Hiretech Sanding tips or all you ever needed to know about floor sanding with a Hiretech HT8 floor sander and a Hiretech HT7 edge sander, but were too afraid to ask.
Basically the Hiretech HT8/HT7 is the commonest bundle of floor and edge sander you’ll generally get at any popular hire store in the UK. There are alternatives and if what I have read on other websites is true, then these alternatives are much better (continuous belt sanders in comparison to the Hiretech drum option), but generally they’re not easily available.
The continuous belt sanders seem to be much more controllable and easier to use but unless one lives in the Home Counties they’re difficult to come across and hire. They’re also expensive to hire and jealously guarded by companies that would rather do the work than allow you to use their rather nice bits of kit.
Still read on, I’m a complete novice at this and have only done one floor, yes one floor but hey it was an experience and although I would advise you read these tips with a hint of salt, I’d also say that there may be a tip or two that are worth taking note of.
If you need some more capable advice then there’s a super page of tips at:
So the Hiretech bundle may not be the best alternative out there but still even on my first attempt I made a pretty good fist of a rather splendid floor. The Hiretech is oft critiscised for being 70’s tech’ but hey if it works then why alter it, the major criticism being that it can score floors if used wrongly. Well this scoring seems to be easily avoidable and if you can get your head around this then there’s a rather wonderful floor finish waiting out there for you if you persevere.
- In order to not leave a big divot in your nice floor then make sure you start up the sander and move it ever so slightly as you start off your sanding run, don’t just drop it as it could score your floor. On finishing a run then lift the sander up just before you finish the length. That’s it, that’s the biggy tip to avoid nasty scoring.
The other tips, please see a doctor before you attempt any of these.
- Do not wash the floor before sanding, just a good stiff brush and go around checking on nails sticking up, knock them in with a nail punch.
- One of the big hazards of sanding is sucking up ones cable into the sander. The advice – on many websites – to sand the length of the room and turn around is nonsense and leads to many close calls as one is always turning the sander into where the cable is hanging. My best tip is to sand from the centre of the room to the wall, lift the sander then walk backward (sander still off the ground) move across a teeny bit and then sand up to the wall again, slowly moving sideways across the room as you do each strip. If the room is big split the room to two edges and the middle bits. This way too as you march backwards the cable draped over your shoulder (not in any circumstances around your neck) you can push the cable behind with your boots being careful not to trip over it. I placed my cable drum in the centre of the room behind me.
- Once you’re off and sanding you will notice that the sander does pull somewhat, it wants to be off and for you to follow. Generally the grittier the paper the faster it’ll want to go and the more torn-up or dirtier the surface, well again too it’ll want to be off at even more of a pace if the surface is bad and has purchase. It’s your job to stop it from running away, you have to grip with both hands and walk steadily along with the sander, I thought the pace of a pallbearer summed it up for me. Walk it slowly into the wall, lift while moving just before the wall and with it still tilted up walk back, move the sander and inch to the left/right, move off and lower the sander to the floor and basically it’ll drag you at whatever pace you dictate. I found going slower removed more stubborn marks more quickly, but I also found it wasn’t a good idea to stop or to drag the sander backwards. The finer the grit of the paper and the better the surface and the less likely it was to drag so much.
- Have an electric screwdriver to hand, fixing the paper to the drum is tricky with a screwdriver, it’s hard with a full-on drill/impact driver but a teeny powered screwdriver makes the job of fixing the paper a 100 times easier.
- Fix the sandpaper wearing gloves, not that it’s scratchy it’s just easier to get purchase on the paper with a pair of gloves on. I find that fitting the paper under the grip bar, tightening the screws, rolling the drum one full circuit (keeping the paper neat to the surface) untightening then sliding the paper under the bar and retightening worked best.
- Brush up the sand, then vacuum between each full sanding session, save the sawdust in the bag from your finest sanding paper for filling purposes later.
- I sanded with 40 grit (2 full goes over the floor – this was after I’d hand sanded it though, so it may take more), then once with an 80 grit, then once with a 120 grit (very meticulous) then I filled and sanded again with a 120 grit, I did a bit of extra filling on what I’d missed with my previous filling and did another 120 grit sand in the areas I’d filled with a belt sander. A finer grit might give even better results, but I never got around to trying it out.
