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Orbital, drum and belt sanding are ideal for parquet or wooden floors

The aftercare of your parquet floors is a task that many homeowners prefer to do themselves, but deciding on the tools required can be a mystery. Your most important decision is usually how you will sand the floor. There are two basic options: drum sanding or orbital sanding. Which type of grinder is best depends on the nature of the floor, the degree of finishing required and your experience with the process.

Nicole Pinne-Wandmacher

The grinding process

Drum sanders use a sandpaper sleeve that is pushed onto a square drum. The paper slides on the floor while the drum rotates. Only a small part of the paper and the drum is in constant contact with the floor and you get an aggressive cutting action that cuts quickly through the surface and the wood. Orbital sanders, on the other hand, use an abrasive effect. The sanding pad oscillates back and forth in an orbital movement, which results in a slower and lighter sanding action.

Time and work

Drum- and belt grinders work quickly due to their aggressive cutting action and remove a lot of wood material. If you have a large space or several layers of finish, this type of grinder saves time. In narrow areas, however, you sometimes have to sand across the wood grain. This can lead to scratches with a drum sander. Orbital sanders are gentler and require less physical effort, but they take longer to remove heavy surfaces.

The grinding process

Drum sanders use a sandpaper sleeve that is pushed onto a square drum. The paper slides on the floor while the drum rotates. Only a small part of the paper and the drum is in constant contact with the floor and you get an aggressive cutting action that cuts quickly through the surface and the wood. Orbital sanders, on the other hand, use an abrasive effect. The sanding pad oscillates back and forth in an orbital movement, which results in a slower and lighter sanding action.

Time and work

Drum grinders, or belt grinders, work quickly due to their aggressive cutting action and remove a lot of material. If you have a large space or several layers of finish, this type of grinder saves time. In narrow areas, however, you sometimes have to sand across the wood grain. This can lead to scratches with a drum sander. Orbital sanders are gentler and require less physical effort, but they take longer to remove heavy surfaces.

Difficulty

When using a drum sander, the speed of the drum, the pressure you exert, the grain of the sanding paper and the speed at which you move the sander determine the cutting and the finished appearance of the floor. It takes practice to get all these elements just right. Orbital sanders, on the other hand, rely on the weight of the sander itself to generate the pressure needed to sand the floor. Since the orbital sanding is random in its pattern, the operator does not have to follow the grain of the wood to get a smooth finish. If you have never finished a floor before, you are less likely to make mistakes that will damage the wood with an orbital sander. However, with both types of sander, you must keep the sander in motion as long as the abrasive paper is in contact with the floor to avoid indentations in the floor surface.

What you should use

Hardwood floors that are cupped, damaged or have multiple layers of finish require an aggressive sanding tool to make them level again. In this case, drum sanding is ideal. If your floors are in good condition and your aim is to sand and repaint the floor easily, then a less aggressive orbital sanding is preferable. Orbital sanding is also preferable if you need to sand across the wood grain, which is normally necessary in narrow corridors, cupboards or entrances where the floor runs at opposite angles.

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