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Doing some DIY around the house, any suggestions would greatly help. I want to refinish my indoor steps and railing(sand and repaint) When i am trying to sand the steps its very hard to sand it, although i am applying pressure i dont see it sanding (no dust/powder).Basically nothing is happening. Sanding paper i am using is Grit 80.

Any ideas what i am doing wrong or what is missing? Thanks in advance.enter image description here

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    Grit 80? Bud, you need 24 or 36 for the first pass. Then 60, then 80, then 120, and finish with 160 for an excellent finish. – MonkeyZeus Apr 20 at 14:28
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    Thanks man, newbie here, still learning :) – jay roy Apr 20 at 14:38
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    You picked a tough job for a newbie... :-) – JACK Apr 20 at 15:26
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    Don't worry, we're all still learning. The only ones that are not learning are the ones which gave up :-) – MonkeyZeus Apr 20 at 15:31
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    Floors and stairs receive finishes which are meant to take abuse for decades so that's why 80 grit is doing practically nothing. I'm not sure what your expectations are but I see those stairs are quite damaged so the end result could be disheartening. You could save yourself a lot of disgruntlement if you decide to simply paint the stairs with a high quality paint designed for foot traffic. An oil-based or shellac-based primer would do well for adhesion to the existing polyurethane. – MonkeyZeus Apr 20 at 15:36
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A vibrating or oscillating sander isn't going to be aggressive enough for that job. It's really only suitable for light finish sanding. You need something that spins, or at least something with a random orbit (more movement).

80 grit is probably a good choice for working through the varnish on your steps but you need the moves only a different type of sander provides or you'll grow old waiting. Part of the problem is that varnish clogs paper grit quickly--it doesn't let go like clean sawdust does.

You might also consider chemically stripping the varnish to hurry the restoration process. Sanding through it can be a real chore.

All that said, if you have the option of temporarily removing your treads, that's what I'd be doing. You'll have a difficult time getting satisfactory results around the edges with them installed. You'll have visible lines from the existing varnish and stain, and you may have visible surface level variation as well. If you can gently pop them out, pull the nails out the back side, and sand or strip fully in a workshop area, that's the ticket.

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  • Good call, I was responding when your answer came thru. my comment was "you need a better sander"! which is what you said! A quartersheet sander (porter cable or dewalt, etc.) would be much better than the one the OP is using. Also, the old finish could be quite thick and very hard...difficult to sand thru. What would you think about using a mild stripper such as Cistrus Strip. It's messy, but the fumes are safe and no dust (which who knows what would be in that old dust). Then a light sanding should get it ready for finish. – George Anderson Apr 20 at 13:54
  • O shoot! I just re-read your answer and you also suggested the same thing in your 3rd paragraph! Great minds think alike! + – George Anderson Apr 20 at 13:55
  • While I agree 100% with removing the treads and refinishing on the bench, those look like they're cased in, so removal isn't quite as easy as "pop the nails & pull". If there's adequate access to the underside of the staircase, the OP may be able to figure out exactly how the treads were installed and be able to pull them out from there. May not be a 1st DIY level project, though. – FreeMan Apr 20 at 14:17
  • Yeah, the skirt may need to be removed as well. It's not clear whether they could be lifted out from the left. . – isherwood Apr 20 at 14:19
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    You're welcome. I notice that you've asked multiple questions and haven't resolved any. Please take the tour so you know how to follow up. – isherwood Apr 20 at 14:21

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