Using a powerful belt sander or a drum sander can be pretty risky. Beside the fact that one of these professional floor sanding machines weighs up to 90 kg, it can also create a lot of damage in the hands of untrained people. This is the reason while many people are looking into using much safer orbital sanders. An orbital sander is easier to use, lighter and the risk of damaging the wood floor is pretty low. But does an orbital floor sander work?
Yes and no. Most of the online chat rooms or highly regarded floor sanding blogs are totally against orbital sanders. We agree with some and disagree with others. We believe that an orbital floor sanding machine can provide outstanding results on a flat floor surface. If the floor is in average condition and it only requires a light sanding, an orbital floor sander will do the job just fine.
A floor with heavy duty coatings or full of glue and paint cannot be refinished with an orbital floor sander. The orbital floor sanding machine does not have the necessary weight to put enough pressure on the floor to be able to remove oil paints and glues.
Uneven floors cannot be sanded with orbital floor sanders. Painted floors cannot be sanded with orbital floor sanding systems. Big commercial floors cannot be sanded with orbital sanders.
The orbital sanding system can only be used to sand soft wood floors which are in need of a light refreshing. Most floor sanding companies use orbital floor sanding machines for fine sanding. After finishing with 100 grit belts, they use the orbital floor sander with 120, 150 and 180 grit sandpaper.
Of course, if you really want, you can use the orbital floor sander to refinish any hardwood floor. You will work much harder than needed for much longer than needed. It is like trying to fill up a bath tub with a teaspoon. You will eventually succeed but it won`t be an easy job. You need at least 60 kg worth of pressure on the sandpaper to achieve good results. Most of the orbital floor sanders weight about half that.
Professional orbital floor sanders are fitted with dust extraction systems but the DIY orbital floor sanders from the hire centres are not fitted with such dust collection system. Imagine the worst sand dust storm in Sahara because your home will be worse. The orbital floor sander will spin at 200 rpm and will generate tiny dust particles that will fill your home with dust.