Hot Topics: Sanding a Tight Spot

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Original Post: How to sand in this tight spot?

paqman - Member

I've neglected my back patio steps over the last five or six years and the stain (solid paint stain) has been peeling up, and the wood getting really worn and sun beaten.

So I am trying to sand it all down, and strip off the paint to get it ready to paint again.

I've been able to get most of it with a belt sander, palm sander, and my angle grinder with a sanding disk. The one spot I have yet to be able to sand yet is on the face of the stringers between the railing slats.

So the angle grinder allowed me to sand the sides of the railing and other tight spots. But for the face of the stringers between the slats, my belt sander is too wide to fit in there, as is my palm sander. The only thing I can think of to put on my angle grinder to reach in there would be like a wire wheel or something, but I don't want to destroy the wood. (I already did enough of that trying to use my pressure washer on the first couple steps.)

So what would be the best way to reach in there and sand between those slats? I realize I could do it by hand, but I've already spent so many hours sanding the rest of the steps I'd rather not spend too many more hours doing this part by hand if possible.

Also it would be great if I could use a tool I already have on hand, but I am not opposed to borrowing or buying another tool if I have to. I know harbor freight has a skinny belt sander, but that thing is like 1/2 inch wide lol. I suppose that would work. But are there any angle grinder attachments that would be good?

Thanks in advance for any advice.

Pilot Dane - Group Moderator

If the balusters are attached with screws I'd remove them.

paqman - Thread Starter

Yeah that's not a bad idea. I actually have to remove a couple anyway because they had started to pull away and the screws had either broken or popped out. I really didn't want to remove them all, but if that's the only way then I may just have to do that.

Hal_S - Member

Try a pumice stick, or the really stiff "magic eraser" abrasive blocks for cleaning hard water stains off glass and toilets.

Old car detailing trick is to cut several 6" circles from thick cardboard and mount them on a drill—the edge of the cardboard is abrasive enough to remove road tar from chrome and brake dust from mag wheels.

Finally, make a disposable "sanding strop" by taking a tyvek envelope and hot-gluing or construction-gluing a strip of sand paper onto it.

paqman - Thread Starter

Those are some interesting ideas, thanks. Also, if anyone is curious, here are a couple photos of the actual stairs in question You can see in the second photo the brown paint I'm unable to reach as of yet. And honestly, most of that paint wasn't peeling, so I could probably just paint over it if I had to.

wooden stairway from the front

stair railing from the side

marksr - Forum Topic Moderator

If I was using paint or solid stain, I'd be inclined to clean it up and paint over existing sound paint.

If you remove 99% of the existing paint I'd consider using a semi-transparent deck stain instead of paint or solid stain.

paqman - Thread Starter

Yeah I'd really love to do that, but unfortunately I probably won't get enough of the paint off, and there are a lot of other spots that are in rough enough shape it really needs to be painted over.

aka pedro - Member

You might get some of it with a sanding pad on an oscillating tool, then finish by hand, otherwise, remove the balusters as was mentioned. But you're not going to get the end grain on the treads stripped down no matter how you go about it so I'd probably be more inclined to chip or scrape off any loose stuff, hit it quick with some sandpaper to scuff the surface, and call it good.

paqman - Thread Starter

Ha yeah, you can see in the second photo I actually got the endgrain of the railings clean but only because I was using my angle grinder with a sanding disc and literally grinded off a good 1/8 inch or more of wood. Yeah at this point I just want to make sure any loose paint is scraped off and scuff it up for the next coat of paint. Thanks.

sdodder - Member

You'd probably only have to remove every other baluster to get enough room for machine sanding.

paqman - Thread Starter

"You'd probably only have to remove every other baluster to get enough room for machine sanding."

Ha good point! Thanks. I may think about doing that.