View Full Version : Sanding floors with a belt sander

14th July 2004, 01:59 PM
Right. One kids room to do up approx 12sq/m of floor space. I could pay someone $30 per sq/m to sand it or......I could use that to buy a makita belt sander I've been eyeing off and sand it myself. Now I'm aware that a belt sander is not a drum sander and the results will be less consistant than the drum sander would provide but I'm reluctant to let this excuse to buy a new tool go by.

Has anyone used a belt sander to sand a floor (mine's narrow cypress pine boards). What were the results like.

Has anyone got any opinions on makita belt sanders? I've only just started aquiring decent tools in place of my cheapo's and have found makita to be pretty good quality v price.

What grit belts would I start and finish with for sanding previously unfinished floorboards.

thanks everyone .

14th July 2004, 02:14 PM
Don't forget Coates Hire - the big sander will do the best job. My neighbour opted to do his own; the resulting Himalayas were awful, and he's since paid a pro to do the lot again. That's what I did, and would highly recommend. They als use 'top hole' thinners based commercial products.

Bob Willson
14th July 2004, 03:23 PM
Hi jimmyjames

Belt sanders are NOT suitable for sanding floors. As TassieKiwi suggests it is probably much better to hire a floor sander or maybe even buy one of those big yellow ones with the three or four disks inside it that they use for finishing tables etc. They'd do the job OK. :D

As with all belt sanders, buy (and use) a pair of really good ear muffs to go with any purchase. This machine is undoubtedly the noisiest machine I own by several 10s of decibels. Makes as much noise as a jet plane. :( Hmmm, do Jet make planes?
Last, as you suggest, it is never a good thing to let any oportunity for purchasing a new tool slip past. You may never have a good oportunity again

14th July 2004, 07:11 PM
Jimmyjames, as the others suggest hiring the sanders from Kennards/Bunnings/Coates etc would give you best results, I think the hire for both machines (drum for main area, disk sander for around skirts) is around $100 a day which you would definitely get it done in. Do all the nail punching, filling, etc and be ready to go before hiring the tools. Ask for advice & price at each hire place, knowledge is power! Is definitely possible to get good results yourself, my sister did a good job of her pine floors with no prior experience.

Having said that, I have heard of (very!)determined people doing small areas with a belt sander such as you intend.

Makita belt sanders (with the probable exception of Festo and other high end Euros) are among the best on the market and would give you excellent service for a long time. Connect a vacuum to the dust outlet for best results.
Keep the sander moving at a steady pace and let the abrasive do the work. Definitely invest in one of those crepe rubber sticks for cleaning the sanding belt, and use it regularly, will lengthen considerably the belt life. Also a good idea to turn the belt around at some stage for max life.

When sanding floors I believe it is usual to sand at 45 degrees to the grain, next grit (if applicable) at 45 degrees the other way (ie. 90 degrees to your first go), then finish sanding with the grain so scratches from the finest grit are disguised by the grain.

You will need to sand around the skirting boards also, a ROS would be the best thing here. Same thing progressing through the grits.

I'd get advice from the hire places as to belt grits to use (prepare for attempts to dissuade you from using the belt sander!). I'd guess at 60 or 80 grit to start then 180 or so to finish, but it's only a guess. Will depend on existing condition and evenness (?) of floor surface, cypress would be reasonable hardness I'd guess? Could be a good idea to start with a 120 and go coarser if too slow, better to make haste slowly instead of gouging out hollows by going too coarse too early.

Your choice of finish will be relevant also, I'd probably settle for a satin finish, a gloss would show up too many imperfections in the surface.

Will be a very tedious job, but if you have a crack at it and it doesn't work out you can hire the right gear and still have a new tool to keep!!

Good luck mate.............cheers..........Sean

Bob Willson
14th July 2004, 07:42 PM
Also a good idea to turn the belt around at some stage for max life. Most belts have an arrow on the back of them to show which way the belt should rotate. If the belt is reversed then it presents the wrong side of the lap to the timber and it may quickly break the belt in half along the join line.

14th July 2004, 09:45 PM
Thanks Bob, makes sense, my mistake...... :) ........Sean

15th July 2004, 01:04 AM
I went down the same path as you intend to. Bought a Makita belt sander and refinished about 30 sq m of cyprus floor boards. It can be done but it was hard work. Ear muffs.dust mask and knee pads. Took me about 2 days of hark yakka but the sander now sits on my shelf and is still in constant use. If you intend to do it don't skimp on a cheapie as you are going to give it a fair bit of use.

