In a rush? Don’t have time to read the entire article? If so, we have selected the Makita 4″ X 24″ Belt Sander as our weapon of choice for deck refinishing.
A very popular home project amongst modern DIY’ers is refinishing that old deck in the backyard that hasn’t been touched for years. Decks are normally built with highly durable treated woods. They add natural beauty to your home, but only as long as you diligently sand it and reapply a protective finish.
Choosing the right sander is critical when it comes to working with such a large volume of wood. The question is, what are the best sanders for deck refinishing? Let’s take a closer look at some of the intricacies of deck refinishing as well as the type of sanders you may want to use for this project.
At the end of this article, we will review these products:
- Makita 9403 4″ X 24″ Belt Sander
- TACKLIFE PSFS1A Belt Sander
- Makita BO5041K 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander Kit
- DEWALT Random Orbit Sander, 5-Inch (DWE6423K)
- Makita Sheet Finishing Sander, 1/2 In, 2.9 A
Keeping Your Wooden Deck Looking Good
No matter how experienced you are with woodworking, it is easy to imagine that exterior wood needs to be cleaned up from time to time in order to keep the appearance and integrity at its best.
Sanding is a critical part of that upkeep. I recall helping my grandfather as a kid when he would annually refinish his wood deck in the back yard. He did this before he reapplied a protective coating or when he needed to clean up an area that had become split or damaged.
Sanding after power washing
You might want to consider sanding deck wood after cleaning the wood with a power washer. This is often done each year to help remove dirt build-up and small areas of staining that have accumulated since the last power cleaning.
The water from the power washer will push into the wood and cause the wood grain to raise. You can use a sander to knock down that raised grain and return the surface of your deck to a smooth texture.
Sanding before refinishing
Depending upon the coatings used and the wear it receives, you will want to completely refinish your deck every few years. When the time comes, you will need to clean your deck completely and allow it to dry. From there, you can sand off the remaining topcoat and smooth the wood grain before putting on a new protective layer.
Staying Safe As You Work
You should be able to use the same safety precautions when working on your outdoor deck as you would for any of the smaller wood projects you do in your shop. It is important to remember that these precautions are just as important in the outdoors as inside for a few reasons.
First off, the dust generated as you work will be a large volume and will still irritate your eyes and lungs. Remember that most wood used on outdoor decks are chemically treated to stand up to the elements and they may have various coatings that you have applied to them previously. That makes eye protection and a dust mask or respirator mandatory.
You should also use hearing protection as you will be operating your sander for long periods of time. High powered sanders, such as belt sanders, can generate a lot of noise. Wear a pair of earmuffs or earplugs to protect your hearing and avoid developing tinnitus.
Heavy gloves will help absorb some vibration and keep your hands protected as you work on the deck. Finally, a good pair of knee pads will keep your knees from hurting as you work across the deck from one end to the other.
What Sander Should You Use For Deck?
Most woods used for building decks are softer woods that can be gouged or hold sanding patterns. This tends to favor orbital or oscillating deck sanding machines for most of us, as these tend to leave fewer marks on the surface and are easy to control.
The problem with using random orbit sanders is that they can take a long time to cover an entire deck. Many woodworkers, therefore, prefer to use a belt type of sander when working on large projects like outdoor decks.
Belt sanders offer more sandpaper contact that takes more material off and helps to keep an even surface. They are fairly easy to learn to use, so don’t feel intimidated if it will be your first time using one.
Read on to learn more about the specific sander models that we believe to be the best choice for a deck refinishing project.
What Sandpaper Should You Use?
There are a variety of sandpapers available to use, but some are better suited to the task of sanding wood. The number of products available is beyond our discussion here, so I suggest making it as simple as possible.
Look for sandpaper that is designed to work on wood. Manufacturers will list this on the package. These will often use natural abrasives to remove material.
There are also a large number of grits available to use. You will want to start with a pass of 80 grit paper. This will remove material quickly and allow you to clean up rough spots, making an even surface.
You can then make a second pass using 150 grit sandpaper. That will knock down rough sections and give your deck a smooth surface to work with. Using 150 grit also keeps the wood pores open to accept a wider variety of protective coatings that may vary greatly in their viscosity.
You will want the deck to stay dry throughout the process. These types of projects are best tackled during stretches of dry weather. If you get surprised by a storm or rainy day, just make sure that you allow the deck to dry completely before you continue with your work!
Five Best Sanders For Deck Refinishing
And now let’s take a look at five different models of sanders that I believe will work best for wood deck refinishing.
