Flooring Terminology | What To Expect During Sanding & Coating

Struggling to tell the difference between a belt sander and a drum sander? Not sure whether to ask for hard plating or just a final finish? When it comes to having your timber floors restored, it’s important to know the lingo. This short guide to flooring terminology covers the most common phrases you’ll come across in the sanding and coating process.

Floor terminology guide – timber floor sanding process

All repairs to timber floors vary according to the age and condition of the floor, the type of hardwood and the coating used to finish the floor. However, the goal of all sanding and coating processes is the same: to create a fresh, smooth surface suitable for applying your chosen finish. Generally speaking, sanding involves the following processes:

  • • Level or basic sand – where coarser grade sandpaper is used to remove unevenness between board edges (also known as ‘cutting’ the boards) and remove any shape deformation, such as cupping, peaking and crowning in the boards. Generally, three ‘passes’ are required to undertake a level or basic sand. A pass is the flooring terminology used to describe a complete sand of the floor surface with a certain sandpaper grit.
  • • Edging – where hard to access areas of the floor (like corners and doorways) are sanded with a small sanding machine. If the area is particularly hard to access or very small your contractor may use a hand sander or hand scraper in conjunction with machine sanding.
  • • Finish sanding – which is the next step after a level sand. The purpose of finish sanding is to smooth off any coarse sanding marks created at the level sanding stage. It typically involves using a finer grade of sandpaper to reduce the depth of scratch marks.
  • • Hard plating – an optional stage after the finish sand, which is guaranteed to give the smoothest finish. Hard plating involves using a rotary machine with sandpaper on an inflexible base plate to eliminate minor sanding imperfections.
  • • Buffing – this is the final stage before the floor can be coated and involves the floor being ‘buffed’ with sandpaper attached to a flexible pad on the rotary machine to produce an even scratch pattern across the whole floor.

Wood flooring terminology guide – timber floor sanding equipment

Common timber floor sanding equipment includes:

  • • Drum sander. This is the traditional sander and consists of a drum (cylindrical wheel) with sandpaper fixed to the outer surface of the cylinder. It is used over the main body of the floor to first flatten the floor, and then undertake finish sanding. The operator brings the drum into contact with the floor when moving the sander forwards or backwards. Common drum sander brands include Hummel, Clark and Galaxy.
  • • Belt sander. Used throughout the main body of the floor, the belt sander has a small cylinder above its drum which enables a sanding belt to be used.
  • • Edger. A smaller, hand-guided machine that’s used around the perimeter of the floor to sand up close against the walls. The edger has a rotating disc and is easy to manoeuvre.
  • • Rotary machine. These machines have a rotating circular base plate and are used for hard plating and the final sanding. Common brands include Polyvac and Canterbury. Rotary machines are also used for “cutting back” between coats (when used with a more flexible base plate), where the coating is mildly abraded to remove roughness and provide a mechanical key for the next coat.
  • • Trio. A multi-head sanding machine, with three smaller rotating discs, produced by Lagler that’s used for hard plating.
  • • Random orbital sander. A small hand-held machine used to blend edges and hard to access areas (e.g. cupboards) smoothly into the main body of the floor.

Sanding timber floors? Call our expert team today

For more information on how to restore your hardwood floors to their former glory, contact the expert team at Brisbane’s Finest Floors on 0411 220 488 today.


  • Australian Timber Flooring Association Sanding Terminology, Australian Timber Flooring Association blog, accessed 16 June 2024

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