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Orbital Sanding for Commercial Flooring: Best Practices and Tips.

Posted on August 27, 2023

Floor sanding techniques

Orbital Sanding for Commercial Flooring: Best Practices and Tips

Let’s have a chat about orbital sanding. To the uninitiated, it might sound a bit like a task suitable for astronauts, but for those in the know, orbital sanding is an essential part of the commercial flooring world. Orbital sanders have transformed the way we prepare and finish commercial floors, resulting in pristine finishes that are both visually striking and hard-wearing. But as with most crafts, the devil is in the detail. Let’s dive in and uncover the best practices and tips when it comes to orbital sanding for commercial floors.

The Orbital Sander: A Brief Overview

Before we delve into the how-tos, let’s start with the basics. An orbital sander is a hand-held tool with a square or rectangular base that moves in small circles, or ‘orbits’. Unlike the more aggressive drum sanders, orbital sanders are gentler, which means they’re less likely to gouge the wood and more adept at delivering a smooth, swirl-free finish.

Best Practices for Orbital Sanding

1. Know your floor: Before you even switch on the sander, inspect the floor. Identify any protruding nails, screws, or splinters and make sure they’re dealt with. Not doing so is a rookie mistake that can damage both the machine and the floor. 2. Go with the grain: Always sand in the direction of the wood grain. This ensures a smoother finish and reduces the risk of leaving cross-grain scratches. 3. Use the right grit: Start with a coarse grit (around 40) and work your way up to a fine grit (around 120). This progression effectively removes old finishes and prepares the wood for the final finish. 4. Keep it steady: When sanding, let the machine do the work. There’s no need to press hard. Instead, maintain a steady, even pressure. 5. Edge it right: For the edges and corners, which the orbital can’t quite reach, use an edging sander or a small hand sander. 6. Clean as you go: Regularly vacuum the dust; a clean work area ensures the sander works effectively and you achieve a consistent finish.

Tips to Achieve a Superior Finish

1. Protect yourself: Safety first! Wear a dust mask, ear protectors, and safety goggles. The noise, dust, and debris can be harmful if precautions aren’t taken. 2. Take your time. It’s not a race. Each pass should be slow and methodical. Haste makes waste and can lead to undesirable dips and grooves. 3. Change the sandpaper regularly. As sandpaper wears out, its efficiency decreases. Regularly changing it ensures consistent results. 4. Always check for missed spots: After each pass, inspect the floor. Look for uneven areas or spots you might’ve missed. It’s easier to fix issues in the early stages than at the end. 5. Finish with a fine touch: After sanding, use a fine steel wool or a polishing pad for that extra bit of shine and smoothness. 6. Maintenance is key: Regularly check your sander for wear and tear. A well-maintained tool will not only last longer but will also deliver consistent results.

The environmental angle: sustainable sanding practices

In today’s age, where environmental consciousness is not just a fad but a genuine concern, it’s crucial to ensure that our commercial practices are sustainable. Sanding, while a seemingly straightforward task, can be approached from an eco-friendly perspective. 1. Dust collection systems: When sanding, a significant amount of wood dust is produced. Using a sander with an efficient dust collection system not only ensures a cleaner workspace but also reduces air pollution. Ensuring that this dust is disposed of responsibly or repurposed can significantly decrease waste. 2. Sustainable sandpaper: The market today offers sandpapers made from recycled materials or sustainably sourced wood. They’re not just good for Mother Earth; they often provide a smoother, more consistent sanding experience. 3. Low-VOC finishes: Once you’ve sanded your floor, the finishing product is just as crucial. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in many finishing products can harm indoor air quality. Opt for low-VOC or VOC-free finishes to ensure a healthier environment. 4. Repurpose wood dust: The dust produced can be used in a variety of ways. Some artisans mix it with glue to fill cracks or gaps in wood, and gardeners use it as a mulch alternative. Before you toss it, think of how it might be reused. 5. Invest in energy-efficient machines: Modern sanders are designed to be more energy-efficient. They use less power, which means less strain on the environment and your electricity bill.

Technology Integration: Taking Sanding into the 21st Century

It might seem like sanding hasn’t changed much over the years, but with the advent of technology, even this traditional craft has seen innovations: 1. Variable speed control: Some of the latest orbital sanders come with variable speed settings. This feature allows you to adjust the speed based on the task at hand, ensuring precision and reducing potential damage to the floor. 2. Digital dust detectors: Certain high-end models are now equipped with sensors that can detect the amount of dust being produced. They adjust the machine’s speed and suction accordingly to ensure optimal collection. 3. Vibration reduction: Newer orbital sanders are designed to minimise vibration, reducing strain on the user and ensuring a smoother finish. 4. Mobile app integration: Believe it or not, some smartphones can now be connected to mobile apps. These apps can provide real-time feedback on the sanding process, offer tips, and even alert you when it’s time to change the sandpaper. Remember, it’s not just about the technique but also about adapting to changing times. Embracing both sustainability and technology can elevate your sanding game to levels previously unimagined.


Orbital sanding, when executed correctly, can provide a flawless foundation for any commercial floor. It’s not merely about the mechanics but about understanding the nuances of the wood and the tool. So the next time you’re faced with a sprawling expanse of commercial flooring that needs a bit of sprucing up, remember these practices and tips. It might take a bit of elbow grease, but the satisfaction of a job well done and the lustre of a perfectly sanded floor are, as they say, worth their weight in gold. Remember, as Rich Silverstein often alluded to in his style of conveying powerful messages, it’s not just about doing the job; it’s about mastering the craft. And mastering the craft of orbital sanding will set you a cut above the rest. Happy sanding!

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The Importance of Proper Sanding Techniques in Orbital Sanding How to Use an Orbital Sander on Stairs The Pros and Cons of DIY Orbital Sanding for Floor Restoration How to Refinish Parquet Floors with Orbital Sanding Orbital Sanding Techniques for Pine Floors How to Achieve a Matte Finish with Orbital Sanding The Differences Between Orbital and Drum Sanding for Floors How to Prep Your Space for Orbital Sanding Advanced Techniques for Orbital Sanding on Wood Floors The Science Behind Orbital Sanding for Floor Restoration  
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