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What are the Different Types of Wood Floor Sanding and Polishing?

Posted on April 25, 2023


Exploring the Different Types of Wood Floor Sanding and Polishing Techniques

Wood floors have a timeless elegance and charm that homeowners love. Over time, these floors can lose their lustre due to daily wear and tear, resulting in a dull and lifeless appearance. This is where wood floor sanding and polishing come in. By sanding and polishing your wood floors, you can restore their beauty and prolong their lifespan. In this blog post, we will discuss the different types of wood floor sanding and polishing techniques available to homeowners, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each method. Let’s dive in!

Wood Floor Sanding Techniques

  1. Traditional drum sanding

Traditional drum sanding is the oldest and most common method of wood floor sanding. This technique involves using a drum sander, a heavy machine with a rotating drum covered in abrasive sandpaper, to remove the old finish and level the wood surface. Drum sanding is usually carried out in three stages, using coarse, medium, and fine grit sandpapers.

Sanding Floorboards


  • highly effective at removing old finishes and levelling uneven surfaces.
  • capable of producing a smooth, consistent finish.


  • can be difficult for inexperienced users to control, leading to gouging or damage to the wood floor.
  • creates a significant amount of dust, which can be harmful if not properly managed.
  1. Orbital Sanding

Orbital sanding, also known as random orbital sanding, is a more modern technique for wood floor sanding. This method utilises a random orbital sander, which has a spinning disc that moves in random orbits. This random movement helps prevent swirl marks and ensures a more consistent finish. Orbital sanders can be used with various grits of sandpaper, similar to drum sanders.

Orbital Sanding


  • less aggressive than drum sanding, reducing the risk of gouging or damaging the wood floor.
  • easier to control, making it more suitable for DIY projects and inexperienced users.
  • generates less dust than drum sanding.


  • May require more time to achieve the desired level of smoothness.
  • Not as effective at removing deep scratches or leveling severely uneven surfaces.
  1. Dustless Sanding

Dustless sanding is a wood floor sanding technique that aims to minimize the dust generated during the sanding process. This is achieved by using specialized machines equipped with vacuum systems to collect dust as it is produced. Both drum and orbital sanders can be adapted for dustless sanding.

Dust-Free Wooden Floor Sanding


  • Significantly reduces the amount of dust generated during sanding, making for a cleaner and healthier working environment.
  • Less cleanup required after sanding is complete.


  • Dustless sanding machines can be more expensive to rent or purchase than traditional sanders.
  • Not 100% dust-free, but significantly reduces dust levels.
  1. Hand Scraping

Hand scraping is an old-fashioned technique for wood floor refinishing, which involves manually scraping the surface of the wood using a sharp scraper. This method is typically used for restoring antique or distressed wood floors, where the goal is to maintain the character and patina of the wood.

Hand Scraping


  • Provides a unique, hand-crafted look that cannot be replicated by machine sanding.
  • Can be used to selectively remove damaged areas, preserving more of the original wood.


  • Labor-intensive and time-consuming process.
  • Requires a high level of skill and experience to achieve a consistent finish.

Wood Floor Polishing Techniques

After sanding, wood floors require polishing to protect and enhance their appearance. There are several polishing methods available, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks.

hardwood floor finishes colors
  1. Oil-Based Polishing

Oil-based polishing involves applying a blend of natural oils, such as linseed or tung oil, to the wood floor. These oils penetrate the wood surface and harden over time, providing a durable and water-resistant finish. Oil-based polishes are available in various sheens, ranging from matte to high-gloss.

Linseed oil application with lint free cotton cloth.


  • Enhances the natural beauty and grain of the wood.
  • Provides a warm, rich finish that can be easily refreshed by reapplying the oil.
  • Can be more environmentally friendly than other polishing methods, as many oil-based products are made from natural, renewable resources.


  • Longer drying time compared to other polishing methods.
  • Requires regular maintenance to keep the finish looking its best.
  • Can darken the wood over time.
  1. Water-Based Polishing

Water-based polishing involves applying a water-based polyurethane or acrylic coating to the wood floor. These finishes are available in various sheens, from matte to high-gloss, and are known for their durability and low odor.

Gap Filling Method in Pine Floorboards


  • Dries quickly, allowing for faster project completion.
  • Low odor during application and curing, making it a more pleasant option for indoor projects.
  • Resistant to yellowing and discoloration over time.


  • May not enhance the natural beauty of the wood as much as oil-based polishes.
  • Can be more difficult to repair or touch up if damaged.
  1. Wax Finishing

Wax finishing involves applying a thin layer of paste or liquid wax to the wood floor. The wax is then buffed to the desired sheen, creating a protective and lustrous finish.

Applying the stain


  • Provides a natural, low-sheen finish that highlights the wood’s grain and texture.
  • Easy to apply and maintain, making it an attractive option for DIY enthusiasts.
  • Can be easily repaired or touched up if damaged.


  • Less durable than oil-based or water-based polishes, requiring more frequent maintenance.
  • Can be slippery, especially when wet, which may pose a safety risk.
  • Not recommended for high-traffic areas or rooms with high moisture levels, such as kitchens or bathrooms.

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There are various types of wood floor sanding and polishing techniques available to homeowners, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. The best method for your project will depend on factors such as the type of wood, the condition of the floor, and your desired finish. By understanding the differences between these techniques, you can make an informed decision and ensure that your wood floors are restored to their full beauty and potential.

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This organic finish not only adds beauty to your home but also has exceptional water-repellent characteristics, making it easier to clean and maintain.

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This natural floor finish offers the softest and most mellow appearance – and leaves your floor able to breath.

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Using soft buffing machines (and hand-polishing where required) will bring a wonderful sheen to your newly-finished floor.

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