How long does it take to sand hardwood floors?

A picture of Orbial Sander, Ginour 300W Random Orbital Sander, one of the best sanders for hardwood flooring

Does the blandness of your hardwood floors make you feel a bit jaded? You might be wondering if there is a way to restore your flooring to its prime. All is not lost. There is a way you can revivify your flooring by sanding and refinishing.

Sanding is critical since it helps you get rid of the stain and finish and prep the floor for refinishing. This then may leave you wondering, how long does it take to sand hardwood floors?

For DIY enthusiasts, sanding a floor may consume anywhere between two to fifteen days. On the other hand, professionals can take between 1 and 5 days owing to their proficient skillsets. It takes experts about one day per room and DIYers about two days per room on matters planning.

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Tag along as we help you navigate through the sanding process of hardwood floors.

Floor sanding tips

One sure way of reimposing the grandiosity of your hardwood floors is by sanding. However, the time frame indicated for sanding hardwood floors might make you hesitant to proceed with this project, especially if you are a novice.

But with the right guidance, you can successfully manage to accomplish the sanding task at hand. On that score, how should you tackle a sanding project?

Below are some floor sanding tips that will help you execute sanding adeptly.

A)Pre-sanding steps

  1. Removal of the base shoe

You might want to start with removing (prying) the base shoe molding or quarter-round molding off if it is present in the room scheduled for sanding. This is to prevent it from getting scratched when sanding.

The other role of this step is to help avoid leaving the baseboard standing on an elevated plain due to unevenness caused by edge sanding. Remember to label the molding as you pry it off for accurate re-installation.

     2. Room preparation

Prepping the room for sanding involves carrying out all logical activities that will make the room appropriate for sanding. Some of these activities are obvious and  include;

  • Clear the room – You will need to remove pictures on walls and items on cabinets and move furniture and décor out of the room. You ought to cover doorways with plastic and remove wall hangings. Removing or raising lowly-suspended light fixtures is recommendable. You do all this in an attempt to make the room free in preparation for sanding.
  • Prepare for dust – tips like covering appliances and window frames with plastic tarps are necessary to avoid damage. The air grilles need to be plugged or covered as well. It would be best also if you turned the HVAC system off to minimize dust circulation.
  • For the loose baseboards, you should nail them down using finish nails.
  • Countersinking all nails at 1/8” is essential to avoid damaging the sanding belt or the sanding drum.

     3. Obtain necessary equipment

You might take longer than you planned to prep the room. But once the preparation is over, you can proceed to arm yourself with essential machinery. This sanding equipment include;

  • An edger – used to sand along the baseboards.
  • A drum sander – used to sand the greater portion of the floor.

In most instances for DIYers, this equipment is not a common find in their tools collection. This makes a DIYer seek the renting option from any flooring specialty shop, which is preferable to a general rental store. Submitting the room measurements to the shop helps establish an estimate of the number of sanding discs and belts you will need.

Here are some considerations when choosing a drum sander. Settle for the one integrated with a lever for raising and lowering the drum. The sander should also employ a continuous sleeve or belt. With the appropriate set of equipment with you, you can proceed to the second tip.

B) Actual sanding steps

  1. Removing the finish

First, you ought to deal with the finish by sanding with a coarse abrasive. Drum-sand the floor with the appropriate grit. Choose between 16, 24 or 36 grit and settle for the one that totally gets rid of the finish in one pass.

It’s a common preference for most DIYers to utilize a paint stripper to get rid of the finish. However, this method is not as recommendable since it is costly and less slow when compared to sanding.

Consideration: When using the drum sander equipment to sand the floor, remember to change the belts frequently. Sharper and newer belts execute the job quickly and achieve excellent results as opposed to dull belts. A worn belt cannot get rid of the marks left by the previous grit since it cannot cut deep enough.

     2. Polishing off scratches

It is going to be evident that the previous grit will leave scratches. In this case, you should proceed through every grit to polish off these scratches. Usually, a 24-36-60-80-100 sequence is the appropriate progressive grit used.

Tip: Before proceeding to the next grit, remember to vacuum or sweep the floor.

     3. Sanding along the baseboards

As earlier indicated, a floor edger is an ideal tool for this job. An edger is an excellent tool for sanding up close to the baseboards. Typically, this machine has a sanding disc integrated into a sturdy motor. It can be quite intricate to use since the spinning disc imparts some swirls.

Again, changing the edging disc is essential when using the edger because a dull disc fails to eliminate the unattractive cross-grain marks (swirls) left by the previous disc.

