Buffing vs Sanding Hardwood Floors | Expert Guide

Hardwood timber floors look spectacular, and there are lots of ways to make their stunning features shine. But when it comes to restoration and maintenance, two techniques stand out: buffing and sanding. So which is better? Well, that depends on your floor’s condition!

Buffing and sanding are two very different techniques, and they serve completely different purposes. Still, you can use both techniques together or separately, and you can do them yourself or call in the experts. Before you decide which is best for your floors, let’s take a look at some pros and cons.

Buffing timber floors

Buffing hardwood floors creates the beautiful sheen that makes hardwood such an attractive type of flooring. But when it comes to flooring restoration, it’s not the most effective technique, because it doesn’t touch the timber itself.  Instead, it shines whatever polish, wax, or varnish you’ve used to treat your timber floorboards. Buffing is best for older timber floors that are in decent condition, because those sorts of floors generally have the type of well-cured surface that responds well to buffing. Newer floors can be buffed just after they’ve been treated, as well, but that’s always best just after a new treatment has been applied.

Sanding hardwood floors

Because buffing doesn’t touch the timber itself, it isn’t the best technique for restoring damaged floors. Sanding does the job effectively because it strips the top layer of timber, removing any dry or unhealthy wood, to reveal the healthy timber beneath. This can then be treated with a stain or varnish to return your floors to their former glory.

Can you do both?

Because buffing and sanding are different processes, it’s not really a question of which is better – it’s more a question of which is better for your floors specifically. Often, the best solution will be a combination of both. For example, if you sand your timber flooring back to the grain then apply a lacquer or varnish, you’ll want to buff it to get the best results. That means your floor restoration project will require both sanding and buffing. On the other hand, if you sand your floors back to the grain then stain them, buffing probably won’t be necessary. Stains are absorbed by timber products, which means that they don’t create the right surface for buffing. That’s why outdoor flooring, such as decks and verandas, are rarely buffed.

Sanding engineered timbers

Hardwood flooring can be sanded and buffed, but what about other timber flooring products like engineered timber or bamboo? Generally, they don’t respond all that well to sanding or buffing. They are composites, which means that they are made from fibres bound by adhesives, resins, or other such products. As a result, they are artificially surfaced and they are not adequately permeable to be re-treated with varnishes or stains. On top of that, their artificial surfaces are not always the right constitution for buffing. Luckily, they’re pretty durable, so sanding and buffing would rarely be necessary anyway.

Which one removes scratches better?

Sanding and buffing can both remove scratches from hardwood floors, but you have to choose the right technique for the right scratches. If there’s a shallow scratch on the surface of your timber, then chances are it’s only affecting the outer layer of varnish, wax, or polish. Those sorts of scratches often buff right out, leaving your floor as good as new.  But if it’s a deeper scratch that penetrates the timber itself, you won’t be able to get rid of it without sanding back the surface of the timber itself. If you’re into home improvement, this can be a great DIY project.

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