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How to use a drum sander on hardwood floors

Updated on August 15, 2013

Using a drum sander is an excellent way to quickly sand a large floorspace. However, if you are using one for the first time, it will take you a little while to get used to. But have no fear if you are a novice, this hub will walk you through the process of sanding hardwood floor and how to do it using a drum sander.

Renting the sander

Any major home improvement or hardware store should have a tool rental department. Here you will find the sander as well as the appropriate sandpaper for the machine. Sandpaper comes in different levels of abrasion, called grit. Get about three different levels of sandpaper: one course, one medium and one fine. Depeding on the brand, somewhere around 40 grit for the course, 60 for the medium and 80 for the fine will work good. How many of each you get will depend on the size of the room and the condition of the wood. The best thing to do will be to get a little more than you think you may need because if you don't use all of it, you can always return it for a full refund.

How long you rent the sander will once again depend on the size of the room and the condition of the wood. Most stores offer renting the sander for just a few hours or for 24 hours. Most of the time, though, renting it for 24 hours isn't much more than renting it for a few hours. So if you're not sure how long it will take you, just go ahead and rent it for the full 24 hours.

Install the sandpaper on the sander

While it mostly depends on what model sander you get, most of the time installing the paper on the sander is simple. Some models may require you to tuck in the paper on the drum and fasten it down with bolts. Most, however, simply require sliding the paper onto the drum which can sometimes take a little muscle to scoot it down.

Using the sander

In up position
In up position
In down position
In down position

Make sure the room you are sanding is clear of all furniture and remove or drive down any nails sticking out of the floor. Plug the sander in and you are ready to go. Before you flip the switch, be aware that your sander has two settings - contolled by a lever on the side of the handle. In the first, the drum is completely clear of the floor in the up position. In the second, the drum is down and making full contact with the floor and when turned on, will be sanding the floor. Make sure before you turn the sander on that the drum is in the up position. Once you flip the switch on, the drum will begin to turn.

Safety Tip

Be sure to wear a dust mask or respirator when working with a drum sander. Sanding with this powerful tool will stir up lots of dust. Be especially careful when working on older homes as many contain harmful substances such as asbestos.

Sanding the floor

To start sanding, first start moving the sander forward while having the drum in the up position. Once you've started moving forward, slowly lower the lever down onto the floor until fully lowered. You will notice once you do this, that the machine will pull itself forward, thereby changing your motion from pushing to pulling back, so be ready for this change. Once you've started getting close to the wall, begin pulling up on the lever to raise the drum off the floor. To sand the other way, begin pulling the sander backwards and slowly lower the drum down. You will notice that pulling will become more difficult once the drum is down, so a little more effort will be required when pulling back. Once you've almost reached the wall, begin pulling up on the drum until its off the floor. Repeat this process going back and forth and at a slight angle to make your way across the room. You will most likely need to turn the machine around and sand from the opposite direction to get the spots you missed from standing behind the sander. Once you've sanded the whole room, it's time to change the sandpaper to a finer grit and do it again and again until you make your way to the last and finest grit sandpaper to sand the floor for the last time. You will now be down to the natural, bare wood, smooth and ready for staining or finishing.

bare hardwood floor
bare hardwood floor


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