- Wear ear protection, it’s loud, you may think it’s not too bad but do it for ages and you’ll start getting the ring of ear doom in your ears after a spell.
- Wear a respirator, not a facemask, there’s not that much dust but what there is fine and it does get on your lungs.
- Do what I didn’t do and wear goggles, I only finished yesterday and didn’t seem to suffer any ill effects from the dust in my eyes but now I have a sealed up tear duct in my left eye and that’s not good.
- Wear work clothes, I spent a lot of my time on my knees and a pair of cheap trousers from Screwfix with inbuilt kneepads were brilliant. My old strap on knee pads were good but they kept riding up and led to sweaty patches on my knees… and I’m not a sweaty type of guy either.
- Wear builders boots if you have a pair to avoid toe sanding incidences, also big tough boots are good should you step on a nail.
- Use an RCD at all times on any sander you’re employing.
- I made the mistake of wearing trainers when I did a bit of light sanding with a palm sander that didn’t require the protection of a pair of big booties. The trainers unfortunately left marks on the newly sanded floor, not good, it was from the rubber rather than a scratch, something to watch out for.
- Wear gloves, proper workmen gloves, I had a lead catch in a belt sander and the furiousity and speed it was sucked in made me realise just how dangerous sanders could be. The sander would have simply popped my fingers out at the sockets if I’d dropped my guard, there would have been no warning and no-one would be quick enough to avoid the speed that the cable was gobbled up by the sander.
- Carry a hammer and a nail punch to pop in those nails that are still sitting on the surface of the wood. I had this vision that nails would shred sandpaper, this wasn’t true, anyway it wasn’t true in my case, these nails didn’t help, but shred they did not and one could easily spot the shiny silver sliver of a sanded nail head before it became a problem and with a hammer and nail punch to hand they could easily be popped below the surface.
- Switch the sander off when you try to attempt anything else apart from sanding, don’t attempt to pop a nail in while you have your floor sander tipped up and running.
- To switch off, lift the sander by tilting it backwards then turn off the power and make sure the drum stops before resting it down. To turn it on make sure it’s tilted up first or you’ll end up chasing your sander across the floor.
- The HT7 edge sander is a bucking bronco and must not be used by anyone who’s not used to power tools. I found it far too abrasive too and it did have a tendency to leave spin marks in my polished surfaces. I used it sparingly and mainly when I did use it I lifted it up off the surface and tilted it to get to the very edge of my floor. For most of my edging I used a belt sander.
- For edging I preferred a belt sander, a good belt sander is probably just as cumbersome to the uninitiated as the HT7, however once one gets used to the dangers of the belt sander and used to being gentle with them then in my humble opinion one gets better results. The HT7 is also heavy and lifting it for prolonged periods can be very tiring, a belt sander can be rested on the surface without needing it to be lifted. The disadvantage of a belt sander is that it will not get right up to the edge, it will get close but not close enough.
- For detail work I preferred a little mouse sander, these are pretty cheap and are hard to persuade to get really thick gunk off wood but they do get in the crevices. I would not use an HT7 next to anything fragile, for instance I had four chrome radiator pipes sitting in the middle of the floor and I needed something to get up close and personal. I would not have trusted the HT7 to buck out of control and chop one off, I did use it to about an inch of the leg, but the final detail I did with the mouse sander.
- A belt sander can be used to clean up stubborn bits that the floor sander won’t get down to.
- For filling I found that Lecol 7500 was brilliant, simply mix your finest sawdust (the sawdust from your finest sanding paper) with the resin into a runny mixture and spread it liberally over your floor. Do this after your last finest sanding and once dry – about 45 minutes- repeat this sand for a seamless, hole-less, finish. I found that You-Tube had a couple of good videos, however it is hard work and I found a decorator’s jointing knife to be much better at persuading the mix to go into fine holes than the caulking board the professionals were using.
- Bona looks like a good varnish. I might be wrong.
Prepare yourself for a couple of days of very hard work, it isn’t simple, it’s nasty dirty work but the results can be stunning. The chap returning a Hiretech sander when I was returning mine simply said “Worse weekend of my life, I’ll not be getting those two days back”. Am I mad, I quite enjoyed it 🙂