Home Improvement

How to Sand a Floor for Beginners

If you’ve had a hardwood floor at home for a very long time, you might have noticed that it’s not as smooth and shiny as it used to be in the beginning. Wooden floors are durable but their looks can suffer a lot from the passage of time, even with good maintenance. And after a while, sanding and varnishing become the most logical renovation solution. 

Table of Contents:

If you’re a DIY-er at heart, you might be wondering how to sand a wooden floor by yourself. Luckily, this isn’t a task that requires skilful expertise. Even if you don’t know anything about floors, it’s enough to follow our simple guide and you’ll do a wonderful job. So, keep reading! This article is for all of you who:

  • Own a hardwood floor that needs a renovation;
  • Wish to do the sanding themselves;
  • Don’t mind a good workout in the process.

What is floor sanding

Floor sanding is a renovation process that involves removing the top layers of a wooden floor with abrasive tools and materials. The process includes three stages – preparation, sanding, and varnishing. As a result, the wooden floor becomes smooth and shiny. You can sand a floor by hand, or you can use modern sanding equipment. Every DIY-er can choose which method to use. Sanding by hand allows more control of the process but it’s also a slow and tiring task. Using modern equipment is fast and easy but professional machines aren’t cheap to buy or rent.

Tools you need

  • A drum sander – a machine for sanding the main floor area in a room;
  • An edging sander – a machine for sanding the edges near the walls;
  • At least 3 sheets of different grit sandpaper, depending on the needs of your floor;
  • A hammer for fixing loose nails;
  • Additional floorboards in case your floor needs repairs;
  • A hoover for fine dust. You might have to rent as well as most domestic hoovers aren’t fit for the job;
  • Dust masks and eye protection, because there will be a lot of harmful fine dist;
  • Ear protection, because the sanding machines are really loud.

Stage 1: Prepare the floor for sanding

Before you begin the sanding process, you should prepare the floor. Here are the most important things you should do prior to taking out the heavy equipment.

  • Empty the room. You’ll need to clear up all the space in and around your working area. All the furniture and floor coverings should go. You’ll have to do this no matter if you decide to sand by hand, or with the help of a drum sander.
  • Clean up the room. After completely emptying your room, give it a good clean up with a hoover and a microfibre rag. For optimal results, you need a clean working surface.
  • Fix large damages. If you have rotten or heavily damaged floorboards, now is the time to replace them. No matter how much you sand and varnish those parts, they won’t look good after the procedure. So spend some time on repairs.
  • Hammer loose nails into the floorboards. You can’t start sanding if you have old nails protruding from the surface. Hammer them until they’re about 2 millimetres into the floorboards. Nails can be very problematic if not handled well, as they can rip the sandpaper or even damage the drum sander.
  • Determine your sanding grit. A floor needs to be sanded at least three times, each with a finer sheet of sandpaper. The standard is to use 36 grit paper for the first one, 60 grit for the second and 100 grit for the third. However, each floor is different and yours might require a more personalized approach. If you don’t choose the right combination, the sanding procedure might leave unpleasant scratches. Consult with a professional to make sure.

Need a professional floor sander?

Fantastic Services is here for you!

Add a valid postcode e.g. SE1 2TH
  • We're certified:

Stage 2: How to sand a floor

You’ve emptied your room, gave it a good clean, replaced some unsightly floorboards and hammered all those pesky nails into place. It’s finally time to start stage two. Here is how to sand a wooden floor with specialised equipment:

  1. Prepare for a big clean.

    Cover all vents, doorways, and light fixtures with plastic sheeting and have your hoover close on standby. Also make sure you’re wearing old working clothes, as they will definitely get dirty. 

  2. Get the drum sander ready.

    You can ask the clerk at the rental store how to use it. Make sure the drum sander’s rear wheel is tight and that the drum stands flat on the floor. Add the appropriate starter grit sandpaper – for most floors that’s 36-grit. Test the drum sander on a hidden floor area, for example in the closet, to make sure it’s working properly. If it creates a dust cloud, you have to stop and check if the dust bag is properly attached.