15th July 2004, 09:19 AM
get someone in to do it. and add another $30.00 for a carton of beer for when you sit back and watch the professionals do the job. Floorsanding is an art. having experienced 4 days of floorsanding a hardwood deck with a hire unit,an angle grinder and my makita beltsander, i can say without holding back,its a pain in the rear.

But if your after a warm fuzzy feeling from doing it yourself, hire a unit from kennards [make sure you get the edger too] and if it helps with the "financial controller" you need a makita beltsander :D

15th July 2004, 04:21 PM
hi jimmy james
I've used my belt sander to prepare sections of floor before and found it to be adequate. they were only small sections(2or3sq metres) in spots too difficult to get a floor sander into though.
The grade of paper you use will depend partly on the condition of the floor if the boards are uneven then use a coarse grade to start with going at 45 degrees to the timber as stated by scooter this is to create a flat surface then progress down to finer grades. Then do the final sand with the grain.
If you need and excuse to buy a belt sander, then buy one give it a go on the floor if your not happy withe the result go and hire one to finish it. That way you have a win win situation

15th July 2004, 05:34 PM
About 18 months ago I laid 80sqm of karri floorboards and sanded them myself. I was a bit dubious about the sanding but the shop that supplied all the adhesive and finish assured me it was easy and they were right.

The reason it was so easy was because of the type of equipment they supplied. Forget about using a drum sander, try and find a hire place that uses an endless belt sander.

The brand I used was OREBRO. It had a hand leaver that raised the belt off the floor as you approached a wall, most drum sanders have to be physically lifted to stop sanding.

This site has a picture:

Being able to gradually raise the belt allows you to feather the cut as you come to the end of a run. It was impossible to put groove in the timber with this sander.

When I was happy with the finish from the belt sander (using 40, 60 then 80 grit) I then used a large orbital sander with 405mm diameter pads. The grit size for these was 80 and 120. A final pad was used that looked like flywire and Iím guessing that it was equivalent of about 220 grit.

The brand name for the orbital sander is CANTERBURY. I used an edge sander for work close to a wall.

Donít even think about using a hand belt sander, not because it isnít possible but because it will probably be stuffed after youíve finished, come to think of it so will you.

I hired my equipment from a place that specialized in DIY flooring, so try and find one of these if you can. Coates and Kennards were not a lot of help when I first started looking into it.

Cheers John

15th July 2004, 05:37 PM

had to do some floors for a mate a few years back. laid the floors in tassie oak then hired a sander from one of the local flooring specialists here in adelaide, they not only had all the knowledge for the right finish but also had better than the normal run of the mill floor sanders we ended up hiring a large 6 disk ROS and a little edge sander as well, the little edge number didnt do as good a job as the ROS so we did the edge stuff with a 125mm ROS. end result top looking floor at a lower hire cost as well and the materials where cheaper from this place as well. worth a try, look for specialist flooring place in your area see if they can help with DIY
as for the belt sander and doing it with that?
only if you dont ever want the OK from your missus to buy more tools.
enough said.

cheers Ian :)

15th July 2004, 05:57 PM
maybe even buy one of those big yellow ones with the three or four disks inside it that they use for finishing tables etc. They'd do the job OK. :D

Hi Bob,

Re that sander a while back i wanted to buy one of these yellow numbers that cost around $1500.00 ( i think its even more than that) thats the bigger one
so as they make them about 5 min down the road from me i went to see if they would hire me one so i knew i wasnt throwing my money away,

went in said how about it "no we dont hire"
ok then what about if i leave the full cost of the machine here and you give it back to me when i return it, and you can charge me a fair hire rate, i just want to make sure it does what you say it will. fair enough i thought.
he tells me "no"
Ok what about a machine i can try here " dont have one" ( there's like 40 machines on the benches around us)
can you show me one working?
this is all very strange to me, if i was trying to sell one i would make sure i could show a machine off to anyone interested in buying one, make sense dont you think.
well up yours then i think as i wonder off with a wallet still full of money

So as I see it if they dont have much faith in there machine nor will I, so they wont ever get my money.

cheers Ian :)

24th July 2004, 01:30 PM
When B moved in with me, his dad gleefully ripped up the carpet in his old bedroom and sanded the floor with a belt sander. Did a lovely job, though I'm not sure what type of timber - may have been harder than cypress but mebbe not. I'll see if he's got any tips and gt back to you...