Tip: You can reduce the swirls and scratches problem by putting a nylon pad beneath the sandpaper to provide a cushion.

     4. Removing finish from the corners

Room corners are spots that are quite inaccessible for the machines. These spots will, however, need sanding. Start by getting rid of the finish in the corners by scraping using a carbide scraper. Use 80- or 100-grit paper to rough up the scraped areas. You carry out this step after sanding is complete.

     5. Screening the floor

The floors will look so appealing by the time you get to this step. The purpose of screening is to blend the drum-sanded area with the edge sanded field and polish the sanding marks.

You can use a sanding pole or a rental buffing machine to accomplish screening. Use 120- or 150-grit sanding screen on either of the tools when screening. To remove the fine sanding scuffs, run a buffer fitted with a screen once you are done with sanding.

Types of hardwood floor finishes

The finish or topcoat is a weighty factor that influences the durability of your hardwood floor. With that in mind, you obviously want a floor that will grace you with a lifetime of service, right?

There is a manifold of hardwood flooring finishes available in the market, making it difficult for one to determine the perfect finish for their home. Here is a starting point. There are some factors you should consider before settling for a certain floor finish that includes;

  • Maintenance
  • Traffic
  • Economy
  • Level of finishing needed
  • Type and quality of hardwood floor
  • Drying times

That is not all. Despite considering the highlighted factors, you ought to be aware of the multiple floor finishes for proper discernment. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the top-ranking hardwood floor finishes, which include;

a) Oil-based polyurethane

This is one of the most used and fairly-priced types of finish containing some synthetic resins, linseed oil, and plasticizers. This finish type prides itself on durability and strength, making it suitable for areas with heavy traffic.  Its maintenance is also quite simple.

On the downside, oil-based polyurethane tends to become yellow as time lapses. It also consumes a lot of time before it totally dries. It emits a lot of VOCs, making it a bit tricky to set it up by yourself. You have to employ mineral spirits in cleaning up floors with an oil-based polyurethane finish.

b) Wax finishes

This type of finish delivers a warm appeal to the flooring’s surface. It’s a highly sought finish type since it is super easy to apply and cures fast. It is an option that has reduced odor and VOCs and mixes well with stain. Doing touch-ups on this finish is also simple.

The application of this finish can be a bit laborious. The durability of this type of finish is in question. Areas with high moisture levels like kitchens or bathrooms are inappropriate for wax finishes since white marks form upon exposure to water.

c) Water-based polyurethane

This type also counts as one of the most common types of floor finishes with a milky appearance in the container. When a smooth and glossy finish is desired, a water-based polyurethane finish is a way to go. Applying this finish is simple as well as maintaining it.

This finish has properties like low odor and VOCs and significant durability. It is capable of standing up against high and heavy traffic such as furniture. This finish offers a water-resistant coating. However, it quickly reveals scrapes and scratches.

d) Aluminum Oxide

This finish type greatly outmatches the rest in terms of durability. You can enjoy a prolonged service life from this Aluminum oxide finish. It also saves you effort since it needs little maintenance. The only disadvantage to it is its difficulty in application and touch-ups.

e) Penetrating oil sealer

This type of finish markedly accentuates the color and natural grain of the wood. You don’t exactly get a high gloss finish for your floor but rather an alluring view of the depth and grain of your hardwood. A popular type of this finish is tung oil. A demerit to this floor finish type is its short-lived durability; therefore, reapplication is necessary every few years.

f) Shellac

This floor finish is a natural product characterized by fast drying/curating and low VOCs properties. It is fabricated by mixing denatured alcohol and a product produced by the lac bug. Often, oily tropical woods are the most suitable surfaces to apply this product on. As a disadvantage, it can be a bit tricky to apply, is highly flammable, and its durability is not so prolonged.

g) Acid-cured finish

Also referred to as Swedish finish, this type is a worthy alternative to polyurethanes in terms of durability. It releases a strong odor and great amounts of VOCs. Being an alcohol-based finish type, its application and touch-up can be difficult since acid is utilized for curing. On the upside, it can withstand scuffs and damages from chemicals.

How long does it take to sand hardwood floors?

