When I made the decision to refinish my hardwood floors myself, I spent hours scouring the internet on exactly what I sander and materials I needed to rent and buy to make it happen. Turns out, it’s not that complicated.
To refinish hardwood floors, you’ll need to rent a drum floor sander from your Home Depot, Menards, or local tool rental shop. You’ll need to provide a valid ID and credit card, as well as an estimate of how long you intend to rent the tool.
That’s the basics of how you actually rent the sander, but there’s a lot more you need to know before you drive over to the store, so read on!
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What Sander to Rent
There are two main types of floor sanders: orbital floor sanders and drum floor sanders.
If you’re anything like me, you’re toying with the idea of renting an orbital floor sander. I certainly was. People say they’re easier to use, and aren’t as likely to damage your floor.
Dump that idea now. If you’re truly refinishing your hardwood floors, you need a drum sander, end of story. An orbital sander just straight up won’t take enough wood/finish off for you to finish in any sort of reasonable time frame.
Orbital floor sanders are meant for buffing your floor, or adding a new layer of finish on top of the old, not stripping the wood entirely.
You might be doubting me right now. That’s okay. We’ve never met. But let me tell you how I’m so positive about this.
I did not rent an orbital sander. I rented a drum sander. And it still took ages for me to get all of the finish off. I’m talking 7+ passes with the sander over each part with the lowest grit sandpaper, plus 2-3 passes with the medium grit sandpaper, plus another pass with the high grit sandpaper.
And after all that, it still wasn’t perfect. See the blotchy spots in the photo below:
Maybe you’re thinking this was a fluke, and I got a bad sander or something. No, no. I refinished the entire first floor of my house, and broke it up into three separate projects.
That’s three different sanders, from two different stores. I ran into this problem every single time. Drum sanders manufactured for residential use are just not that powerful. Orbital sanders are even weaker.
I cannot imagine the nightmare I would’ve had on my hands if I’d rented the orbital sander instead. I never would’ve gotten the finish off.
Stores that Rent Floor Sanders
Home Depot is the most reliable nationwide store that rents floor sanders. Not every store has a tool rental section, but most do, and most have sanders available.
I’m pretty sure you can reserve the tool in advance if you know you’ll be doing the project on a very specific day, but I’ve also never had a problem just walking in and renting it.
They don’t seem to be in high demand, although that might be different if you’re thinking of refinishing on a weekend in the Spring.
Menards, a direct competitor to Home Depot located in the Midwest also rents floor sanders in most of their stores. Menards is where I rented my sander from in two of my three projects.
The process was simple and straightforward, and they were always willing to help me lift the sander into my car. This is an important detail; floor sanders weigh upward of 100 pounds, so have a plan for getting it in and out of your car at home.
(Sidenote: I’m a relatively small girl who lives alone. I legit built a ramp to get that thing back into the car.)
Local tool rental shops also typically have floor sanders available. When I refinished my floors, I lived in a small rural town, and our local plumbing store had a tool rental section. I went in and checked, and sure enough, they had a floor sander available.
I rented from the local place for one of my three experiences. They were certainly more willing to sit down and show me how to use the tool, but they also showed me wrong, so take that with a grain of salt.
Price-wise, I don’t remember them being significantly different than Menards, but that obviously will differ from store to store anyway.
The Store That Doesn’t Rent Floor Sanders
Despite their website acting like they have a tool rental section, Lowes only has tool rental available at 3-ish stores that happen to be close to their national headquarters.
So unless you live in North Carolina, move along.
How Much Floor Sanders Cost to Rent
When you go to rent your sander, you’ll probably rent two things; a big drum sander, and a small edger.
The edger does exactly what it sounds like – sands the edges of the floor where your drum sander can’t reach.
I can be cheap sometimes, so I skipped the edger on my first go around, and just used my belt sander. This was difficult, time consuming, and made a huge sawdust mess, so I rented the edger on the next two projects.
Plus, if you have two people working, then one person can use the edger, and the other can use the drum sander.
To give you an idea of what you might pay, I’ve pulled the hourly cost of sanders at Home Depot across the country. I pulled one from Menards, but since they’re only in the Midwest, it doesn’t make a great comparison.
|Drum Sander||Menards||Twin Cities, MN||$34 for first 4 hours, |
|Drum Sander||Home Depot||Twin Cities, MN||$46 for first 4 hours, $66/day|
|Drum Sander||Home Depot||Austin, TX||$46 for first 4 hours, $66/day|
|Drum Sander||Home Depot||New York, NY||$41 for first 4 hours, $58/day|
|Drum Sander||Home Depot||San Jose, CA||$48 for first 4 hours, $68/day|
|Edger||Menards||Twin Cities||$17 for first 4 hours, |
|Edger||Home Depot||Twin Cities||$32 for first 4 hours,|
|Edger||Home Depot||Austin, TX||$32 for first 4 hours,|
|Edger||Home Depot||New York, NY||$32 for first 4 hours,|
|Edger||Home Depot||San Jose, CA||$34 for first 4 hours,|
How Long to Rent The Sander
I did the first floor of my house in three chunks, each one with approximately 300 square feet of space to sand.
