Sanding Hardwood Floors with a Drum Sander (Refinishing Hardwood Floors, Part 2) | The Speckled Goat: Sanding Hardwood Floors with a Drum Sander (Refinishing Hardwood Floors, Part 2)


Sanding Hardwood Floors with a Drum Sander (Refinishing Hardwood Floors, Part 2)

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Last time I wrote about our floors, I had just gotten done removing the carpet adhesive and vinyl glue from three rooms- it was the first step in refinishing our beautiful, original, 1934 hardwoods.

After that long process, I was so excited to get to sanding-- after all, it couldn't possibly take as long as scraping all that glue, right?


The first step to sanding the floors was to make sure that the floors were cleared of junk (like the scraping tools we used, garbage cans, and so on). We also pulled a big fan out of storage to help reduce the dust in the house.

We rented a sander from our local hardware store (Menards. We rented it from Menards.)

My husband decided to use a drum sander, opposed to an orbital floor sander, because the drum sander tends to go a little more quickly, and he'd used a drum sander to refinish a big floor at work, so we had some experience. I also got in on the fun- after my hubby wasn't able to do much of the sanding at this step, I took over and did the majority of this part of our project.

I'm working with 36-grit here. This is the second pass with the 36-grit sandpaper in what will be our bedroom. With my super-sexy noise blocking headphones

You'll want to have hearing protection (we used these noise-blocking headphones), and particulate masks (similar to these) for when you start using finer grits- to keep yourself safe and healthy while you're sanding.

Tricks to Using a Drum Sander:

1) Don't Stop Moving: Any time you stop with the sander, you're allowing it to dig down into the floor, and you'll end up with dips and waves in the wood. 

2) Go with the Gain: Pushing the sander in the opposite direction of the grain will make the floors look scratched. You'll be able to get to those hard-to-reach spots with your edger- we'll get there.

3) Slow and Steady: The sander will feel like it's taking off without you- so you want to hold it back and move steadily from wall to wall.

4) Ease into It: Any time you start, begin to push the sander across the floor and slowly ease the sanding drum down while you're still moving, or you'll have dips and waves. The same thing goes when you stop- begin to ease the sanding drum up, still moving, before you come to a complete stop.

We used 36-grit sandpaper to remove the remaining glue, adhesive, polyurethane and varnish from the floors. Our bedroom and the kitchen were the first rooms to be sanded. The first time sanding the floors was just a quick run (and by "quick," I mean 8 hours) to get us started.

The dining room floor (the one that was covered in that thick, terrible vinyl glue) still had a good layer of glue on it. Despite my hours of scraping. The glue clogged up the sandpaper, so we actually saved our partially used sandpaper to get the glue off of the dining room floor instead of using a fresh new paper.

The sawdust and glue from the dining room, instead of going into the dust bag, clumped on the floor like this.

I also realized that the gluey sawdust wasn't being sucked up into the sander bag, so I walked behind the sander with a broom as my dad (thanks, Dad!) did some sanding. That helped to keep the sandpaper a little clearer.

After the first 36-grit run in the dining room

After the first run with the 36-grit, I went back over the floor again with 36-grit to get down to the color we wanted. It took a couple extra passes in many places to get down through the varnish to our nice-looking wood.

Once we had the coloring the way we wanted, it was time to use 60-grit sandpaper. This is where the particulate masks really came in handy. The finer the grit, the more dust poofed into the air.

I mean, beautiful. 

Again, slowly sanding the floors was really time consuming, but I must say, I love 60-grit. While not as dramatic of a change as I saw with the 36, the 60-grit paper really brought out the beauty of the wood and made the natural grain come through.

After the entire floor was done with 60-grit, we brought out the 80-grit sandpaper to smooth everything down and prepare for polyurethane.

*Tip: If you want a really smooth or shiny floor, don't try to skip the 60-grit step- it's important!

All in all, sanding the large portions of the hardwood floors with our drum sander took about 50 hours. It's not terribly difficult work, but time consuming and slow-going, and reaaaaaally boring at times. I wouldn't recommend doing it yourself if you're above 6 feet tall, since most drum sanders have handles at about a 5'6" level, and bending over, even so slightly, for that long can cause back issues (ask me how I know).

Stay tuned for our next step-- edging and details!

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  1. Phew... That looks like a lot of work! Good job!

    1. It certainly was a lot of work... but we're getting varnish on it this week... and wow! Worth it!

  2. The floors are gorgeous already! I can't wait to see them with stain and top coat. Great post on how to reduce waves by easing into starting and stopping. I wouldn't have known that!

    1. Thanks for dropping by! I'm so excited to share what the floors look like now that they're done! I better get bloggin!

      (The waves? My husband gave me instructions on that one, but I also learned that part the hard way...)

  3. Your floors look incredible!! I've always wondered what it would be like to refinish our wood someday. Pinned to keep on hand :)

    1. It's... well, it's a ton of work. But honestly, it wasn't so bad. Time consuming and boring, yes. Difficult, not so much. =)

  4. Wow. What beautiful wood! Quite timely that you found me/I found you now. As I was vacuuming the dining room this morning, I was debating whether I try to refinish the wood floors underneath myself or get someone to do it for us. I think I'll practice with one of the boys' bedrooms first, since not many people will ever see that floor. :)

  5. Whoa! That takes some commitment, but I'm sure it will be worth it. Those floors will be gorgeous when they're finished.

  6. To maintain hardwood floors we should take positive steps and also take the help of professionals. Most probably with hardwood floor finishing part is very important and therefore we should go for different types of gadgets to give a perfect finish. In this above article we can get some quick tips on how to refinishing hardwood floor and give a shining effect.

  7. Hi... I am refinishing floors in a 1920 craftsman style cottage... we have lived in this house for ten years and have removed the carpets room by room... we are now on the livingroom which was the worst. I just scrub and scrape then "finish" over the imperfections... this room has more imperfections than I want to finish over. Its a big job and I don't want to sand away all the history. Today we are using a combinations of mixes on the floor, the glue seems to be water soluble but takes a lot of scrubbing. Like the wall paper, it seems to be best responding to Dawn dishsoap and vinegar. I love your finished floors... they give me hope!