Sanding hardwood floors is an intensive project that will consume more time than you thought. Experience determines the time frame for sanding projects, whereby it may take you, as a novice, around 2 to 15 days to accomplish the project. On the other hand, professionals

Sanding involves getting rid of all the existing finish and stain from your hardwood floors along with smoothening the wood beneath the sheets of stain and sealer. That said, various factors will influence the time used in sanding floors, including;

  • Number/size of rooms – it is obvious that working (sanding) larger rooms or multiple rooms will consume more time than sanding smaller/single rooms.
  • Type of previous finish – it will certainly take a lot more time to sand floors with aluminum oxide finish or those installed with carpet glue. On the contrary, oiled floors, especially with vegetable oil-based products, will be easy to sand and therefore consume less time.
  • The unevenness of the surface – Ununiform floors will take more time since you have to get rid of more material to make the spots flat. A floor with several raised spots will require more sanding time than an almost even floor.
  • Wood type – some wood species like oak tend to comply with sanding pretty well and take up less time. Some tough pines like Heart pine, hardwoods like Rhodesian, and Jarrah mahogany, on the other hand, are very hard and therefore consume more time since it is difficult to sand material off.
  • Presence of damages – damages like deep dents which transverse deep into the wood require a lot of sanding to eliminate them. This means that the sanding time will increase. Extensive UV damage or wearing off of the finish are other damages that would take up more time when sanding.

What type of sander is best for floors?

Also referred to as a finishing sander, an orbital sander utilizes a sanding pad to impart a finer sand on your floorboards. This pad oscillates in an orbital motion to minimize scratches hence creating a grinding action. There are different types of floor sanders, but the orbital sander takes it home as the best tool for the sanding job.

When sanding large fields, you can rely on an orbital sander to deliver a smooth and polished finish that prepares your floorboards for a new varnish layer. You can use this sander to varnish or paint between coats or smooth out plaster, to boot. However, an orbital sander is typically used for finishing.

The sanding pad can be square or circular. A square orbital sander has the advantage of being able to access corners that drum sanders cannot reach. The probability of having permanent damage on your floor when using an orbital sander is low.

On the downside, however, sanding with an orbital sander consumes more time and utilizes more sandpaper as opposed to using a drum sander.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Does floor sanding create a lot of dust?

Dust will always be present when executing projects such as sanding. This is because the elimination of finish and stain is through the usage of a coarse abrasive. Sanding with a coarse material abrades the finish and stain into fine particles released as dust. Having ensuring a reliable dust control system when sanding is highly recommendable.

  • How do you clean a room after sanding floors?

After sanding is complete, debris and dust is either vacuumed or dust mopped. This does not guarantee the elimination of finer dust particles. The way to do away with such particles is by using mineral spirits to clean the freshly sanded floor. Soak a rag with mineral spirit (paint thinner) and carefully clean the surface.

  • Can you stay in house while floors are refinished?

Yes, you can. However, home operations will not be usual. You will have to follow a few restrictions if your floors are getting refinished. The type of finish used dictates the number of hours you will not access a freshly refinished area. This is because the floor is left to sit for a certain period to allow the finish to curate/dry.

To exemplify this, for instance, oil-based finishes demand at least 8 hours while water-based finishes require lesser time. Generally, it is best to leave a newly applied finish coat to sit for about 24 hours without interruptions for sleek results. If you are having the entire house or frequently used areas like hallways refinished, consider sleeping elsewhere for a few nights.

  • Can I sand the floor with a hand sander?

If you are dealing with small floor space, you can sand the area with a handheld rotary sander and a sanding block. Larger areas require a hand belt sander since it helps in saving time. You can use a hand or palm sander to sand your hardwood floor, but you ought to brace yourself since it can be very effortful.

  • How toxic is refinishing floors?

Refinishing floors can be quite hazardous, especially if you do not have any safety gear. Some products used in refinishing have toxic compounds (VOCs) like xylene, benzene, formaldehyde, arsenic, and toulen. The off-gassing from these toxic compounds at normal room temperature has both chronic and acute effects.

Some acute health effects include nausea, nose, eye and throat irritation, and headaches. Some chronic effects include damage to the central nervous system and liver.

The video below shows how to sand and finish wood floors


When the need to rejuvenate your home becomes apparent, the flooring takes the top spot as other things like decorations, furniture or paintings follow. You probably have had your hardwood floor at your service for years. It is understandable if the flooring now appears dull to you and you are thinking of restoring its exciting appeal.

Whatever the reason is, one way of revamping your hardwood flooring is by refinishing. Refinishing allows you to change the existing appearance of your floor to a more desirable and captivating appearance. Sanding, as depicted in this conversation, is an important step in refinishing.

The time taken for sanding is dependent on several factors. What’s important to take into account is to remember to wear protective gear like gas masks to help avert potential health risks. I hope this article will be of considerable help to you.

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