Since the ’90s, the trend followed by Americans was one of less yard space and more house area. Interestingly, around 2017, things started changing, with a slight increase in the search for bigger outdoor areas. Actually, according to a study, 91% of single-family homes finished in 2017 had a patio, a porch or a deck.

Even though some other artificial options are popping up in recent years, like plastic and aluminum, the most common material used in decks’ construction is wood – one that can last a lifetime, if well-taken care of. To ensure that, there are two S’s you shouldn’t forget – Sanding and Staining. Specialists recommend doing that every two years, but it depends on a variety of variables, like the weather, the type of wood and how often you use it. A good rule is to just go by its aspect – if it looks worn-out, give it the S’s!

Now, we’re here to help you out with the sanding part and, specifically, which type of sander you should use. There are 3 common options for the regular do-it-yourselfer, each with its ups and downs: Belt Sanders, Sheet Sanders and Random Orbital Sanders.

If you already have some experience under your belt, a floor drum sander might be the most efficient one, but it’s not at all suited for amateurs, so we’ll leave this one out.

Belt Sanders

Usually larger than most portable sanders, these machines use a rolling sandpaper pad and are the most used ones for deck’s sanding – if you want to take a look at the best ones on the market, right now, as well as other options for decks, click here. Belt sanders can tackle big surfaces, efficiently, due to their wider belt. Since most decks don’t have that many sharp corners, you can work by lines and sand their surface in no time, effortlessly. Also, placing a large machine in a beginner’s hand is, usually, a bad idea, but these are actually pretty easy to manage and control. Another plus is their long-lasting battery life (depends on the model).

Sheet Sanders

Smaller than belt sanders, sheet sanders will definitely help you take care of stairs and narrow spaces but will leave you sweating if they are your only weapon in the arsenal against a large deck. They use a square-shaped pad, around 4’’ x 4’’ (10cm x 10cm), even though there are some larger models available. They are pretty comfortable to use, avoiding any sore muscles even after long sessions of sanding and they are also the most beginner-friendly ones, as it’s pretty hard to mess up a project with one of these.

Random Orbital Sanders

Random orbital sanders are, usually, larger than sheet sanders and smaller than the belt ones but, on the other side, more practical for railings, edges and hard to reach spaces, as they are designed for control and precision. If your deck doesn’t follow the square-shaped trend, you might want to take a look at these. They also have an interesting particularity – not only do their pads rotate, but they also vibrate, meaning you can get a heavy coating, without grinding in too much into the wood. Lastly, relying on personal experience, they will give the most smooth aspect of all options.

Final Thoughts

You’ve read it all, but the things that are most important to keep are: belt sanders – larger, more effortless, but can gouge softwoods; random and sheet sanders – better for smaller and more intricate decks, as well as a more polished look, but not as good against large surfaces. The latter offers the best-polished aspect of them all. Now, you just have to take a hard look at your deck and weigh the variables, knowing you’ll make the smartest choice, whatever happens. Thanks for reading!