Researched and written by experienced contractor Alan Roberts.
With a good plan and meticulous attention to detail, you can save thousands of dollars by refinishing your hardwood floors instead of calling in a professional flooring contractor. DIY hardwood floor sanding and finishing is definitely something you can do, but you’re going to need the proper tools.
So, which are the best sanders for hardwood floors? Keep reading to learn about our favorite all-budget hardwood floor sanders in 2022, as well as some professional tips to help you achieve awesome results!
1. Best Overall Hardwood Floor Sander: Powr-Flite ORB1420 Orbital Floor Machine
The first time that I operated a Powr-Flite ORB1420 Orbital Floor Machine, I was blown away by its smooth, powerful, easy-to-control operation. While I was using this machine specifically for sanding hardwood floors, it’s also very capable of washing and polishing them, just change the pad.
Although it stretches some DIY budgets, it’s an affordable machine that won’t break the bank, especially relative to hiring a professional flooring refinisher.
Basic features include:
- Conveniently placed start-stop levers
- 1.5 horsepower (10.4 amps)
- 20-inch x 14-inch pad plate
- Comfort grip handles
- 50-ft power cord
- 111 pounds
If you have a hardwood floor that has been stained with paint or adhesive, the ORB1420 from Powr-Flite is a sure solution. You will not need to use any strippers, paint removers, or other harsh chemicals. This orbital unit will easily remove impurities and sand away damage to your hardwood surfaces.
Pros of the Powr-Flite ORB1420
- Allows stand-up operation, preventing the pains that come with sanding on your knees
- Powerful motor that can manage large jobs or multiple smaller jobs
- Intuitive, smooth, quiet operation
- 3500 RPM head speed
- Rather pricey option for DIYers
- No dust trap
According to engineers at Powr-Flite, “The Powr² orbital floor machine takes floor care in a whole new direction. Unlike traditional “side-swing” machines, the straightforward motion of an orbital floor machine is easier on the operator and requires little training.”
From a contractor’s viewpoint, it’s important that this floor refinisher is intuitive and doesn’t require extensive training for operators. Believe me, finishing hardwood flooring is a job that requires finesse. A sander that jerks and fights you when you’re using it can cause gouging and other mistakes to happen – which is a definite no-no in the hardwood finishing business.
I found this sander very pleasant to use, and it did an excellent job. However, I’ll stress again the importance of being meticulous and taking your time with every motion. That’s true on any hardwood finishing project, regardless of which sander you’re using.
If there is a downside to this machine, it’s that it is not equipped with a dust trap. However, it is easily compatible with shop vacuums. The fact that it lacks a dust trap is what allows the manufacturer to price it lower than other hardwood floor sanders of comparable quality.
PRO TIP #1: Don’t Be Afraid of Your Sander
For those without a lot of experience, sanders can be a bit frightening. They kick on and start doing their job the second you push that power button. Be prepared for a jerk, but don’t be afraid! Learn to flow with your sander’s natural gravitational pulls, and you’ll achieve better results on every project.
2. Best Hardwood Floor Belt Sander: SKIL 7510-01 Sandcat Belt Sander
The SKIL 7510-01 Sandcat Belt Sander is a terrific and versatile tool for the DIYer or professional. It’s a well-built detail sander that can take a lot of harsh abuse. And costing less than eighty bucks makes it a no-brainer decision that won’t stress a DIY budget – especially because it delivers high-quality results.
The SKIL 7510-01 Sandcat weighs less than 7 pounds. This versatile sander is perfect for use on hardwood floors, drywall, and loads of other surfaces.
Pros of the SKIL 7510-01 Sandcat
- Flush-edge design that allows it to reach clear to the corners of the floor
- Auto-track belt alignment keeps the sanding belt centered
- Easily compatible with standard 1 ¼-inch vacuum hoses
- Micro-filtration system to capture fine dust
- 6.0 amps of smooth energy
- Lock-on power button
The 7510-01 Sandcat has a so-so dust trap. According to one reviewer on the SKIL website, “It tends to clog then the saw dust is all over the floor. Please note this is a must for this sander. I blow it out every time the canister is full.” Other than that, there don’t seem to be any customer complaints about this multipurpose hand sander.
One of my favorite features of this sander is the innovative pressure control technology. If you begin exerting too much pressure, the sander will flash a light to let you know. This is a handy feature for anyone, but especially for beginners who have little or no experience with sanding hardwood floors.
PRO TIP #2: Protect Your Respiratory System
I’ve known far too many veteran construction guys who now live on ventilators. Hell, we used to breathe asbestos like it was candy back in the late 80s before everyone learned of the dangers. The point is to ALWAYS wear proper respiratory protection when using any sander. If you don’t have proper protection, then at least wear a do-rag around your mouth and nose. Air is Life!
3. Best Hardwood Sander for Small Jobs: DeWalt DCW200D1 20V MAX* XR® Cordless 1/4 Sheet Variable Speed Sander Kit
The DeWalt DCW200D1 20V MAX* XR® Cordless 1/4 Sheet Variable Speed Sander Kit comes with a 2.0 Ah battery that provides up to 40 minutes of continuous runtime. Its brushless motor produces variable speed control between 8,000 – 14,000 oscillations per minute (OPM). That’s a solid range as 11,000 OPM is typically enough to accomplish impressive results on most sanding projects.
