as quickly as the drum sander) and its very hard to
make a mistake and ruin your floor. You can literally sit on the thing
and it will wander around the room sanding. You'd have to hold it in
one spot for a minute or more before it takes off too much wood. You'd
have to still use some kind of hand held sander for the very edges (2
to 4 inches) of the room. A common homeowner sander works fine for this
(belt sander, a decently strong version of your tinyurl sander, etc).
4-head orbital floor sander, aka "u-sand" sander. Same as above, but
with four smaller circular pads. This thing is incredibly easy to use,
and is not nearly as messy. It can get right up to walls, within about
1 inch, and won't damage the walls at all. It is not as powerful as the
above machines, so the work goes somewhat slower, but the end result is
very nice. Its near impossible to screw up. You can do the edges
however you like, since there is hardly anything left. or just cover up
the edge with trim if that is what you want.
Lastly, the 8 inch orbital sander. This is just a ultra-strong version
of a homeowner orbital sander, and is used together with the drum
sander. It is only good for doing edges, or very tight places
(closets?). It goes right up to the edges, but is damn near impossible
to get it to look nice, since it will chew through your floor quick and
leaves circular marks everywhere.
So my advice is to get a 4-head sander, take your time, and buy some
ear protection. And don't smoke while sanding (the dust is explosive).
When I did this, admittedly 33 years ago, also the big sander didn't
get to the edge, but they rented a different sander that did edges,
and it was a lot bigger and faster than anything a non-pro would buy.
I made one big mistake. Using steel wool between coats of poly. At
least I waited a day which is what they said, but the poly wasn't
totally dry, and wool bits stuck in the finish, I couldn't sweep them
off, and the second coat just ensured that they would stay there a
This is one of hte reasons I like working on rental units or friend's
places, so I know what I'm doing before I do the home I own. But it
still looked much much better than before I did it. The previous
tenant was a pig student artist who dripped and spilled paint on the
I agree with Pipedown, except HD does rent the sander that uses the
round sanding discs. There are three grits available and depending on
how pitted your floor is will determine if you start witht he rough
grit. But don't just use that and forget the fine grit as that will be
required. It is not hard to operate this sander and you can't really do
any damage with it. It will also get right up to the wall where the
drum sander can't.
As for putting down your stain and poly, they also sell that at HD.
But, I leared the secret is to use a lambs wool applicator on a pole.
HD does not sell this but a specialty paint store does, it's about $8
and worth every penny. I did one coat stain and three coats poly.
This is not a sander you would buy unless you do it for a living, forget
about buying a hand held belt or pad sander,they are to slow and wont
last the job. The rental units cost upwards of 1-3000. For the qualty of
work acheived and the learning experiance get bids from a pro, its
really not that much and the difference will be in the end result of
sanding. Or rent and learn as you go, but you will make mistakes and
I am also planning to do one coat of stain and three coats of poly.
What model of sander did you rent from HD?
How long did you have to wait between each coat? For how many days did
you rent the sander?
If staining , since you are an amateur you cant get any cross grain
sanding you will experiance from an orbital unit or your floor will look
like crap, needing Resanding. Clear coat is the safest with orbital. You
need to research this before you ruin your job and end up paying a pro
to re do it.
Random orbital sander
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Random orbit sanders are hand-held power sanders where the action is a
random orbit. They were first introduced in the early 1990s and
quickly became tremendously popular. Random orbit sanders combine
almost the speed and aggressiveness of a belt sander, with the ability
to produce a finer finish than that available from a standard, slow
speed, orbital finishing sander.
Because of its unique random sanding action, the tool does not leave
swirl marks, and it is not sensitive to the direction of the wood
grain. This makes it work very well when sanding two pieces of wood
that meet at right angles. Random-orbit sanders use sandpaper disks
and many random-orbit sanders now come with dust collectors. Disks are
attached using either pressure sensitive adhesives or a hook and loop
system. On models equipped with a dust collection feature, a vacuum
effect sucks sanding dust through holes in the paper and pad, feeding
it to a bag or canister.
I rented the sander just for one complete day although I finished one
room in three hours. The sander has four round sanding discs on the
bottom and a dust bag. It's really easy to use and won't gouge your
floor. You can buy more sanding discs than you really need and they
will take back what you don't use. I changed the rough pads twice and
only used one set of the fine pads--don't skip the fine pads.
As for stain, one coat unless you want it darker. I let the stain dry
for a day or two and then I used the quick dry poly but I let that dry a
day also between coats even though the instructions said you could apply
another coat in two-four hours. You will rough up the surface between
coats with a fine sand paper. I used a piece of sand paper attached to
a sheetrock sanding pole to do mine. After three coats it really looked
good. One thing you want to make sure of is that you vacuum up all the
dust before putting down the poly. If the dust settles in the poly it
will stay. Overall, it's not that hard at all--but don't forget the pro
secret of using a lamb wool applicator to put down the poly. You get
that at a specialty paint store. You just can't put the poly down good
with a brush. I used a rag to put the stain down. I used less than a
third of a gallon stain for a 12 x 20 room and about 2/3 gallon of poly.
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