Sanding and varnishing oak floors..(is it relatively easy?)advise needed.

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  • Sanding and varnishing oak floors..(is it relatively easy?)advise needed.
  • dingabell

    I have a large oak floor to sand and varnish for someone. I’d need to hire a sanding machine and edge sanding machine, but has anyone tried using a sand glider machine which is supposed to be a general sander, edge sander and buffing machine all in one? I’m wondering if it would actually be a compromise on all three and may end up not getting as good a result as hiring them all separately? Also, I’ve got no real idea how long it takes to sand a floor so I’m unsure as to how long I’d need to hire it for? Has anyone managed to sand and finish quite a large floor in a weekend, or is a week more realistic? Sorry, I don’t know the actual size of the floor. Also if anyone has any hints and tips which they’ve picked up while doing their own floors, I’d be glad to hear them.


    Not done oak, but I have done two whole houses worth of pine. A weekend should do you unless the room is massive. The dust gets EVERYWHERE. If you’re able I’d suggest sealing up any doors and windows that go into other parts of your house. Never heard of a sand glider so can’t offer any advice on that one.

    Premier Icon rickmeister

    Its a steady job and from our experience:

    If the sander comes with an extractor/dust bag, make sure it works, or the room will fill with sawdust
    Get plenty of sanding sheets on a sale or return, if you run out then the hire place will be closed, natch
    If there are any nails on the floor, remove them or punch them in
    If there is paint on the floor it will clog the sanding sheets
    Run diagonal to the boards so they get flattened
    Too much dust is a hazzard, masks are well worth it
    Masking tape to seal off any non sand areas

    No idea as to what a sand glider is….


    Not done it but don’t go with the grain, Probs around 30 – 40 degrees, and at least 2 different grits but not less tha 100 grit with the first, not less than 180 with the final sand.

    That’s the principle anyway. By Sand-glider do you mean something like a large pushable belt-sander?

    Why are you Sanding? Just for cosmetic reasons or is there a residue or glue of some sort you need to get rid of?


    It’s not that filthy a job if the extractor works. It’s really, really noisy to do however, so I’d warn the neighbours if you have any.


    Some top tips there so thank you. The reason for sanding is that the areas of high traffic have worn all the varnish away and it all looks a bit rubbish. The sand glider is on the HSS Hire website under floor sanders. It’s supposed to do all the jobs with one machine but not sure how good it is? How many sanding sheets do you get through roughly? Are you changing it every ten minutes or so?

    b r

    I’d be a bit concerned that someone is asking you to sand an oak-boarded floor, and you’ve never done it before… 😯

    And are asking on STW for advice.

    Premier Icon JoeG

    Sanding is one thing, getting a smooth finish is another!

    Removing every trace of sanding dust is essential. And you have to be kinda quick applying finish, or you leave brush/applicator marks when you go over an area that has already started to dry.

    If you’ve never done anything like this, a large room might not be a good place to learn…

    Premier Icon sparkyspice

    I hired a Sand-Glider…
    I tried it and took it back and got the standard rotating drum and edge sander, which do the job much better. If the floor has already been sanded, why not just get the edge sander and some knee pads?
    If the floor has never been sanded before you are in for a treat…. Here’s my guide having done it in 4 separate houses and got better each time…
    Before you go to the hire shop and waste a days hire, remove everything from the rooms you are in, including lampshades etc. If you can’t remove things, wrap them in plastic dust sheets and tape them so they are effectively air tight and sealed! Dust gets EVERYWHERE and spending time doing this will save you cleaning time at the end of the job.
    Get a nail punch, a hammer and some knee pads. Go up and down each board carefully and punch every nail at least 2-3mm below the surface of the wood. Further if the boards are warped. If you’ve taken up carpet and underlay, the chances are that the underlay will have been stapled to the floor. Be careful when removing the staples that you get them out whole. Seal all doors and openings with masking tape and plastic dust sheets.
    If the boards are old, (my house is 1930s), they will have warped and using a sander from the start to get rid of the ‘high points’ of each board will take forever, and use up lots of sandpaper, so start off with an electric plane and get the boards flat. Check for nails again. Remove any carpet gripper from adjoining rooms as ideally you want to be sanding right up to the edge of the carpet and replacing the gripper – it looks better at the end of the job.

    Go and hire your sander… Be sure to get ear defenders, decent dust masks and goggles and if you haven’t got a ‘Henry Hoover’ possibly hire/borrow one, or risk ruining your wife’s precious Dyson.
    Then proceed with the sander and coarse grain sheets and then subsequently finer and finer sheets. If you remove lots of wood, you may have to repeat the nail punch/hammer process. Any protruding nails that you haven’t already found will simply shred the sanding sheets which costs money and takes time.
    Follow the hire instructions for the sanders, but be careful to keep the sander moving and when starting a ‘run’, lower it onto the boards whilst in motion or it will leave a groove that you might not be able to see, but it will show up when the light shines on any varnish.
    A small detail sander, (like the ones that have a triangular sheets) are handy for sanding the last bits around door frames or radiator pipes.
    Once the floor is as smooth as a baby’s bum, you’ll feel happy with yourself! Clean and vacuum everywhere. Remove dust sheets and repeat vacuuming!
    White spirit the floor and then varnish. Waxes don’t last long on high traffic areas, so I’ve always varnished. Follow the instructions on the tin to the letter for the best finish. Use the best varnish you can get – it will last longer and at this point you won’t want to be repeating this job anytime soon… If doing a very high traffic area such a hall/lobby then pop an extra one or two coats of varnish on that area. Once the varnish wears after a few years water and mud from shoes will get through to the wood and it will always look dirty unless you repeat the whole process.
    I’ve got an exterior halogen flood light that I found useful for showing up imperfections/nails etc throughout the process.

    Have fun!


    Wow Sparkyspice! Can’t thank you enough for all that information. I was wondering if the sand-glider was going to be a compromise. It usually is when something’s “one tool to do it all”. Will take all your help on board. Many thanks again.

    Have you or the client any idea what finish was on the floor previously?


    I’ve not actually seen it but I think it was just clear varnish according to the wife. They just want it to stay as light in colour as possible.


    Osmo hardwax oil then

    Hob Nob

    Sparkyspice has it covered. The nail point is fun if you have missed one. It makes lots of sparks…

    One of the worst jobs I did in our house. Horrific.

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