Deck refinishing is an easy DIY project that you can undertake if you are handy in the slighted manner. Unlike in furniture refinishing, deck sanding involves working over flat and extensive surfaces with some or no edges. So, a typical detail or finishing sander is typically not the best type of sander to use. What you need is a suitable belt sander that can cover more area and run for longer periods. However, the market is full of competitive belt sander options, and it can be quite difficult to make the right selection. If you don't care much for the technical details of belt sanders, we have selected and reviewed some of the best belt sander for deck on the market and broken down their respective features.
Comparison Table of Belt Sander for Deck
Top 5 Best Belt Sander for Deck
1. Makita 9403 4" X 24" Belt Sander
The Makita 9403 is one of the most durable and quietest belt sanders you can get on the market today. It comes with a 4-inch and a fixed speed of 1640 FPM. We don't like the non-adjustable speed feature, but it is still suitable for deck sanding. With a powerful 11-Amp motor, it is powerful enough for a variety of woodwork applications. One of the impressive features is the low noise level of the machine. For a belt sander of its caliber, 84dB is really impressive.
Also, the grip design is quite interesting, as large and rightly positioned for comfortable handling. We would have loved to see some cushioning on the grip, but it is not so uncomfortable to hold as it is. For dust collection, it comes with a dust bag that is designed to rotate 360 degrees for more convenient operation. The sander also has a labyrinth construction that seals and protects the motor and bearings from contamination. To assure you of the durability, the manufacturers included a 1 year warranty.
2. WEN HB3216 Benchtop Belt Sander
WEN has a lot of belt sanders on the market, but the HB3216 offers one of the best performances for deck sanding. The 7-Amp motor is not the most powerful on the market, but it should perform well enough when it comes to deck refinishing. Interestingly, it comes with an adjustable speed feature that allows you to choose any speed between 787 - 1312 FPM. Also, the lock-on power switch feature makes continuous sanding possible, without gripping the trigger continuously.
3. TACKLIFE Belt Sander
The Tacklife PSFS1A belt sander comes with a 5-Amp motor that is perfect for deck re-sanding. Admittedly, the power is not the best you can get, but the other features of the sander will make it worthwhile. The sander comes with two metal screw clamps that make it possible for the sander to be turned over and fixed to a table for table sanding. Furthermore, the sander comes with a lock-on button that makes it more convenient to operate.
It features a dust collecting box that detaches easily for disposal. You can also connect the sander to external vacuum machines through the 32mm or the 35mm vacuum dust adapter. The speed of the sander can also be adjusted between 360 - 560RPM. The grip is also a comfortable one, as it comes with a soft rubber covering that reduces hand fatigue and makes for a strong grip. It would interest you to know that the package comes with 13 sanding belts.
4. PORTER-CABLE 352VS Belt Sander
If what you need is a sander that has an adjustable speed setting, this is one of the products you should consider. It has a variable speed setting between 850 - 1300 FPM that can easily be controlled with the variable speed dial; this makes it versatile and suitable for different woodworking projects. The sander is also designed for flush sanding. The 8-Amp motor is perfect for deck sanding projects and other heavy stock removals.
5. SKIL 7510-01 Sandcat Belt Sander
The highlight of the Skil 7510-01 Belt Sander is the pressure control technology that alerts the user when excessive pressure is applied. If you are a beginner or an inexperienced woodworker, we recommend this sander for you. With a 6-Amp motor, it is just powerful enough for deck sanding. However, we do believe that the motor could be more powerful. With an approximate weight of 7.5lb, it falls under the lightweight category, and it is very easy to handle and move around.
Overall Best - Makita 9403 4" X 24" Belt Sander
The Makita 9403 Belt Sander is our overall best pick. Of all the sanders we reviewed, it has the most powerful motor, rated at 11 Amps. This makes it a versatile sander that can be used for a variety of other tasks apart from deck sanding. It is also one of the most durable options, with its labyrinth construction that protects the motor and bearings from contamination. The only downside to this sander is that non-adjustable speed. Furthermore, it is one of the quietest belt sanders you can get, making a mere 84dB of sound, with a powerful motor notwithstanding.
Features and Factors to Consider When Buying a Belt Sander
Indeed, you can't just purchase any belt sander model without stopping for a second to consider some important factors. Some of the critical features and factors to consider when buying a belt sander for deck refinishing are discussed below.
Engine power will determine how efficient a sander will be over different types of surfaces. On harder surfaces, engines with more powers are needed. The engine power is rated in amps, like in most other power tools. The higher the amp the more powerful a sander is. However, you should select engine power relative to the projects for which they will be used.
