How to sand timber floors

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Project Overview

You can give an old timber floor a big facelift by sanding it down. We show you how to use sanding machines the professionals use to get the job done. We also give you a few helpful tips on using sandpaper.
Continue to step-by-step instructions
This D.I.Y. Advice is part of a series How to sand and seal timber floors

Step by Step Instructions

1 Prepare to sand the floorboards
2 Install a sandpaper belt on the drum of the sander
3 Sand the floor with a drum sander
4 Sand the edges of the floor with an edging sander
5 Sand the tight corners with a detail sander
  • Step 1. Prepare to sand the floorboards

    Start by making sure your floor is ready for sanding. Check every nail is sitting below the surface, to avoid the sandpaper catching and ripping. Any nails sitting above the timber should be knocked in with a hammer and a nail punch.
  • Step 2. Install a sandpaper belt on the drum of the sander

    Lay the drum sander on its side. Lift up the cover of the drum and slide the paper on. Sometimes the sandpaper can be a bit tight and hard to install. If that happens, wipe a little bit of fine sawdust on the inside of the belt to help the belt to slide on. If your floor needs a lot of sanding, start with a rough, 40-grit paper. For a floor in better condition, a lighter 60- or 80-grit is better. Use a finer, 120-grit for the second pass.
  • Step 3. Sand the floor with a drum sander

    Make sure the drumhead is sitting off the floor, then pull back the lever that drops the drumhead onto the surface of the floor. To achieve the best results, push the drum sander forward along the grain of the floorboards, one row at a time. Move at a gradual, even pace to ensure the sander creates an even finish. At the end of each row push the lever down to lift the drum off the floor. Then reposition the sander to the next row and start again.
  • Step 4. Sand the edges of the floor with an edging sander

    Use an edging sander to get closer to the skirting boards where the drum sander can’t reach. Because these sanders use a disc that sands across the grain, you will need a finer grit paper than the one you used on the drum sander.

  • Step 5. Sand the tight corners with a detail sander

    Detail sanders are great for sanding in tight corners, under kitchen cabinets and inside cupboards. They reach in where the other, more powerful sanders can’t. Once again, for the best results, move the sander with an even and gradual motion.

Tools and Materials


  • Detail sander
  • Drum sander
  • Dust mask
  • Ear muffs
  • Hammer
  • Hand sander
  • Nail punch
  • Safety glasses

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