Home improvement jobs you can do: Sanding wooden floorboards

Michael Holmes

Expert renovator Michael Holmes offers his advice on how to sand wooden floorboards.

Original floorboards can look great when they’re cleaned, sanded and sealed. It’s a straightforward DIY job if you hire the right equipment. Hiring a sanding machine isn’t expensive, and it’s worth paying a little extra for a belt floor sander, edge sander and corner sander, with dust extraction. Other costs will be sanding disks and belts, plus floor finishes such as sealant and varnish.

First, clear the room, then seal it off with plastic sheeting and tape it down to contain dust – you can hire a portable dust partition for around £20 a week from HSS.com. Remove carpets and grippers. Drive any nail or screw heads down 2-3mm below the floor surface, or they’ll shred the sandpaper disks or belts, adding to your costs. Replace any missing or damaged boards.

Don’t go straight to fine grade sandpaper. Start with as fine a grit as possible, based on the condition of the wood. For rough boards, start with a coarse grit and work your way through four or five grades from 24 to 40, 60 and 80 up to 120 grit, or it will take forever. Start with 60 or 80 grit for previously sanded boards.

Tilt the machine up before starting and then gradually lower it. To level the floor, work at a 15-45° angle to the grain and work left to right. Repeat in the opposite direction and repeat until the boards are level. Work on the edges and corners, then finish with finer grades in the direction of the grain. It takes 1-2 days to sand an average living room, with 2-3 traffic-free hours to apply the finish.

Tools needed…

  • Hammer
  • Bradawl
  • Crowbar
  • Saw
  • Sanding machine hire
  • Sanding belts
  • Disposable face masks
  • Protective eyewear
  • Plastic sheeting

Restored sanded wooden floor

Remember to…

  • Keep the machine moving and don’t sand against the grain.
  • Fill large gaps between the boards first with wedge-shaped fillets of matching wood glued into place. When sanded level they’ll blend in.
  • Vacuum and clean with white spirit ready for your chosen sealant and finish.

Cost: The hire of a sanding set costs around £82 for a weekend. A pack of five sanding belts in each of six grades is around £35-£50.

All prices, estimates and suppliers correct at time of publishing