Makita 9403 – Best Belt Sander For Deck
This powerful belt sander runs at 1,640 feet per minute, offering a lot of abrasive contact between wood and sandpaper. A four-inch-wide belt path will cover a decent amount of wood on each pass while allowing you to reach into areas that wider sanders will struggle with.
- The position and shape of the front handle of this sander makes it easy to control while offering you a comfortable grip that should reduce hand fatigue
- Makita products are known for their solid construction, and this belt sander uses durable components that will provide your power tool with longevity
- This may be one of quietest belt sanders for its size, generating only 84 decibels of sound
- The dust bag collection on this model will not be as valuable in an outdoor setting, and the smaller size will require you to empty it often should you decide to use it on your deck
- Makita products are known to cost a bit more than similar products from different brands, and this belt sander is no exception to that general rule
TACKLIFE 3 x 18-inch Belt Sander
This budget-friendly product gives woodworkers an economical option for working on their decks. Due to the size and weight, it can be moved around easily, allowing you to reach into areas that might be a struggle for heavier equipment. It has a narrow profile as well.
The dust box comes with two adaptors, making it easier to attach to a collection system.
- The stand out feature on this belt sander is the low price point it can be purchased for, making it a good selection for those on a tight budget
- A three-inch-wide belt helps to reduce the size and overall weight of this model, making it easier to operate over long periods of time without fatigue
- It can be easily clamped to your work table, converting it into a bench sander if needed
- The low price point for this model comes at the expense of component quality, making this a less desirable unit for heavy use
- A lower rate or power output can result in this sander bogging down if you apply too much downward pressure while operating
Makita BO5041K – Best Orbit Sander For Deck
For many woodworkers, including novices, an orbital sander is easier to control than the larger belt models. An added handle provides you with maximum control with each pass across the wood. An orbital play of 1/8th inch gives the pad plenty of movement and will help to reduce possible marking on the wood as it is sanded.
- The random orbit pattern generated by this product will help knock down standing grain while limiting any noticeable sanding patterns in the wood
- It provides adjustments that allow you to operate between 4,000 and 12,000 OPMs, giving you more control of your sanding
- An ergonomic handle is added to the palm rest on this model, allowing you to use both hands on this sander when working on your deck
- The 3.0 amp electric motor on this model will generate plenty of power, but it can get hot during long-running sessions when sanding down deck boards
- You will find that you might need to make more passes with the orbital sander than you would if you had used a belt sander
DEWALT Random Orbit Sander, 5-Inch
The motor on this hand sander rotates between 8,000 and 12,000 OPMs, offering plenty of agitation against your deck wood. A 3.0 mp motor should allow you to keep that pace, even when you apply moderate pressure against the sander.
A dust seal has been placed over the switch, preventing debris from affecting the controls on the sander and extending its lifespan. Almost all features found on this model can be used with one hand, a feature that lets you make adjustments on the fly.
- A shorter handle profile keeps you closer to the sanding, offering greater control while reducing vibration through the handle
- A rubber coating on the handle as well as the sander shape offer excellent comfort and keep user fatigue at a minimum
- DeWalt is known for great customer service and strong service warranties
- The dust bag is extremely small on this unit and is practically useless when working on your deck outdoors
- You will find yourself paying more for this orbital hand sander than you will for some belt sanders on the market
Makita Sheet Finishing Sander
This model from Makita may be ideal if you are looking to cover more wood as you sand without taking off too much at once. It is designed to use sheets on sandpaper that are locked at two ends, a feature that offers quick loading while giving play to the surface as the sander operates. The main controls are placed in easily accessible areas on the main handle.
- This model from Makita allows you to use sanding sheets with a longer length, which will feel like a compromise between orbital and belts sanding systems
- The clips used to hold the sandpaper in place offer a strong purchase on the edge of your paper, allowing you to load and use it without excessive tearing
- Its main handle and auxiliary hand rest are positioned opposite each other, giving you even weight distribution when using both hands at the same time
- This sander will go through sheets of sandpaper quickly and will slow you down with frequent change-outs
- You will pay a considerable amount more for a longer sanding base on this item
Of the products listed, I believe that the Makita 4″ X 24″ Belt Sander is the best sander for deck projects, including refinishing. The belt sanding design will allow you to finish the project more quickly than an orbital type sander will. This gives it a leg up on the orbital and sheet sanders reviewed above.
Makita’s motor generates plenty of speed, moving the belt at 1,640 feet per minute. That power also allows you to apply pressure on the sander without it bogging down, unlike the other belt sander on the list.
The unit itself is easy to use and you can learn to operate it quickly. That makes this product ideal for novice and intermediate woodworkers looking to improve their wood decks.