I need to sand down a small section of our floor and thought I'd buy a small sander instead of renting one for the day.

I've been looking at orbital and belt sanders. In particular the two models I was looking at are as follows:



The belt sander is 940W whereas the orbital sander is 400W. This suggests the belt sander has more heft than the orbital model but I'm not sure what is best to use on our floor. I like the idea of the orbital sander as I expect it will be easier to blend in the new varnish with the old coat but maybe that is nonsense.

Can anyone tell me which is better to use on varnished pine flooring?

  • 1
    Assuming that your floor doesn't have existing valleys from when it was initially finished then go with the orbital sander; it's harder to screw up.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Mar 16, 2020 at 13:03

4 Answers 4


I've got both types of sanders and I use the belt sander when there is a lot of wood to be removed and the orbital sander when the amount of wood to be removed is small. You have a little better control with the orbital sander. With the belt sander, it's easy to put some pretty deep grooves in your work before you know it. I'd go with the orbital sander.

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    This. Unless you have experience working with both already, you're going to rip off way too much material with a belt sander. It's unforgiving. Mar 15, 2020 at 22:20

I always find belt sanders for this type of work to be a tad too aggressive. Especially when you only have a small area to do. An orbital sander will glide over the surface easier and has less risk of leaving grooves particularly if you're not used to doing this type of repair.
Obviously, you want to use as fine a grit as possible - especially on the finish. The hardest part if you are only doing a section of floor is matching up the stain. There are a number of expert hardwood floor finishers on this site who I am sure will give you in depth advice on technique.

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    I have to agree with HoneyDo. It's very easy to mess up with a belt sander rather than an orbital sander. Belt sanders can be quite aggressive esp. on a very soft wood like pine. I prefer 1/4 sheet sanders to orbital, but that's just a personal preference. Mar 15, 2020 at 1:12

I recommend the orbital. It’s easier to control and will perform less aggressively. It also comes in handy later for power sanding over walls you may be prepping to paint or drywall repairs, something I also wouldn’t use a belt sander for.

Regarding technique when sanding with orbital, it’s important to start and stop while the sanding pad is in contact with the surface. Otherwise if you start by holding it up in the air and try to touch down you can end up carving moon shapes into your floor or wall... learned that from experience, also this is the single point I wish to share which prompted me to reply to your question.


I had to do a small section once. Ended up doing the whole floor as time, sunlight and stain made it so difficult to match... I used a large drum sander (about 12”) with several grades of paper. First thing was to run diagonal to the boards / grain - this also helps reduce any curves in each board...

Had to seal all the other rooms as the dust was amazing...

But this gave a matching surface for the stain and protection that then lasted years.

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