Practical to hand sand hardwood floor?

I have a space about 10 by 8 with hardwood that I’d like to refinish this spring. I’m always hearing about the danger of using those big belt sanders that can scratch the floor irrevocably and am wary of renting one.

I was wondering if it was practical to sand a floor like this with a hand sander. Could it be done in one long day of work? Or is even a smaller patch fo floor like this too much? I am looking into the possibility of covering the space but would like to refinish it.


Just to clarify I mean an electronic sander like this one and not like a block of wood with a piece of sandpaper glued to it.

Practical? No.
It depends on what you are doing. If you are just trying to rough up the surface to accept a new coat(s) of the existing finish it might work, but it would be extremely time consuming. You could use a floor scrubber (buffer) with a sanding screen for the large area and use the orbital sander for the corners.
Otherwise, if you need to sand the floor down to level it out and/or change the finish, you need to strip the floor down to bare wood, sand it smooth, and apply a new finish you need to use the floor belt sander.

Thanks. Talking to other people gives similar opinions. I like the buffer idea though, that might work.

I know there are floor guys out there that will buff and coat for about $1 a SF. For $100 you’ll get a nice professional job. They’ll come out and give a free estimate, think about it. Maybe add up the cost of the floor sander rental, the sandpaper, the new finish, I bet it’ll be close,

I have to agree with Fisha. Ask around among your friends, and any real estate investors that you know, for good handymen or floor guys, and get a couple quotes. It’ll probably be around the same price as doing it yourself with rented equipment, and while I respect the accomplishment of doing-it-yourself when it comes to real estate, I also think your time is extremely valuable.
Best of luck with your flooring and other home improvement projects, either way you’ll have a beautiful new floor!


Hello- I know this is kind of late, but I work with a high end professional floor crew.

We have never used a belt sander for anything. Not even decks. As to your question about a orbit sander being enough… well maybe. It depends on how damaged the floors are. If they are uneven, warped, or heavily scratched, then I wouldn’t try it. Also depends on how difficult the finish comes up. If you plan on staining, definitely not.

If we were to do it, we’d use a ‘drum sander’ (think of it as a 150lb belt sander on wheels) to do the middle of the floor. Then use an ‘edger’ (think of them as 50lb orbit sanders on steroids) for the edges. And repeat the process a couple times with finer grits of paper. Finally going over the whole thing with random orbits to remove any marks left by the larger sanders. (On a larger room we’d only go over the edges with orbits, then screen the whole thing.)

Do to the small size of the room, you could probably edge the whole thing and skip the drum. But you’d still have to go over everything with a random orbit.

While you can rent this equipment, there is a good degree of skill required to not damage a floor. (I worked with this crew for 2 years and I still haven’t gotten to use the drum sander.)

For your size project, I’d say we’d charge a minimum of $250 for 3 coats. Getting anyone to refinish a floor for $1/foot is a pipe dream unless they are your best-good-friend. To buff/coat, maybe but probably not. And the smaller the area to be sanded, generally the more we charge per foot. (Driving to/from job, unloading/reloading equipment all have to be done regardless of job size.)

I can’t imagine there’s a floor sander anywhere who’d be willing to come out and do a job for $100.

I say tackle it yourself, just for the hell of it. I would use a belt sander (you can get a decent one for $200), starting with maybe 60 grit (depending on how bad the floor is), then go over it with 100 grit. Then take your random-orbit sander with 150 grit paper and go over the whole thing. You might need to hand-sand the edges and corners with a sanding block.

Be warned, it’s a very dusty process. Wear a good mask, and evacuate the air with a fan, if you can.

For what it’s worth, I did a hallway this way a few weeks ago.

The space you mentioned ( which is 10 by 8 ) can be done in one day but it all depends upon your hard work and stamina. Sanding a floor of that size with hand sander in one day will give you lots of back pain and I am sure that you would not like to get any pain only for completing the job in a specified time. Hand sander really needs time and patience with proper technique.

“Going High”

I recently sanded my 1000 sq foot home on my 1st try out the gate and have lived to tell the story. It was a gruesome and aweful process. Which I am very happy to say turned out great. I feel better knowing it was not handed over to a professional since it wasn’t affordable. I have maple floors that were ruined beyond repair by the prev people who had more children than common sense.

I used a huge drum belt sander for the larger parts. I used an edger for the areas along the walls. I used the edger on the floor in spots where it wouldn’t lift off the old sealer. I had to go over the whole floor three times with finer grade each time. I used more of the coarse grade sand paper to lift off the old stain than the finer grade to polish it off. I still ended up with some divets from the endger where I had to use in some spots to take off stubborn sealer. However I’m ok with that since my dye and tinted floor sealer have covered it up.
I’m 25. Female and I look like a wimp. I’f I can do it. So can you :slight_smile:

When I was 12 years old I sanded and refinished my hardwood in my bedroom. I can’t say it was professional looking but it looked damn good. We just rented a floor sander and it was not hard to do, just don’t stay over one spot too long. It’s possible to mess up but it isn’t easy to mess up as long as you pay attention.

A little advice about using a belt sander (IF you go that way).
Do not use more than 150 grit. Anything less (lower grit number) that that will create a bigger problem.

Move from side to side in sort of a circular pattern, without staying in one spot.

First, chemically strip the floor. Then sand. The secret to not making a series of soup bowls out of your floor is a simple pencil. Take that pencil and draw lines on the floor, about 3 inches apart. Sand until the lines disappear. JUST until they disappear. If need be, draw more lines.

Remember, Sideways movements. And don’t tilt the sander as you use it. Also, it’s been said that the belt sander is one of the hardest tools in the shop to master. Practice before doing the floor. Once you get the hang of it, you can successfully belt sand thin veneers. (thanks to the pencil trick)

I’m just finishing sanding a 14x16’ room with my 3x21 inch belt sander. I live nowhere near a floor sander rental, and had to work with what I had. I also had to work around lots of other obstacles, but this old floor looks great. It is an old fir floor that needed lots of TLC, but I did it. I want to know how this floor turned out!

Finished sanding ~500 sq.ft of oak floor. Drum sander & edger w/ 36,60,80 grts. Had 3 pet stains that would not sand out…replaced those brds ~ 18 sq ft.

Will finish sanding the new patches with edger at the previous 3 grts. and touch up with orbital. The edger rents for $27 / 4 hrs.

Found working a drum sander to be very easy, all though next time, on similar floors I will use a 24,36,60,80 drum, 100 pole progression…I’ll be glad to soon be done with it.

Hi guys,

As others have eluded to, sanding wood floors with hand tools is a lot of work, and if its done properly, a hell of a lot of work.

I have written a blog post addressing this issue earlier this week.

I get asked about it constantly.

Wherever possible, try to use the full sized floor sanders, it just makes your life easier.

With that said, if you are going to use a hand tool, make sure you are using the most effective.

This very morning I had a customer who had sanded one of her rooms with a delta sander, needless to say, I could still see every single dent and scratch, infact they were exaggerated because the area around them was sanded!

Good luck to anyone who is undertaking a project like this!