Sanding Hardwood Floors by Hand

   | | Uncategorized | 7 comments

As I have said many times before sanding hardwood floors by hand can be a lot of hard work. Hard work that can be sanding hardwood floors by hand title Follow Me on Pinterest alleviated with the use of a floor sander.

With that said, I have now spoken to way too many people that will be sanding their floors by hand no matter what. So it is only right that I do an article about sanding wood floors with hand sanders.

When it comes to this topic, the most important thing to discuss is efficiency. Some hand sanders are far more powerful and effective than others and it’s important that you give yourself a head start.

You don’t want to be caught short… There are some hand sanding tools that will have you sanding even a small area, for an eternity!

Which hand sander is the best?

To add a little pizzazz to this article I’m going to rank them in order of aggressiveness and efficiency.

Before I start I need to warn you, I am going to sound a little negative about the tools you are probably going to use if you are going to sand your floors by hand. I’m not trying to rain on your parade or be mean, I am just trying to be honest. If you plan on sanding wood floors with hand sanders, it is going to be very tiring and time consuming. Forewarned is forearmed!

5. In last place is none other than the delta sander.

detailer-2 Follow Me on Pinterest I wasn’t even going to include this sander in my groovy list, but it is a handheld sander. It is used by professionals to sand right into the corners where the edge sander can’t reach.

Other minor detail work aside, this sander is pretty much useless. It has no power whatsoever, and it doesn’t produce a good finish (smooth surface).

You will need this for sanding the corners, but if you really are on a budget, you can rub corners down, literally, by hand (and sandpaper of course).


4. Dragging its heals, in fourth place we have the handheld random orbital sander!

hand held random orbital sander Follow Me on Pinterest It’s true I’m sorry to say the random orbital sander you have in your garage is just not going to cut it.

This tool is great for creating a smooth finish on wood, especially in small areas. The random orbital system means that the pad oscillates, but it spins loosely meaning it will always give way to resistance.

That is what it was designed for, not to remove massive amounts of wood, but to massage it smooth.

Yes you can put a 40 grit on it and ‘rough up’ some small areas, but if you plan on sanding your wood floors by hand with this sander then you had better clear your calendar.


3. Taking third place, the palm sander.

palm sander Follow Me on Pinterest The most common of all. The palm sander.

Just like the handheld random orbital, palm sanders oscillate, but the palm sander plate is fixed straight. Without this ‘give’ the palm sander can be a little more aggressive, while still producing quite a smooth finish.

Palm sanders also have the added benefit of having a square edge that can be used to sand right into the corners of the floor.

The problem is with this sander is that it still doesn’t cut the mustard in terms of power and aggressiveness.

Again, if you choose to use this sander, prepare for a long hard slog.


2. Not quite taking the top spot, the handheld belt sander.

hand held belt sander Follow Me on Pinterest Now we are talking, a machine with some real grunt.

The handheld belt sander can sand off old finish and sand out dents and scratches much more easily than the previous sanders.

While it won’t keep up with the speed of a normal floor sander, the hand held belt sander will get the job moving forward with reasonable speed.

Just be sure to keep moving side to side, forward and backwards, and ideally, in a circular motion. The more pressure you can apply, the faster it will get the wood back to bare.

This tool is not great for getting right up to the edges. You can get up close but on some sides of the room it will be going against the grain and producing a bad finish.

When used for sanding with the grain, this can produce a fairly smooth finish, but not the best.


1. Storming through in first place, pole position, top banana… The Festool Rotex!

festool rotex RO 150 Follow Me on Pinterest I have been using the Festool Rotex (150mm disk) for years. I use it for sanding stairs, thresholds and hard-to-get-to areas.

Not only does the Rotex have the ability to produce an extremely smooth finish with its random orbital setting, it can really get some work done with the geared orbital setting (or as rotex say the “Rotex rotary motion”).

This means the pad oscillates and it spins. Not only does it spin, it spins with force.

If I had to sand a floor by hand, this would be my tool of choice, without a doubt.

You can remove old varnish and wood quickly, sand right up to the edge of the floor (apart from the corners) and produce a very high quality finish.

However, I’m not sure if this can be rented and to buy it knew is $550-600 (then another $500-700 if you want a dust extractor).


Now a quick word on technique…

Hopefully you know by now, that as with all sanding machines, they should not sit still for two long!

That is, if you want to create a smooth flat finish. The less aggressive the tool the less important, but even with random orbitals and palm sanders moving it back and forward will be more effective than sitting it still. So there is no reason not to keep moving!

If you use anything finer than 40 grit to start you are not going to succeed. You need to use a coarse grit to remove varnish, dirt, scuffs, dents and scratches.

Then climb the grits as you would do sanding anything else. Skipping from 40g to 100g is going to give you a scratchy finish.

Make sure that the old varnish is properly removed. If you see a spot that looks like it could still have varnish on it, just lick your finger and rub it. The wood will soak and darken and the varnish won’t.

If your floor is very uneven, deeply dented or has several layers of hard polish, then I suggest refinishing your hardwood floors properly.

Other than that folks, sanding hardwood floors by hand is pretty simple.

If you are just about to start a project then I wish you good luck, it can be done and has been done many times by readers of this website.

As I often say, you will be refinishing your floor for a short period, but you will be seeing the results, every single day. Make it worth it!


  1. This is the right blog for anybody who wants to seek out about this sanding hardwood floors. Thank you for sharing.

  2. You left out using soap, water, and a smooth brick.

    I’m serious, an actual construction type brick.

    It’s based on the old maritime practice of holystoning the deck.

    Smooth brick starts about 80 grit, loaded up quickly to 120, more as you use it.

    Use the water sparingly ( I use a mix oil soap like Murphy’s, light, cut with a quarter cup white vinegar).

    Do a section at time, like 2×6′, rinse away with a wet, then damp mop then dry quickly.

    Bleach the water stains thoroughly after drying. A quick overall coat on the unstained helps even things out.

    Stain, seal.

    It sounds stupid but it works.

    Also helps work the core.

  3. My 6 finger parquet oak floors are from the 70’s. It’s in semi good condition but some of the corners are a little up, with lots of dark scratches in high traffic places. I have 300 sq ft to sand and stain. What can I use to sand off the glossy finish, without popping up the fingers??

  4. I’m currently in the process of doing this to several floors at our “new” home. These puppies haven’t been refinished since they were originally put in in 1924! I used a drum sander and 20 and 40 grit to get the majority of the old finish off. I then go over with a hand sander to get all the grooves and old finish that the drum sander missed. I also found that a heat gun and scraper help with the removal of the old crap around the edges that my drum sander misses. It is EXHAUSTING labor, but it is definitely worth it!! Wish we could post pics!! Great article!! I’ll be starting this process next week!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Home | Privacy Policy | Terms

Copywrite 2017 How To Sand A Floor | All Rights Reserved | Powered by Ben Osborne