Pros of the DeWalt DCW200D1
- The dust port is compatible with DWV010 or DWV012 dust collectors
- Easy-install, firm-grip sandpaper clamp
- Low profile height for precise sanding
- Texturized rubber overmold grip
- One-handed locking dust bag
- Long-life dual-sealed switch
According to one reviewer who rated the DeWalt DCW 200D1 4 out of 5 stars, “My wife bought this sander, but cannot change the battery, always brings it to big, strong me to change. Sometimes I have to use a mallet to force the release button all the way down. We have an extra battery and this happens with both. I found that this is a known issue on DeWalt forums, too.”
Just remember that this is a small sander and it’s not intended for refinishing thousands of square footage of hardwood flooring. However, it’s a superb choice for getting inside tight spaces, like closets, for instance. Plus, it’s excellent for edge sanding in situations where you used a larger sander on the main floor surface, but your larger sander was not able to get far enough into the corners.
While I have never personally used one of these DeWalt sanders, I have used various other DeWalt products over the past few decades. While there are higher quality products available, I have always been quite pleased with DeWalt’s performance, value, and especially important to me, ruggedness. I am very hard on my tools, and DeWalt sanders, saws, drills, nail guns, and other tools always stood up well.
PRO TIP #3: Treat Your Tools with Love and Respect!
I am known widely for my tool-abusing ways. It’s true. Unless a tool is durable and made to battle, I’m most likely going to break it quickly. That’s how I learned that paying a little extra for quality really matters – and so does treating your tools well. So, keep them clean, out of the weather, and use them as lightly as you can to ensure their longest and happiest lives (and save your money!).
4. Best Beginner-Friendly Hardwood Flooring Sander: The Bosch ROS20VSC Palm Sander
The Bosch ROS20VSC Palm Sander is a handheld orbital power tool that delivers affordability and features that are perfect for people who have little or no previous sanding experience. This sander is a great pick if it’s the first one you have ever bought, or if you just have a small project to accomplish.
It features a good blend of quality construction and flexible functionality. It comes with a vibration muffler, dampening pad, and soft-grip handle that make it especially suitable for beginning sanders. The dampening pad helps to prevent gouges and swirl marks from occurring, so beginner sanders are not as likely to leave scratches or other unsightly spots in the wood.
Pros of the Bosch ROS20VSC
- It allows you to get right up against the wall to sand your edges
- Compatible with industry-standard loop and hook sandpaper
- Comfortable even during long periods of operation
- Long, double-insulated power cord
- Well suited for small detail work
According to online sources, the main drawback of this Bosch sander is that the lower variable speed settings are not effective for many applications. That means that you’ll likely find that you’re using only the maximum speed setting on all projects.
Other than that, this is an excellent, affordable sander that’s particularly useful for people with little or no experience. While you wouldn’t necessarily want to take on a large hardwood floor sanding project with this small unit, it’s a solid choice for long periods of comfortable operation.
PRO TIP #4: Knowing Your Sander
Every sander is unique and has its own character during operation – from the most powerful and expensive stand-up refinishing machines to the cheapest palm sanders. When you start using your sander, pay attention to how it feels when you switch the power on. Feel how it tends to lead your hand or arms during usage. Get to know your sander’s nuances, and then use them to your advantage.
5. Best Corded Electric Sander for Hardwood Flooring: Makita 9403 4″ x 24″ Belt Sander
The innovative Makita 9403 4″ x 24″ Belt Sander is a corded electric unit that measures 9 x 16.1 x 9.76 inches. It puts out 11 amps of power with a low-noise capacity of 84dB. Trust me, a low-decibel noise rating matters more than you might think on a sander. You learn that within the first long day spent sanding hardwood flooring, especially if it’s in really bad shape when you start!
Pros of the Makita 9403
- It’s a Makita, meaning it’s a world-class power tool with an excellent reputation
- Its 4-inch sanding belt rotates at 1640 fps, meaning it removes material quickly
- “Labyrinth” construction keeps dust from entering the motor
- Nose-side flush-to-wall sanding
- Large, comfortable front grip
I don’t have anything negative to report about this Makita belt sander. I have used Makita tools, including sanders, saws, drills, nail guns, compressors, and more, for decades, and I have never had a problem with any of them! And don’t just take my word for it. In more than 2200 reviews on Amazon, this quiet, comfortable, easy-to-use belt sander achieved a 4.8 out of 5 stars.
According to Makita, “The replaceable ceramic wear plate keeps maintenance time to a minimum and the low profile provides solid balance and less gouging. With a highly efficient dust collector, the grit stays contained. The 9403 is ideal for woodworkers, carpenters, furniture makers, floor installers, deck builders and general contractors who require a best-in-class belt sander.”
PRO TIP #5: Experience Matters
Everybody likes to save money, but sanding hardwood flooring is not something you should necessarily pinch pennies on. Hiring a professional hardwood flooring contractor can be expensive, sometimes costing more than $4 per square foot. Comparatively, it typically costs about $1 per square foot to refinish your own flooring. So, before you jump into a project that you may not be able to handle, consider how much you’ll actually be saving if you have to call in a professional later to fix your mistakes.
Thanks for Reading!
Sanding and refinishing hardwood flooring can be an unforgiving task to undertake. When you make a mistake in hardwood flooring, it will show. However, if you are careful, take your time, have a good plan, and have the proper tools that you need to achieve a good result, it’s likely that you will.
Thank you for reading, and I hope that you have learned some solid information here that can help you to achieve better results on your hardwood floor sanding projects!