How to Sand Hardwood Floors: The Complete Guide (In 13 EASY Steps)

By Harold K. Hardesty Updated December 20, 2020

Learn how to perfectly sand hardwood floors. Like a big boy (or girl).

Thinking of refinishing?

Not so fast.

First, you need to learn how to sand hardwood floors in order to achieve the perfect texture to continue work afterward.

So if you’re looking for a step by step process to sand hardwood floors,

then you’ll love my article.

Let’s begin!

1.Determine the Grit Progression

How to Sand Hardwood Floors

Before jumping straight to sanding, you need to determine the grit progression.

Do you believe that 1 sandpaper grit is good to sand the flooring just once? and then … done!


Sanding is progressional, meaning that you need at least 4 passes, in which you go from finer sandpaper to thicker.

Do you also think that the most difficult task is to sand? 

Again, no.

It’s actually determining the perfect starting grit.

Besides, not every floor requires the same grit. For some, having only 3 passes is too little.

How do I know? 

Simply look at your floors’ initial condition.

You can get up to sever different grits to sand floors, but not every floor will start with the same one.

This will depend on how damaged your floor is and how hard the wood species is. Depending on this, the harsher the first grit will be.

Now, if you want to know exactly how to determine your first grit pass, read the next chapter.
Follow this guideline to determine your first grit pass

Grit Usage


Good for floors damaged by adhesive or floor paint.
16grit Single layers of paint on the floor, for older and harder maple floors.
24grit If your floor still has some finish but has not been sanded for over 30 years.
36grit Floors with a minimal finish or have been newly installed.
60grit This grit is never used to start, it will not remove finish or wood.
80grit This does not remove finish or wood, this is usually the final grit for almost all American hardwood flooring.
100grit This is the final grit for maple floors or any floor that has been stained.

2.Start Sanding Main Areas with a Drum Sanger and using the starting grit

Sand hardwoord floors

For every grit pass, you will use the drum sander beforehand.

There’s no need to haul heavy machinery more than once.

To make things more convenient, if you have another person helping you out, make sure you work in teams!

1 person should be working the drum and the other the edger.

However, it is dangerous to have both machines working in the same room. Taking this measure is important for safety reasons.


Because :

If 2 people are working on the project, have 1 work the drum sander first and then the edger can begin alone in the same room, and so on.

What to do next?

Discover in chapter 3.

3.Work the Edger – Sand Any Areas unreached by the Drum

Hardwoord floors sanding

For this step, you will be using the same grit used on the drum, make sure you hit any areas the drum couldn’t reach.

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This is a general rule: For every grit progression, do the drum and then the edger.
This is due to the edge being able to sand drum marks and make it to areas the drum couldn’t reach. Any transitions marks on the wall edge? The edger can get rid of that.


If you work in an older home, you may find that there has been significant traffic surrounding the main fields of the room except for the perimeter around it.

In this case, find more finish around the edges.

In order to get rid of this finish, move quickly and use the coarse grit to remove half the finish.

After that, continue with the grit progression you were on that matches the drum sander’s pass you finished.

This is so that the condition of all the areas match and you work on the right progressions at all times.

Now, your edgers are perfect.

Bad news: It’s time to vacuum.

4.Vacuum or Sweep the Sanded Rooms

vacuum sander on hardwood floors

My advice: Every time you finish a grit progression, sweep and vacuum every surface that you sanded.

This is due to the pieces of mineral from sanding falling off the abrasive and littering the floor after the grit passes.

Yes, even if you’ve already moved to the finer grit, the bigger, coarser particles from other passes will be driven into the flooring by the edger and drum.

And believe me: you don’t want this.

Even when you use the finer paper, they will continue to grind into the floor.

And if you end up with deep and huge gauges, this is why.

Do you know “When there is more, there is more ?”

Yes, you got it…

5.More Sanding

After you’ve vacuumed and swept, make sure to start sanding any mail field areas by using the drum sander and on the next grit progression.

Try not to avoid any of these steps.

6.Work the Edger

Grab the edger and use it with the same grit on the drum.

Now, start sanding every area the drum could not reach on the following grit.

7.Steps 4 and 6 Will Repeat

Repeat both these steps until you reached the 80grit.

This is where the pattern has established.

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Make sure you never skip any grits until you reach either the 100grit or 80grit before that.

For finishing, I recommend the 100grit, especially if you plan on staining your floors or if you work on a maple flooring type.

In the case of the edger, you need to work in a very detailed manner in order to ensure that you remove every sanding evidence.

