How to use a hand-held belt sander on hardwood floors

Written by kevin mcdermott
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Refinishing a hardwood floor begins with sanding off the old finish. This is generally accomplished with a drum sander, which is basically a very large version of a hand-held belt sander. For closets, rooms with small nooks or other areas too small to use a drum sander, a hand-held belt sander is the next best thing. The process in both cases is similar, beginning with very rough sandpaper to take off the top gloss layer, then using progressively finer sandpaper to smooth out the wood.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Hammer
  • Pry bar
  • Belt sander
  • Sandpaper in varied grit levels, from rough to smooth (40-grit, 80-grit and 120-grit)
  • Vacuum cleaner

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  1. 1

    Remove the floor trim carefully, using your hammer and pry bar. Don't break it, so you can reinstall it at the end.

  2. 2

    Go over the floor, plank by plank, with your hammer to make sure there are no raised nail heads. Hammer down any that you find.

  3. 3

    Load your belt sander with the roughest grit of paper (40-grit). Starting in one corner and working in sections, run the sander forward and backward at a slightly diagonal direction over the boards. Work each section just enough to take off the gloss and begin digging into bare wood under the stain. Do the whole floor, then vacuum up the dust.

  4. 4

    Load 80-grit paper into the sander. Re-sand the floor as before, but go with the direction of the floorboards this time instead of diagonally. Sand each section free of all stain and down to bare wood. Vacuum up the dust.

  5. 5

    Repeat the process with 120-grit paper to smooth out the surface. Vacuum up the dust. The floor is now ready for refinishing.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear goggles and a particle mask when sanding.

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