In the last few years, we’ve sanded more floors than I care to remember.
We turned yucky laminate covered floors into gorgeous sanded floorboards and transformed our dull and grey parquet into a luscious and rich oak floor.
We really couldn’t be happier with how our floors turned out but we did make some floor sanding mistakes along the way.
We learned the hard way that there are things you should and shouldn’t do and, more importantly, there are things you can do to make your floor sanding experience much easier.
As we see some floor sanding mistakes over and over again, we’re sharing our tips and tricks to not only make your life easier but also help you avoid the floor sanding mistakes we made.
We made the mistakes so that you don’t have to!
1. Using The Wrong Grit Sandpaper
The by far biggest floor sanding mistake I see is not using the right grit paper.
I honestly can’t stress enough how important it is and you really won’t do yourselves a favour if you start to sand with paper that’s too fine.
What grit you start with will depend on what your floorboards are like. If they’ve been sanded before and just need a refresh you’ll be able to start sanding with finer paper but in most cases, you’ll have to start with a much more coarse paper than you expect.
If your floors haven’t been sanded before, the maximum grit paper you should start sanding with is 24 grit. I know that sounds super coarse and radical but anything finer will not sand away enough of the dirt and old varnish.
More importantly, though, it’ll cause you much more work not to mention cost as you’ll end up using way more paper than if you were using the right grit.
Our floors were slightly wavy and had a really thick layer of varnish on them so we started sanding with 16 grit paper!
Using the wrong grit (too fine) will also mean that your sandpaper clogs up really quickly. Clogged up paper is useless so it’s something you’ll want to avoid.
Not only because it’ll end up costing you more because you’ll constantly be replacing the paper but also because of the additional time it’ll take you to keep changing it.
2. Not Sanding Enough
There’s really no getting around it – sanding your floors is hard work and physically tiring.
When you first start sanding you’ll almost instantly see a huge difference in your floor but once you’ve removed most of the varnish and dirt progress will seem so much slower.
Mostly, this is down to the floorboards not being completely flat which means that the drum of the floor sanding machine won’t be able to reach all areas of the floorboards in one go.
This means that you’ll often be left with shadows either at the edges of the floorboards (if the floorboards are concave) or in the middle of the floorboards (if the floorboards are convex).
Although you’re probably thinking that your floors look good enough to call them finished, try to resist the temptation to stop now – it’ll make all the difference, promise!
Sanding these last bits away is definitely the most frustrating part of the whole floor sanding process as progress will seem almost non-existent.
You really want to keep sanding until all marks and any shadows are completely removed.
You need to sand your floorboards until they look brand new, even if you’re staining the boards (unless they’re going to be black or painted). It’s what will make the difference between your finished floor looking amazing and professional or average and amateurish.
3. Not Sanding Diagonally
We didn’t sand diagonally the first few times we sanded our floors but we did in our new home and it’s something we’d definitely recommend doing.
It makes sanding your floors quicker as it’ll even out your floorboards and you won’t be left with areas of the floorboards that are difficult to reach (which is the shadow problem I mentioned above).
We never thought of the sanded floors in our Edwardian house as uneven – and they weren’t really – but the difference to our newly sanded floors in our current home really surprised me.
It’s difficult to describe and impossible to show in pictures but they somehow feel much flatter and more even.
4. Sanding The Edges
Sanding the edges of your room is a complete pain. It’s backbreaking work as you’ll find yourself hovering over the edging sander for hours on end.
The good news is that you can sand the edges slightly less than the main surface – in fact, it’s a good idea to do so!
You should finish sanding the main area with 120 grit paper, but we’d recommend you stop at 80 grit for the edges. It’ll still be more than smooth enough and will save you time.
It is totally possible to sand with a fine grit but the problem (especially as a DIYer) is that you can quickly end up with scorch marks on your floor which can develop because of the high heat and friction generated between the sandpaper and your floor.
5. Not Changing The Sandpaper Often Enough
One of the biggest floor sanding mistakes we made when we sanded our floors the first time around was not changing the sandpaper often enough.
After a day or so, our floor sanding mistake dawned on us and as soon as we started to change the paper more frequently we were able to sand the floors much more quickly.
Yes, now you’re thinking I’d rather save some money as the sheets and disks are really expensive but trust me, once you’re sanding you’ll really want to spend as little as possible time doing it!
6. Sanding Against The Grain or Across The Floorboards
Never sand at a right angle to the grain of the wood no matter how uneven your floorboards are and how tempting this may be.
Sanding against the grain will damage the wood and cause very deep scratches that are difficult to remove and will be very visible when you oil, varnish or stain the floor.
If the floorboards are wavy and uneven, sand diagonally first. This will even them out and be much less harsh to the wood than sanding at a right angle to the grain. When the floorboards are even, continue sanding along the length of the floorboards and follow the grain of the wood.
Sanding with the grain of the wood means that you’ll be sanding with the natural direction of the fibres of the wood making any scratches invisible.
7. Not Using The Drum Sander
To achieve the best results, it’s important to use the right grit sandpaper but also the right tools. You should always use the drum sander whenever possible.
The large drum in the drum sander sands along the grain of the wood. The edging sander rotates in a circular motion and leaves scratches both with and against the grain of the wood. Any scratches against the grain will be more visible so it’s always important to avoid them as much as possible.
If your room is narrow, it may seem easier to use the edging sander to finish the whole floor but the result won’t be as good and you’ll almost certainly see scratches and imperfections. As the name suggests, only use the edging sander to sand the edges of your room.
The room pictured above is the narrowest room we sanded. It’s just under 1.8m wide and using a drum sander was (just about) possible. If your room is wider than 2 meters you should definitely use a drum sander to sand the majority of the floor.
There’s nothing quite like standing back and admiring your finished floors and although we definitely moan about how much hard work it is, it’s also a project that’s easy to do and very rewarding!
If you’re thinking about sanding your floors, you can see our full guide on how to sand your floors and floorboards here.
Have you ever sanded your floors or are you thinking about doing it in your home? Have you ever made any big DIY mistakes or any of the floor sanding mistakes we made?