Refinishing a Floor with an Orbital Sander

What You'll Need
Orbital floor sander
Edging machine
40, 60, 80, 100-grit sandpaper
Shop vacuum
Pry bar
Stain or polyurethane finish

An orbital sander is a useful tool that can help you refinish your wood floor. The hand-held machine is powered by electricity or batteries. It consists of a pad that moves in a random orbital pattern to remove minimal amounts of fine material away from the floor. A piece of sandpaper installed in the tool moves in a circular motion. This combined action helps to eliminate scratches and grooves from your floor. The sander can help you refinish your wood floor and enhance its appearance. It is not a difficult tool to use, as shown below.

Step 1 – Preparation

Clear all furniture and rugs from the room. This will give you clear access to the floor. Identify any obstructions on the floor. Drive in loose nails with a hammer. Use a pry bar to remove any carpet tacks. Any obstructions on the floor can rip your sandpaper and ruin it.

Step 2 – Vacuum

It is a good idea to vacuum the floor before you sand it. This helps remove dust and loose debris. Small material such as pebbles can cause gouges on your floor if dragged underneath the sander.

Step 3 – Attach 40-Grit Sandpaper

It is best to start with coarse grit sandpaper. This will give you more aggressive action when you sand. Attach 40-grit sandpaper at the base of the machine. Begin at one end of the room and sand the floor in the same direction as the wood grain. This helps to maintain the floor’s natural appearance. Operate the sander with straight, even strokes. For best results, try not to rush through the job. When you work slowly, you establish a systematic rhythm, which ensures a better outcome. Work the entire floor surface in the pattern you’ve established.

Step 4 – Clean the Floor

Use a shop vacuum to clear dust and fine debris from the floor. This will allow you to work better when you proceed with the sander.

Step 5 – Switch to Lighter Grain Sandpaper

Turn off the machine and remove the 40-grit sandpaper. Replace with 60-grit sandpaper. Work the entire floor in the same manner as before. Sand over scratches or lines on the floor about 3 times to clear them. Once you’ve completed the entire floor, clean with a shop vacuum again. Switch to 80 and 100-grit sandpaper and work the floor in the same manner. Be sure to clean the floor with a shop vacuum each time you change the sandpaper.

Step 6 – Edges

It is best to use an edging machine to smooth the floor edges. Be sure to work the machine in the direction of the wood grain.

Step 7 – Finishing

Clean the floor with a shop vacuum after the final sanding action. Proceed to apply a suitable stain or polyurethane finish as per the instructions that come with the product. For best results, two coats are required. An overnight wait is usually necessary between coats. Be sure to ventilate the room well during application.


  • Do not leave the sander stationary while it is turned on. The sanding action could create gouges on your floor.