Sanding Vs Buffing Explained

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Sanding Vs Buffing Explained

Sanding Vs Buffing Explained

As a homeowner, you will inevitably require sanding or buffing services at some point. It could be those beautiful wooden floors in need of sanding and repolishing in a few years. Maybe it is a set of metal pipes that need buffing for a proper facelift. Whatever it is, it is important that you understand exactly what you are getting yourself into. 

One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make is confusing sanding for buffing and the other way round. This is a huge problem especially with DIY renovations as the wrong choice of materials and equipment could cost you more than you were ready to lose. 

So what is the difference between sanding and buffing? Let’s take a look. 

What is sanding?


Sanding refers to the process of removal of layers from a surface using sanding paper. It could be a top, varnish coat or even a damaged layer of the wood itself. This is usually done during the initial stages of floor renovation projects before buffing and finishing. 

When do you sand?

Sanding is almost always done for the purpose of restoration of damaged flooring panels. It could be water damage where the panels are still salvageable. It could also be wear and tear with time leaving imperfections on the varnishing layer or the wood itself.

Whatever it is, sanding is required as a way to completely strip away the damaged surfaces leaving a smooth, working template for other steps of the renovation including staining and finishing. 


What can you sand?

Sanding is a very aggressive process and requires materials that can take the hit. It is typically done on real wood both soft and hard. It can also be done on metal as well as wood one on metal as well as wood imitations like laminate.

With metal, soft wood or laminate, the type of grit used during the sanding makes all the difference. If very coarse sanding paper is used, the floors may end up permanently damaged with things like scratch and swirl marks that are hard to get rid of. 

It is also a possibility that you may end up sanding too much which leaves you with thinner and less durable panels. The good thing is that by working with professionals, this is something you do not have to worry about. 

How do you sand?

Sanding occurs in 3 main steps after all the preparation is done. 

The first is the stripping or cutting phase of the project. Here, low grit sanding paper with very jagged ends is used to cut through the top layers either of the varnish or the exposed wood. This is also where the first steps of evening out the floor begin. 

The second step when it comes to floor sanding is the smoothing out. Medium grit sanding paper is used here as a way to get rid of any imperfections like scratch marks left by the coarser grit. During this step, any subtle unevenness can be addressed. 

Finally, the floor is worked on using fine and superfine grit sanding paper. This prepares the floor for the application of finishing products by getting rid of all imperfections. 


What is buffing?


Buffing on the other hand refers to the process of smoothing out a surface. It removes a very thin layer of the top layer using less aggressive abrasive tools than sanding and polishing. When it comes to floor renovations, buffing is only directed at the varnish layer and not the wood itself. 

When do you buff?

For the most part, buffing is not done on relatively new floors with very little, if any, damage. This is because the aim is to give the top layer a clean, glossy finish and not stripping as is the case with floor sanding. 

However, it is important to note that buffing could also be a part of floor sanding projects where it is done after every stage or after varnish application. 

What can you buff?

Given the less aggressive nature of buffing, it can be used on pretty much any type of flooring material. You could use it on wood, ceramic tiles, laminate panels, or even polyvinyl. In all these cases, you will end up with a beautifully-finished surface whatever type of buffing material you go with. 


How do you buff?

Buffing is done as the last step of most floor renovation projects. There are generally two ways to do it. 


  • Spray buff


This process uses a liquid at high pressures to buff the surface. It is ideal for buffing on surfaces covered with dirt or grime as the high pressure liquid simply washes them away revealing the clean, shiny surface below. 



This uses floor buffing pads that could be anything from super fine sanding paper to microfiber, buffing cloths. Here, imperfections whether it is dirt or general dullness due to age are rubbed away directly to reveal the smooth, shiny surface. 

Why you need to work with a professional

There are many similar terms in floor renovation and home improvement in general that will easily get you confused. In order to avoid making any expensive mistakes due to a simple misunderstanding, it is best to just work with a professional in floor sanding. 

These guys understand all the intricacies of the job from the processes to what works for your different surfaces. Working with a professional also pretty much guarantees you good results compared to the hit or miss that is DIY floor sanding. 

So take your time and do some research until you find the best floor sanding business in your area. Here are a few key signs that a business is worth working with. 

  • Lots of experience. 
  • Access to the best equipment for the job. 
  • Wide variety of specialized services. 
  • Competitive rates that are neither too high nor suspiciously low. 
  • High levels of professionalism.
  • Results that speak for themselves whether it is reviews or a portfolio. 

Bottom line

The differences between floor sanding and buffing are pretty straightforward. Sanding is a bit more aggressive and ideal for stripping away imperfections in different layers. Buffing is more delicate and perfect for finishing steps. 

All this, however, should not be your concern. Just find a good floor sanding crew near you and they will take care of everything for you. 

Sanding Vs Buffing Explained

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