Size does not really affect how belt sanders function, but it certainly influences mobility and ease of use. The common sizes are 3" x 21", 3" x 21" and 4" x 24". When it comes to deck refinishing, any of these sizes are suitable, but for very large decks, you should go for the largest belt size. On the other hand, the smaller sizes are better for delicate sanding work.
In belt sanders, speed is rated in feet per minute (FPM). The number of passes a machine can do within a fixed amount of time determines the speed rating. High-speed machines are not always the best, especially if you are not experienced in woodworking. What you should look for is a belt sander with an adjustable speed selection. This way, you get to select the speed at which you best operate the machine.
This is the size of a sander's contact surface with the work area. A large area like a deck surface requires a reasonably large contact surface in a sander for fast operation. However, if you require precision in your sanding, a sander with a small contact surface area is best.
Any type of mechanical sander should come with a reliable dust collection system, as a lot of sawdust is produced during the sanding process. Most belt sanders come with dust bags that take care of the collection, while some are designed to be connected to external vacuum cleaners.
Type of Sanding Belts Used in Different Operation
There are four common types of sanding belts, and they come with different characteristics that influence their suitability for different sanding purposes.
Zirconia Alumina Sanding Belt
This is one of the toughest sanding belts you can get, and it has a recognizable blue color. One of the most interesting things about zirconia alumina belts is that they are self-sharpening. Nonetheless, they require high force to sand effectively. They are perfect for sanding hardwood surfaces, metals, and other surfaces that require heavy grinding. You can get them in grit sizes ranging from 24 - 120. They are not the best option for polishing projects, but they are perfect for preparing surfaces for refinishing.
Aluminum Oxide Sanding Belt
This is easily the most common sanding belt. It is the best for general purpose sanding, as one of the most durable and affordable sanding belts. It typically comes in a reddish-brown color and is available in 24 - 400 grit sizes. The versatility of aluminum oxide belts makes them perfect for deck refinishing.
Silicon Carbide Sanding Belt
Due to the sharp yet brittle nature of silicon carbide belts, they are not suitable for high-pressure grinding. Instead, they are perfect for sanding smooth surfaces like ceramic, glass, marble, and the likes. They are also available in 24 - 400 grit sizes.
Garnet Sanding Belt
Changing the Sandpaper on Your Belt Sander
You should replace the sanding belt on your sander as soon as it begins to wear. The belt replacement can be quite tricky if you're doing it for the first time.
Release the Belt Tension Lever
Firstly, locate the tension lever on this side of your sander, and simply pull it back to release the belt. The wheels should slowly move towards each other at the pull of the lever, causing the belt to become loose.
Make sure you are fixing a rightly sized belt and that it faces the direction. The belt should have arrow signs; these arrows should face the same direction as those on your sander.
Install New Belt
Tips for Using a Belt Sander Correctly
A belt sander is relatively easy and safe to operate. The following tips can, however, improve your belt sanding experience.
Do Not Push Down on the Sander
A lot of beginners and amateur woodworkers make the mistake of pushing down on the sander. You should let the self-weight of the sander do most of the work. Some surfaces will require a little push, but you should never put your weight into pushing down on the sander.
Wear Protective Gear
It is very critical that you wear protective gear when sanding. Wear hearing protection as they can be very loud. These sanders come with dust collecting features, but they won't get rid of all the sawdust. Protect your eyes and cover your nose.
Unplug the Sander When Not in Use
Leaving your sander plugged in when it is not in use can be dangerous. You can easily forget to unplug; if you don't do so as soon as you turn off the machine. In particular, ensure that the machine is unplugged when changing the belt.
Keep Belt Clean
It is only normal to experience dirt buildup on the sanding belt after some use. You should clean after each use to prevent rough sanding work when next you grind with it.
Always Examine the Platen for Cracks
Can You Use a Belt Sander for Hardwood Floors?
Yes, you can use a belt sander when refinishing your hardwood floors. A belt sander is one of the reasonable options available if you are planning a DIY sanding operation. It is not the best sander for the job, as there are dedicated floor sanding machines that are made for this purpose. However, belt sanders are not so hard to operate and are faster than other handheld sanders because they cover more surface area.
Frequently Asked Questions
What sander should you use for deck?
There are several types of sanders, and a lot of those are suitable for deck sanding. An orbital sander is one of your best options if your deck is made out of softwood. However, the typical wide area of decks makes some of these compact sanders less suitable. A belt sander, on the other hand, will cover more area and make the sanding operation quicker.