Each time, I rented the sanders for a full 24 hours. This was achievable with two people working at a time. I had my dad help me with the second two projects, and with one of us on the edger and the other on the drum sander, we were able to finish in a day.
I don’t want to mislead, though. This was a long day. We probably rented the sander around 7 AM, started sanding at 8 AM, and sanded until around 8 PM each time. We got takeout for dinner, since neither of us really had the energy to cook after all of that.
So, if you’re working nonstop at the speed of an athletic 70 year-old and less-athletic 30 year-old, you can probably bet on finishing 300 square feet a day.
One more thing to note – if you’re renting from Menards, you’re only charged for the hours the store is open. Overnight hours aren’t increasing your cost. Home Depot has rates by the day.
You also really only need to give a rough estimate when you check out the sander. While I’ve always tried to return the sander when I specified, if it’s a bit later or earlier, they’ll just change the billing and move on – it’s not a big deal.
When you go to rent your floor sander, they’ll also prompt you to buy sandpaper. Prepare yourself, the sandpaper will cost more than the floor sander.
You’re going to need at least three grits: a low grit, a medium grit, and a high grit. Menards only had one of each type available, so there wasn’t much choice. The local place I used sent me home with a full kit of sandpaper, and charged me for what I used on my return.
Buy more sandpaper than you think you need. You can always return what you don’t use, but it’s annoying to have to keep driving back to the store if you need to buy more. And you will go through tons of it, so stock up.
And because of that, I have a major tip that I didn’t actually use myself, but I I wish I had.
Scout out the floor sanders in advance. Home Depot and Menards both have them listed on the website, and if you want to confirm it’s the same sander at your local place, go visit the store and look.
Then buy the correct sandpaper online. It’s so much cheaper to buy it in bulk online than at the store as you’re renting the sander. As an example, Home Depot sells this EZ8 36 grit sandpaper for around $9 per belt. You can buy 10 EZ8 36 grit belts here on Amazon for less than $5 a belt.
The Clark EZ8 sander which the sandpaper above matches is the sander provided by many, but not all stores. The sandpaper I’ve linked above will fit some, but not all sanders, so do your research!
You’ll need more low grit paper than high grit paper, as they’ll clog up with finish quickly. By the time you get to the higher grit papers, the finish is gone, and so the sandpaper lasts longer.
Plan for a 36-grit (or lower) belt for every 15 square feet of flooring you need to sand.
Other Floor Sanding Rental Tips
If you have multiple places to choose from when renting your sander, it’s worth going and checking out what type of sander they have available. The sander I rented from Menards and the sander I rented from the local plumbing store were different, and one was much easier to use than the other.
The Menards sander worked using a handle that lowered the drum to the floor:
The other sander didn’t have this handle, and instead the sander worked on a rocking mechanism. To lower the sander to the floor, you rocked it forward/lifted it up a bit.
This didn’t seem like a big deal at first, but after hours of sanding, my arms and back were exhausted. Rocking the sander forward to keep it pressed to the floor took effort that really added up over time.
If you can find a sander that has the handle instead of the rocking mechanism, your life will be better.
Returning the Sander To The Store
When it’s time to return the sander, there are a few things to keep in mind. First off, the sander is heavy, and you will need a friend to help you get it into the car.
Secondly, you need to return the sander in the state it was rented. That means you need to empty the dust collection bag. As someone who forgot to do this one time, and was stuck emptying the bag into a small trash can in the Menards parking lot, I recommend doing this outside at home before you leave for the store.
You’ll also want to remove any sanding belts and throw them away. If they gave you an instruction manual, remember to bring that back with you.
A Last Warning
It would be remiss of me to not warn you. This is an absolutely brutal project, and I promised myself after finishing the last room that I would never sand floors again.
The physical work is exhausting. Mentally, you’re constantly worried about accidently ruining your floors, as everyone on the internet says you will. Then there’s the time crunch of the rental, and the knowledge that you absolutely have to get this done now, else pay another $x to extend the rental.
Plus, after you’ve sanded, it’s not over! You still have to stain/finish the floor, and move everything back in. Sanding is the worst part of the process, though.
All this to say, if can afford to hire a pro, hire a pro. This is coming from someone who did this project three separate times with acceptable results. I actually wrote a whole post on why and when you should hire a pro to refinish your floors.
The main takeaway is that they’ll do a better job for a whole host of reasons, and save you a ton of awful work.
The house I refinished floors in was worth less than $100,000, and I couldn’t justify throwing $5,000 down to refinish the floors, so I DIY’ed it. But if your house is worth more, it’s probably worth paying to get it done well.