Sanding a Deck With a Floor Sander – But Which One?
If you have a wood deck then you’ve probably thought about sanding it and adding a finish at some point. Despite what you may think, sanding a deck with a floor sander (Otherwise known as a deck sander) is not so straightforward. In this article, we will talk about the different approaches you can take.
Your first option is to use just a handheld sander. This might work if you have just a spot you need to touch up or just a couple of pieces of wood. However, if you’re trying to cover a lot of ground with just a handheld then you’re due for a struggle. On the other extreme, you can opt for a flooring drum sander, but then you run the risk of seriously damaging the wood if you aren’t careful.
The in-between sweet spot is using a flooring orbital sander, and if it ever seems like the orbital sander slows down then you need to put some effort into cleaning the surface of the wood before continuing.
Why a Flooring Orbital Sander
A flooring orbital sander is essentially just a more heavy-duty version of a handheld orbital sander. The flooring sander typically has a handle that you use to guide it around the surface. When using it to sand and finish a wood deck, it’s advised to go through stages of using different grit sandpaper, ranging from 36-grit up to 80-grit. Different handheld sanders will still come in handy for situations like tight spots and corners/edges.
Before You Get Started
If you have the chance, start off by pressure washing the wood surface unless the wood is brand new. Power washing will remove old finishes, mold, and oily residue that can mess with your sanders and give you a hard time. If you decide to go with power washing, be sure to give the wood about 2 days to actually dry out before proceeding with sanding.
One Last Inspection
Once you’ve washed the surface there’s still one more job to do before breaking out the sander. Carefully check the surface of the deck for any screws or nails that are raised up. You will want to set these again before proceeding, and in some cases, you will just have to remove some loose ones and replace them with new, 3-inch decking screws. If you have any large holes or cracks then fill them up with wood filler and let them dry again. Be sure to stay away from soft caulks and fillers because they won’t harden enough to sand properly.
Time to Sand and Seal
When it comes to the sanding process, there isn’t much to it. Since you’re using an orbital sander it doesn’t really matter which direction you sand it, but moving in the direction of the grain will make it a bit easier. Sand the entire deck with your multiple grits of sandpaper, moving from roughest to smoothest. If you have to break out a hand sander just use the same grit that you were just using with the orbital sander.
Once the sanding is complete you can vacuum up the dust or sweep it away. It’s very important that the wood doesn’t get wet at this particular stage because the moisture will raise the wood grain and ruin all your hard work. After you’ve finished sanding and cleaning, apply at least one coat of a sealer, which can be a wood stain, varnish, or plain clear finish. That will prevent the wood from collecting moisture from even the air and will give you time to plan the actual finishes you want to use. Once you have at least one coat of a sealer on the deck, you can take your time with applying more layers.