  3. Start sanding with 36 grit sandpaper.

    Move at a 7 to 15-degree angle to the direction of the floorboards. Don’t stop in one spot while the sander is on, as it will leave an imprint. Sand the whole area at the same angle. This should level out uneven parts of the floor. When you get to the wall, move the sander back to your starting point. Turn around and sand the other side of the room, while moving along the same angle. Leave the edges unsanded.

  4. Hoover the dust.

    Once the first sanding stage is done, take a break for half an hour and allow the dust to settle. Then, come back with the hoover and clean it up.

  5. Switch to 60 grit sandpaper.

    The first sanding has removed the old floor finish, however most scratches will be visible. Load the 60-grit sandpaper and sand by starting from the opposite wall. Sand along the grain, directly along the boards.

  6. Hoover the dust again.

    Just like last time, give yourself a break for the dust to settle and then come back to clean up.

  7. Switch to 100 grit sandpaper.

    Load the 100 grit sandpaper and repeat the process from the opposite side of the wall again. This third pass should remove any scratches from the floor. Again, let the dust set and clean it up.

  8. Use an edge sander on the edges.

    Load the edge sander with the 36 grit, and then with the 60 grit sandpaper. For the first pass, sand in a clockwise zigzag pattern. On the second pass, make sure the edge matches the rest of the floor. Using the 100 grit sandpaper on an edge sander is NOT RECOMMENDED if you are an amateur, as you might end up burning the floor and paper. And, clean up the area.

If you’ve decided to sand by hand, you would have to go through all these steps without the specialised equipment. You could get the same results, however, it would be a way more tiring process and it would take a lot more time.

Stage 3: How to varnish a floor

After the sanding process has finished, it’s time to varnish the floor and lock the new beautiful look of your floor. First, you need to know what varnish to use.

  1. Choose your varnish. If you’re an amateur, it’s recommended that you use a water-based varnish instead of the oil-based or solvent-based ones. The water-based varnish is easier to use, smells less and dries the quickest. It should take about 24 hours for it to dry. Never shake the container of the varnish, as it will fill it with air bubbles and they’ll stick around when you apply it. 
  2. Clean up the room. It’s recommended to wait a day after the sanding before you apply the varnish. This way, if there is more dust in the air, you can hoover it again and wipe the floor clean.
  3. Apply the varnish. Apply a very thin coat with a fine brush or foam pad in the same direction as the wood grain. Don’t apply too much at once, otherwise, the grain will raise. It takes two hours for the first coat to dry. You’ll need two coats if you’ve applied a primer beforehand. If you didn’t, you’ll need three coats.
You may also like:
Home Improvement
How to Paint Varnished Wood [Everything You Need to Know]

How long does it take to sand a floor?

The duration can vary depending on the square feet of the working area, the general state of the floor, and the sanding method you choose. If we assume you have to sand the floor in a single standard room, that doesn’t require any serious repairs during preparation and you’ve decided to sand by hand, it should typically take up about 6 or 7 hours. As a quick comparison, for a professional sander who would use specialized equipment, it should take no more than 2 or 3 hours.

Hire a professional

You don’t need any specific skills to know how to sand a floor by yourself. As long as you have the right tools, any DIY-er can handle it in two days. However, if you don’t have the time, or desire to do this on your own, you always have the option to book a FREE on-site survey and get the wood floor sanding service expertly done.

Visit the main website for price rates on our professional floor sanders!


  • Make sure to repair damaged floorboards and hammer in any protruding nails before string the sanding process;
  • Choosing the right grit of sandpaper could make or break your floor, so if you’re not sure what grit your floor needs, seek a professional’s opinion;
  • Sanding by hand is cheap but tiring and time-consuming. Sanding with rented specialized equipment is easier and faster but more expensive;
  • It’s recommended to use a water-based varnish after sanding.


Have you ever sanded a floor by yourself? How long did it take? Tell us in the comment section!

Image source: KKhethathai/shutterstock.com

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x