This is simpler to use once you reach the finer grits.

Be careful, working with maple wood is completely different.


Discover it now.

Working with Maple Wood is Different

Maple is a dense and hardwood, this means that any scratch on it will be held in crisply and cleanly.

These incisions are crevices for stain or other natural finishes. These will naturally accumulate in here.

The thing is, once the product or pigment has built up within the scratch, it becomes more visible.

So, try sanding it with a 100grit.

This makes the scratch seem smaller and unable to hold as much color, which means it’ll be easier to camouflage.

As you progressively clean your floor, it will be harder to notice where the sanders worked.

Don’t forget, at least 2 passes are just about polishing out any scratches.

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Use a light pencil line drawn on the floor before you start on the 60grit and once more before the 80grit.
The drum will be able to erase the pencil lines once it touches it and the lines remaining will show where you need to use the edger.


Once the pencil lines are erased, you’ll be sure that you skipped no areas with the big machinery.

Are we done?

Not yet.

8.Use the Radiator Edger

Use the radiator edger in order to sand the toe-kicks if you have any.

Do this to attain a better blend with the edger and drum sander.

9.Sand or Scrape the Corners

sand edger hardwood floors

Make sure you don’t miss any of the important areas.

This is why sanding is very detailed work. It’s time to sand and scrape corners around any pipes or at the radiator feet.

On one hand, edgers are round machines and rooms are mostly squares.

In order to reach all four corners of each room, as well as the stair treads and closets, you need to scrape.

Use a Carbide scraper if your budget permits it.

You can opt for other multi-tools such as Bosch or Fein that come with triangular and small sanding heads that work very nicely.

When scraping corners, watch out for leaving them very (sometimes too) smoothed out.

To avoid this grab a piece of 80grit sandpaper and fold it.

Sand lightly over the scraped area. Make sure you are still working with preciseness.


It’s time to get finicky.

10.Examine the Perimeter

You need to look into all the rooms and remove the swirls left by the edger by sanding by hand.

Because no matter how much experience you have with the edger or how long you’ve been sanding these floors, there will always be an edger swirl left behind.

Especially around the perimeter of the room.

Yes, even after you finish sanding with a 100grit – and even if you didn’t skip any progressions.

Inspect the perimeter once you finished the final pass with the edger.

For a closer, the more-detailed look gets on your knees and hands and grab a flashlight to inspect every last corner and make sure every bit of sanding scratch is gone from the edger.

If you find any, remove it by sanding with an 80grit.

Don’t use the palm sander. Even if you’re tempted to, don’t do it.

The orbital or palm sander is very powerful and will over-polish your floor.

Yes, the swirls will disappear.

But the texture of that specific area will feel much smoother compared to the other areas. This will cause an imbalance in the entire room.

Once an area has been “over-sanded” it will not absorb finish as deeply and will bear a different tone.

It will stand out from the rest of the flooring.

11.Use a Buffer or Pole Sander

Step 1
Once you’ve inspected and hand sanded the floor where the swirls were left behind, grab a buffer or pole sander and pass it through the entire floor.

Step 2
Use a 100 or 120grit.

Step 3
Before the final cleanup, use the buffer to conduct a blend-sand over the entire floor. This helps create a uniform look.

Once you’re on this step, you’re close to the finish line!

Be detailed and always be inspecting if any scratches or swirls are left.

If you find any, go back and try not to over-sand anything.

Have you vacuumed enough?


12.Vacuum once. Vacuum twice.

Again, vacuum thoroughly. If you fancy it, vacuum twice. It never hurts to do so.

Getting rid of all the dust is one of the most important steps.

You need to pay extra attention to the dust hiding between the cracks, boards, and the edges of a room.

The finish can be a bit tricky and hides in the pockets of dust, when pulled up you can spread it with a mop head.

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Don’t use the plastic wand if you are using a shop vac.
This can leave plastic makes when scraping the floor. It’s best to use a vacuum wand with soft and strong bristles.


13.Use a Microfiber Cloth

Grab a dry microfiber cloth or any lint-free rag you may have on hand and work to remove any remaining dust.
And you’re done!

Now, it’s your turn…

I hope you found this sanding hardwood floor guide helpful.

Now I’d like to hear what you have to say:

Did you think sanding was an easier task? or more complicated? Have you already did it?

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

About the Author

Harold K. Hardesty

Harold is a Flooring Specialist at TheHouseWire, educating people on the flooring by writing guides about the topic. He is a well-seasoned flooring specialist with experience in the industry for nine years.

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