Sanding and varnishing a wooden floor

Is your wooden floor in need of a makeover? A fresh coat of vanish works wonders, but before you pick up the brush or roller, you will first have to sand the floor. This is necessary for the new protective varnish layer to adhere well and evenly, and to remove stains, scratches and other damage.

Which floors can you sand?

All wooden floors can be sanded, with the exception of laminate. This consists of compressed wood fibers, finished with a wood print. When this top layer has worn through, there is nothing you can do to restore the floor to its former glory. Parquet floors, laminate parquet floors and softwood floors made of pine or spruce boards each require their own approach to the sanding job.

  • With a softwood floor, it is important to work very evenly because the sander quickly “eats into the wood”.
  • Laminate parquet flooring can be sanded up to three times. The 4-6 mm thick top layer will then be sanded away.
  • In massive parquet floors, you can even completely scour away deep damage. The best device to get the job done is a parquet sander, which you can rent at the hardware store. But you can also make a solid hardwood floor look like new with your own sander.

Which sanders can you use?

In principle, any sander is suitable, although one will work faster and easier than the other.

Eccentric sander

With its large round sanding pad, an eccentric sander is suitable for large surfaces. It is also relatively easy to control, which is important to get an even result. The rotating movement can cause ugly ‘dents’ in the floor if you keep sanding in one place for too long or apply too much pressure.

Eccentric sander

Triangle sander

You run the least chance of damage with a triangle sander. This is due to its relatively small sanding pad and low weight. Another advantage is that you can also reach corners and sand along the plinth. The other side of the coin is that sanding the floor with a triangle sander is a time-consuming job.

Triangle sander

Belt sander

With its large rectangular sanding pad, a belt sander works quickly and efficiently. This does, however, entail a greater risk of damage. It is important to sand along with the wood grain and not to exert extra pressure, because the weight of the machine is sufficient. As with an eccentric sander, you will have to sand the corners and the wood close to the plinth by hand.

Belt sander


Before you start sanding, it is best to completely empty the room, so that you can continue working without having to move furniture in between. Tap loose-fitting floorboards and hit protruding nails at least 3mm in the wood. Close cupboards and doors because sanding causes a lot of dust.

Sanding tips

It will usually be necessary to sand the floor twice. The first time uses sandpaper with a coarse grain (grain 40) to completely remove varnish residues and dirt. Then you sand the floor nice and smooth with finer sandpaper (grain 60 – 100).

Sand along the length of the wood and always keep the sander moving.

Protect yourself against the inhalation of dust, which is released in large quantities when sanding. A sander with a collection bag or connection to a vacuum cleaner is definitely recommended but wear at least a dust mask and safety glasses.

Varnishing the floor

Before you can start varnishing the floor, it must be completely dust-free. Vacuum thoroughly and then wipe with a damp cloth to remove the last dust residues. A sanded floor without a protective varnish layer is vulnerable. Heels can easily cause pits and shoes can leave marks, so it’s best to walk on stocking feet. A wooden floor can be finished with either a transparent or a covering varnish. The best way to apply the varnish is by using a paint roller, in the longitudinal direction of the floor parts. For adequate protection, it is recommended to apply three layers of varnish.

In addition to varnishing, you can also oil the floor. The oil penetrates the wood and protects the floor from the inside against the ingress of dirt. Floor oil is available in many different shades, so you can achieve any desired effect.

And finally, a tip that you can skip because it is only for dummies: start with varnishes or oiling in the furthest corner of the room so that you end up at the door.

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