How to sand wooden floorboards

A straightforward job for a keen DIYer, expert Michael Holmes offers advice on how to sand wooden floorboards

Whether you've opted to install reclaimed wooden floorboards to your living room, hallway or bedroom and want to improve their appearance or simply want to give your original floorboards a new lease of life, cleaning, sanding and sealing is an effective solution easily achieved by a keen DIYer.

Providing a thorough guide to sanding wooden floorboards, expert Michael Holmes discusses everything from the costs of hiring the right equipment to how to use it effectively. 

You will need:

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

1. Start by preparing the room

After clearing the room, seal it off with plastic sheeting and tape it down to contain dust – you can also hire a portable dust partition for around £20 a week from HSS.com

Remove carpets and grippers and ensure that you drive any nail or screw heads down 2-3mm below the floor surface – not doing so will shred the sandpaper disks or belts, adding to your costs. Replace any missing or damaged boards.

2. Choose the correct sandpaper and grit

If you're hiring a sanding set, you can expect to pay an average of £82 for a weekend. A pack of five sanding belts in each of the six grades will be around £35-£50.

We'd recommend starting with the finest grit possible, based on the condition of the wood. This said, for rough boards it's advisable to 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. In the case of previously sanded boards, start with a 60 or 80 grit.

3. Start sanding

Tilt the machine up before starting and then gradually lower it towards the floorboards. To level the floor, work at a 15-45° angle to the grain and work left to right. Repeat in the opposite direction until the boards are level. 

Bare in mind the following tips:

  • 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.

4. Work on the edges and corners

For a high quality finish, it's wort renting edge and corner sanders that allow you to  tackle these more difficult areas easily and effectively.

5. Finish the job with a finer grade

To finish the job, use a finer grade, ensuring that you operate in the direction of the grain. On average, it takes 1-2 days to sand a standard sized living room. 

6. Apply a finish

Apply your finish of choice, allowing the space 2-3 hours without traffic.

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