29th July 2004, 08:17 AM
If your floor is in good nick, and you go for the 4" Makita, it's doable. For an amateur it's prob. likely to work better than a hired drum sander. And the Makitas are good; I've had a 3" unit for over 20 years and recently was able to get the bearings replaced.

But if the boards are cupped or badly scored, forget the belt sander. Even a drum sander on cupped hardwood will try your patience.

29th July 2004, 08:48 AM
I did a room with a 4' belt sander (Makita...). i dont recommend it. your back will hurt you wont get it consistant and it will look better with a drum sander from a hire joint. its hard enough using the orbital for the edges then pushing the drum around afterwards too...

I bought the makita originally to do the floor and now that I have finished the house (using a drum and orbital hire kit from kenards for all the other rooms) its easy to see that the first room done with a 4' belt sander is the worst of the lot.

I found that with the belt sander I really had to heave into it and use a lot of force - old cypress pine is very hard and you'll get a very strenious workout doing it that way - I really dont recommend it.

by the way - the makita is an excellent unit - impossible to kill - beleive me I tried - they work forever but are noisy sons of b1tches.

when you hire the drum and oribtal kit from kennards if your floors are already sanded from previous then just get a light paper and give it a little sand to lift off the old finish - youll find it will be ok. another hint - work out how much paper you will need and then get double - you can always take any you dont use back for a full refund.


29th July 2004, 11:16 AM
As an indication of durability, chippies from the lunatic fringe on Auckland building sites use them for racing - sit on it (somehow) in a large open space, and pull the go switch. Very funny. And they still work!

29th July 2004, 04:59 PM
Love it!

They've got plenty of guts its true; just get the power cord caught up in the belt for a demo!

31st July 2004, 02:21 AM
I have done about 30 sqm with a 3" belt sander with final finish using a 1/3 rd sheet sander and achieved excellent results. Took about 2 days hard slog sanding and drove the missus nuts with the constant vibration through the house BUT she was very happy with the finished product(50yr old cyprus by the way). Strangely I derived a great deal of satisfaction doing it the hard way and still have the belt sander. Win all round I would say.

29th August 2004, 06:32 PM
i hired a big floor sander from Cass bros in parramatta rd petersham for about $100 for a weekend - pick up friday back monday = 1.5 days hire charges. Sanding paper cost quite a bit though. Because i failed to varnish the hallway!:( after 3 years it became discoloured. Rather than go through the trauma of the big machine again (which by the wayiin combination with my lack of expertise and the fact that i had to go across the boards rather than along them, caused my hallway to look like rolling plains) i hired a belt sander from kennards - $25/day and it did a good job of getting off the accumulated grime of 3 years. I used 40 grit paper at first which may have been a bit savage but seemed necessary and just let it run away from me and pulled it back rather than trying to control it. Ear muffs compulsory to save hearing. I am now going to invest in a belt sander for sure!

29th August 2004, 07:41 PM
I must agree with the two last responses. It is possible to do a good job with a Makita belt sander. They are remarkably though. I did 3 bedroom and a living room with one of this things. For an edger I used an orbital sander, and besides very soar knees the job was OK.

By the way, to hire a drum sander is no guarantee you will do a good job. Unless you get the newer models that have a mechanism to lift the sander drum up, the older type drum sanders can be a real hazard to the integrity of your floor. It is very easy to dig a hole in the floor with them particularly if you follow the instruction the hiring company give out, that is to start with number 40 and work your way up to the finer grade.

I say that if you are not afraid to sweat it out, you can do it with a belt sander, BUT... if you are to use a drum sander try to find a modern machine that is safe, and for goodness sake do not start with number 40 like they tell you. Rather start with a fine grit, and if you see you are not achieving the result you need, then you try tentatively a lower number. Remember that you don't have 19 mm thickness to work with rather just about 3mm.
A Makita belt sander will never become a danger to your floor not even if you ride on it ... well ... let me rephrase ... how much did you say you weight?

29th August 2004, 11:45 PM
Thanks very much for all the replies, i lost track with this thread after the first few replies and the project has been shelved till next year due to some unfortunate car problems sucking up all the spare cash we had. I will give myself an even shot at success and hire when the time comes, as for the makita well it's still on the shopping list as I've heard nothing but good about them. I don't know if i'm keen to use it as a gokart though, i'm in the triple figures weight wise so....