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 Post subject: My thoughts on the U-sand sander
PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2006 3:01 pm 
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Joined: Sat Sep 02, 2006 9:22 pm
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I just rented one of these to do about 300 sq feet of white birch plank flooring. I've never used a floor sander before, and I've seen a ton of my friend and family screw up their floors with drum sanders. Part of it was inexperience, and part of it is the poor quality of the equipment that some of these places rent.

In any case, I ended up renting the U-sand (http://www.u-sand.com) from Home Despot for $42 a day. They only had up to 120 grit paper in the store (made by Norton). I read that birch should be sanded to 180, so I had to order paper, and I also had to order the buffing pads for in between coats. The company that makes the sander also makes the paper for it, so I ordered their brand. I got 40, 80, 120, and 180 grits, and buffing pads. Their paper sucks. Bigtime. It clogs easily, and takes forever to cut. I went back to Home Despot and picked up some of the Norton paper. It cut about 5 times faster and didn't clog up. Buy the Norton paper if you can. I only used the Norton paper for leveling, 36-grit. I used the crappy Cherryhill paper for the rest.

300 sq feet took about 12 hours of straight sanding. This thing is SLOW. But, it really does a nice job, and the fact that it is so slow basically guarantees that you won't screw up your floor. I found myself having to ride around on top of the thing to make it cut fast enough in some spots. You basically have to manhandle this thing around if you want it to do any real work. Every muscle in my body ached the next day.

As far as the look of the floor, it's awesome. Looks perfectly flat when the finish is dry (Satin Traffic). When it was wet and shiny, some of the reflections of windows and the fireplace were slightly distorted, but not much. It turned out better than the floor in the rest of the house, which is the same wood and finish, but was done by a professional.

On a side note, the $80 a gallon for the Bona Traffic... totally worth it. I don't think I'd ever put anything else down. I can't see why anyone would ever do this much work only to put down some crappy finish from Home Depot or anywhere else.

I'll get some pics up soon, the final coat is currently drying.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 10:42 am 
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Thanks for the review.

How close can you get to the baseboards/edges with it? Did you do a lot of edge sanding after?


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 12:33 pm 
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It gets right up there. I didn't have any baseboards on though, because it's a new floor. I had to hand sand a few square inches in each corner of the room, but that's it.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 29, 2006 12:10 am 
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Signal15,

Great post. I had a similar experience about three months ago using the U-sand. I agree with everything you said, including the need to "ride" the machine a little. I found that momentarily hopping on a corner of the machine allowed the machine to cut better when I was trying to isolate or target a difficult spot that needed more agreesive sanding than other spots.

Regarding the weak U-sand paper, I agree that it was pretty week and did clog up a lot when I used it too. I am not sure if this is the nature of random orbitals (where localized heat derived from friction gums up old finish) or the type of paper U-sand supplies. I assume that U-sand didn't try to optimize the cutting power of the paper, because it is the disposable aspect of their business model that might be their source of profitability, where they may make more money on the paper sales than the machine itself. Just speculation though.

Regarding the edging, I had baseboards but removed the 1/4 round and was happy as to how close the machine got to the baseboard. I would jam the machine up against the baseboard, give it some downward force too, and then drag the machine against the wall as my edging technique (6 inches of movement per second or so). I would do this first, so I was able to work the machine towards the inside of the room after the circumferece of the room had been sanded. Order of sanding may not matter, but that is how I did it. The 1/4 round will sufficiently cover any edging. The only pain I found was corners and door jams where other sandings had to be employed.

I agree that the machine was capable of a flat finished surface. While drums may be better at flattening, wave marks typical of drum or belt sanders were nowhere to be found.

I didn't use a water-based finnish, and settled for the Home Depot stuff they sell (Miniwax satin oil). I had good results, but would purchase and use Traffic to do it over again. I did not use the buffing pads as you did (hand sanded instead), but think that water-based polyurethanes with short dry-times lets this U-sand machine be used in a practical manner for both the sanding and buffing parts of the job. Since I used Oil based poly, I was not going to keep the machine all week and pay rental fees for it to sit while the coats of oil dried overnight.

Thanks again for the post.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2007 10:49 pm 
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Joined: Sun May 27, 2007 10:06 am
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Location: Austin, Texas
Agree with everyone here, and your posts encouraged me to locate the (incredibly) one store in the greater metro area of Austin that had a u-sand for rent, 20 miles from my home in Dripping Springs. As a hobbyist woodworker doing my first floor, I found the U-Sand perfect and totally recommend it. I used it for a new install of 600 s.f. of American Cherry. What I learned:

- The U-Sand sandpaper was bad, and expensive.
- A good alternative were 6" Norton pads at Home Despot, half the price and almost twice as effective. The HDs and Lowes did not have hook and loop at 6", but as a work around I bought adhesive 6" pads and stuck them onto the used U-Sand pads, and that worked fine.
- The U-Sand did not flatten my floor to pro-levels. I think that was a combination of my being a first-timer (and not grasping how flat the floor should/could get) and the machine being so slow. My floor looks great and it's flat enough, but if I were doing it over, I'd use tons of Norton paper and flatten the the floor more, even though it would take an extra 1-2 hours.
- The thing was foolproof. I had no problems using it, no problem getting right up to the edges, and can't imagine how you could mess up your floor with this ... b/c this is a new install without base boards, I only had to use my ROS on the corners, also very few spots to hand sand.
- This is easy to use. Everyone says it's slow, but if you are likely (as I was) to gouge your floor using a belt sander, this machine will save you time and headache.
- If you are organized enough to sand, fill, and start your finishing over 2-3 days, this machine can do everything for you (on a new install) -- level, sand, finish sand, buff between coats (I was not organized and hand sanded) ...
- You will want to "ride" the machine in the first few rounds to get the most out of it, and to work out the swirl marks from the lower grits.

