Hardwood Flooring
Hardwood Flooring

Addressing dust

Hardwood floor refinishing was a process once associated with lots of dust, noise, and smelly finish. Years ago it was expected to walk into your home and spends weeks cleaning the 1/8” layer of fine dust from your belongings.

Fortunately, technology has changed considerably in the last ten years and that does not have to be the norm. Especially if you live in Sacramento and hire Auburn Refinishing to refinish your wood floors 😉 There are a multitude of systems on the market that capture dust before it becomes airborne and they have varying degrees of success. We’ve invested thousands of dollars and lots of hours researching dustless wood floor refinishing. Ultimately we have determined two key factors in the process that determine how clean your house will be:

1. Sanding equipment – There are three or four pieces of equipment used to refinish wood floors. A belt machine, edger, finishing sander, and orbital sander.

hardwood floor refinishing Belt machines are great at capturing dust. We use a floor sander called a Hummel, by Lagler. The Hummel has been designed with several features to aid in dust collection and is validated by a German university to emit no more than 1 milligram of dust per cubic meter of airspace per hour. Smoking a cigarette creates more particulate emissions as you can see below.

image8aOur edgers are the Clarke SE7 Pro plus and Lagler Flip. The flip is actually certified dustless in Germany. The SE7 is belt driven and also very clean. Because it’s not a German machine, it does not have the same certification. We connect a dual HEPA filter Festool vacuum to the SE7 to capture dust. This system is very effective.

image9aFinish sanders are a big part of dust emission if a contractor is not attentive to the system used in final steps. We use the Lagler Trio, which is a 220V powered rotary drive finishing machine which is also certified dustless in Germany. We have written more about this sander elsewhere. The alternative to this machine is a floor buffer, which has marginal dust capture at best. Buffers have their origin in janitorial floor waxing, so they were never really designed to sand wood floors with dust collection in mind.

image10aOrbital sanders such as our Festool Rotex 125 connect to our Festool dual HEPA vacuum and emits virtually no dust during operation as well. Walk through the aisles at Home Depot and you will see that most orbital sanders have a small bag connected to them and if you’ve ever used one, you know that they are dusty and slow.

2. Attention to detail-Seems simple enough, but during our process we vacuum the jobsite between steps for two reasons: better floor sanding quality and ensuring that none of the statically charged dust on the floor becomes airborne. Although the machines collect dust, there is a minute amount of dust that gets statically charged and sticks in the fibers of the wood because of the abrasion from sanders. Removing this dust between steps ensures that it will not become airborne in subsequent steps.

Sanding Essentials

 Now that you understand how we address the dust from sanding wood floors, pay close attention to the remainder of this page. I will elucidate the fine details that separate an average wood floor sanding from a premium long lasting refinishing project.

image1aGrit sequence is essential– Grit is basically the roughness of sandpaper. A primary rule in industry guidelines is that no more than one grit can be skipped when progressively sanding wood floors. If you skip sandpaper grits, then the finer grit sandpaper used in subsequent steps lacks the abrasion power to remove the peaks and valleys remaining from coarse sanding. The valleys or troughs that remain act as a tiny reservoir for finish and leave a distinct contour to the grain of the floor. More often than not, the floor experiences premature finish wear. We jokingly call this the 36-80 special it is so common.

image2aPolishing creates longevity– All of the peaks and valleys I just mentioned can be removed, but it requires a methodical treatment of the floor from rotary sanding techniques. As you close the grain of wood, you essentially force more floor finish to “sit” on top of the floor, offering greater protection. In broad grain wood species such as oak, improper sanding also can create dishout of the soft grain. It is both aesthetically unpleasing and the grain contour amplifies the effects of foot traffic.

image3aQuality comes from attitude and knowledge– Knowing what to do only matters if you love to what you’re doing. It can be tricky for you to determine everything, but positive energy and willingness to be thorough in answering your questions is essential when interviewing wood floor contractors around Sacramento. Formal training is a real essential to ensure no problems will surface during or after your project.

Quality Essentials

Here are just a few standards for should not occur from a well-done wood floor refinishing project.

image4aDishout-The grain of oak flooring has hard grain and softer grain mixed within boards and these sections vary in hardness. During floor sanding dishout occurs from improper sanding procedure. The look is aesthetically unpleasant and also contributes to premature wear of floor finish because of the overly contoured surface. image6aChatter-is common in many floors to some degree if you look carefully. Many factors contribute to chatter in wood floors. This relic of improper sanding can be removed, but requires methodical final finish sanding to remove. Because floor finish magnifies imperfections, chatter can surface after final coat application. I have witnessed contractors attempt to apply additional finish coats to alleviate chatter, but this problem requires a complete resanding, which removes additional life from your floor. image5aDebris– A trace amount of debris in a final coat is inevitable given the way that site finished wood floors are completed. However, your final coat should not be inundated with debris. Typically, the problem can be resolved with buffing the debris and applying a new finish coat with careful attention to detail in the cleaning process.

In my experience, these three deficiencies comprise most floor problems. It is not my intent to scare you, but simply to let you know that you deserve a quality wood floor for your investment and some quality points to consider. We have a number of blog posts related to this topic if you want to continue reading about quality and wood floor refinishing.


Located on your left hand side, we have a button that looks like a droplet of water. This will guide you to all of our resources regarding varying finishes for wood floors.

Many contractors tend to develop a favorite finish and spend their time during estimates disparaging any finish that is not in their wheelhouse. We provide information objectively and leave the choice to you. 

The tendency for bias in some contractors coupled with a strong amount of “greenwashed” advertising from some floor finish companies makes weeding through misinformation difficult. All of the information present on this website is written from a very objective perspective and absolutely no marketing spin. We promise.