I don't know if pros would ever want to use this, and I bet it would take forever if you had to strip an existing finish, but I can't imagine a better machine for a DIYer doing a new install.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2007 9:20 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jan 20, 2007 8:09 pm
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Location: Cleveland, Ohio
What diyer's need to realize is that the usand is a finishing tool.. like the
TRIO machine.. It's not meant to remove finsih from a floor...12 hours for 300 sq feet... Holy %^%$.... That's insane.. with a drum/belt sander it could have been done in 2 hours max. you'd be better off renting both machines.. gouging the floor with the drum machine.. then smoothing it out with the usand.

_________________
Fast Pasquale
Pasquale Floors
Cleveland, Ohio


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 4:09 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2007 9:59 pm
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Location: New Hampshire
fast pasquale,

I just finished doing my 300 sq. ft. of pine wood floor. This was my first time finishing a floor. I used a drum sander and and edger. For a beginner the edger for me was a challenge. It left marks on the floor that I only noticed after I stained it. Before this all I heard were horror stories about the drum sander. The drum sander is a beautiful thing. The friggin edge sander really takes experience ( and start out with a less coarse grit than the floor) . Both were high quality machine by Clark american. As far as the 12 hours, if your a beginner and can be garenteed a perfect floor I think thats the way to go. If I had to do it over again I would use the u-sander. The guy a HD that rents equipment told me that the u-sander is for removing doing floor finish and all. I made a mistake too. I didnt lift the drum at the end of each pass, I just quickley pulled it back or quickley pushed it forward without stopping. BAD IDEA. The random oscillator didnt take out the slight drum marks. If I was in this business, I would charge big bucks to do this type of work and I hope you guys who do this for a living get it.

Cheers
Joe


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 5:16 pm 
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Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Hey Joe...yeah... floor sanding is an art form. I've been doing it for about 5 years and i love it. What color did you stain the pine? How old were the floors? Pine doesn't like to take stain at all.. esp the darker colors. Not picking up the drum after each pass :shock: will surely leave large gouges in the floor as you know ESPECIALLY on pine which is one of the softer woods out there.. your floors would have looked better if it was a harder wood like oak.
A trick to using the edger and make it less aggressive is to place a maroon pad or a white pad under the piece of sandpaper. Actually i do it on all grits and it practically eliminates all those swirlies... you still have to be smooth with it though. If it was a clark edger you would have wanted to clock the edger so it was sanding at 1 o'clock.. this would also stop it from bouncing and digging in the floor so much.
A trick to getting all the edger marks out would have been to hit the edges with a palm or orbital sander with 60 grit paper. This also would blend in you drum sanding lines with your edger marks. Im assuming you edged with 60 grit then 100 grit??
The quality of those machines aren't as good as you think.. for one many homeowners abuse them. 2ndly they aren't as aggressive as a Pro's machine... we'll plug into a 220 line.. but they still do the job.
BTW.. the "guys at home depot" know nothing about quality floor sanding.
Wish i was around BEFORE you finished the floor...oh well

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Fast Pasquale
Pasquale Floors
Cleveland, Ohio


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 2:31 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2007 9:59 pm
Posts: 18
Location: New Hampshire
I stained the floor with 1/2 natural and 1/2 ipswitch pine from minwax.
It stained well, no problem there except, as you know, watch the drops.
The house is 20 years old. Its a plank floor with 1/8" spacing between planks. The planks were not flat and were kind of bowing along the short axis. It was a real lite (almost white) pine after sanding.
I used 60 grit on the floor, started w/60 grit on edge sander but went
to 80 quick. Then went to 80 on the floor. Then used the square orbital to get the sanding marks out. Wanted to use 100 but HD only had 120 (ugh).
grit for the orbital. Smoothed out the edge with a palm sander.

I put the 1st coat of finish on. Polyurethane (clear satin) from Parks has the constitancy of honey. Goes on well. Used a short nap foam roller so I wouldnt get any fibers in the finish. Getting ready to abrade and apply 2nd coat. I'm a carpet cleaner and have a random oscillator machine.

I made some mistakes but my wife thinks for floor came out great so thats all that counts. I'd like to do another floor. I learned alot and I think it would come out sweet.

Thanks for your tips on sanding especially the pads under the sand paper and the proper grits to use. And next time I'll pick the drum up after each to and fro pass.

Take Care
Joe


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 12:33 pm 
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Based on this thread, I rented the u-sander and was very pleased with how easy it was to use, how close it got to the walls, and how easy the pads were to change. I never felt like I was in danger of digging to china if I stopped paying attention. I can imagine it's way too slow for a pro, but for the DIYer I thought it was great. Too heavy for me to lift into the car, but that's what husbands are for!

The one problem it has is that the four rotating heads have a gap between them (necessary so they don't hit each other), so if you use the machine straight ahead, it leaves a bare path in the middle. Not really a big deal, but annoying to me. The way I got around this was to move it at an angle, so the four circles covered a full swath.


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