5 Absolute BEST Sanders for Deck Refinishing (2023 Reviews)
Looking to refinish your old deck? One tool you don’t want to get started without is a power sander.
Could you imagine how long it would take to sand a deck by hand? No thanks!
That’s why I put together this list of the best sanders for deck refinishing so you can get the job done quickly and efficiently.
If you’re in a hurry, my top choice is the Makita 9403 Belt Sander because it offers a powerful motor and large sanding surface that’ll make your job a breeze.
Quick Answer: Here are My Favorite Sanders for Deck Refinishing 👇
In This Article:
Best Sanders for Deck Refinishing
1. Makita 9403 Belt Sander
- Low noise (84dB) for operator comfort
- 4″ wide belt with a speed of 1,640 ft./min. for fast material removal
- Labyrinth construction seals and protects motor and bearings from dust and debris for longer tool life
The Makita 9403 Belt Sander has a powerful, 11-amp motor that drives a 4” x 24” belt. This puts it on the large side for a belt sander, which is a good thing and a bad thing. On the plus side, an experienced sander can cover a large area in a hurry. On the downside, it’s heavier than many other sanders.
In terms of efficiency, the 9403 is tough to beat. It can chew through even the toughest finishes with no issues. And despite all that power, it’s a surprisingly quiet little machine. So if you need to paint a deck with peeling paint – this bad boy will easily remove the chipped paint from your old wooden deck. This is also one of the best sanders for removing paint.
As a bonus, this belt sander can be used for many other tasks outside of your deck refinishing project. Consider it a two for one.
The one thing that I didn’t really like is that it is a corded sander. So depending on the size of your surface, you’ll have to have an extension cord to sand your entire deck.
I should point out that Makita brand tools are professional-grade, and they come with a rather high price tag. If you’re willing to pay more to get the best tool, the choice is a no brainer. But if this is a one-off project and you’re on a tight budget, you’ll want to choose a different brand.
What I Liked:
- Has an extremely powerful motor
- Large drive belt that makes sanding faster
- Tough and durable so it should last for years
What I Didn’t Like:
- More expensive than others
- A bit heavy – shoulder was getting tired after a long day of sanding
- Corded (so you’ll need an extension cord)
The Makita 9403 Belt Sander is the most powerful choice on my list and it’s also my favorite. It’s not cheap, but it’s big, beefy, and can power through the toughest deck refinishing projects without a hitch. It’s as tough and reliable as they come – and despite this, it runs quiet enough not to disturb the neighbors. This is a corded sander – which is something to keep in mind.
2. DeWalt DWE6423K Random Orbital Sander
- 3.0-amp motor of the orbital sander spins the pad at 8,000 – 12,000 OPM
- Shorter height of the hand sander allows the user to get closer to work piece
- Separate counterweight design reduces vibration for improved comfort of the electric sander
If you prefer to work with a random orbit sander, it’s tough to go wrong with the DeWalt DWE6423K Random Orbital Sander. It’s on the larger side for an orbital, with a 5-inch pad that can cover a reasonable amount of area when sanding your deck.
The rubber grip is soft and ergonomic, and the control switch and speed dial are easy to operate.
This is a great orbital sander, and can produce an exceptionally smooth finish when you need it to. This is of little value on a deck, but it does give the sander some added value. For example, you can sand your wood patio furniture when you’re done with your deck. I really liked the dust capture system, which has a surprisingly large bag for an orbital.
Just like the Mikita, DeWalt is a good brand, so you’re going to pay for the name. Once again, it’s going to last so I think it’s worth the price. But if you’re on a budget, you might consider another option.
What I Liked:
- Large 5-inch sanding surface which is larger than other random orbital sanders
- Great for precision jobs
- Generous dust bag
- Quieter than belt sanders
What I Didn’t Like:
- Slower than a belt sander
- A bit pricey, but worth it
- Corded, something to keep in mind
The DeWalt DWE6423K Random Orbit Sander is a well-engineered little machine. It’s nowhere near as fast as a belt sander, but it’s one of the faster random orbital sanders around. Ultimately, if you want to avoid belt sanding – go with this DeWalt sander.
3. Skil 7510-01 Belt Sander
- Pressure control technology monitors sanding pad pressure applied for optimal finish
- 6.0 A of power sands any type of wood surface
- Micro-filtration – captures and contains fine dust particles
The Skil 7510-01 Belt Sander is a bit more compact than the Makita belt sander which can be convenient for tight spaces. It has a smaller, 3” x 18” belt, with a correspondingly smaller 7-amp motor.
The motor provides more than enough power for the smaller belt, although you still won’t be able to sand as quickly. Since you’re sanding less surface area at a time, it’s going to take some extra time to complete your deck refinishing project.
There are two features that make this sander stand out. The first is the large, easy-to-operate belt release lever. It can be opened and closed very quickly, which makes changing sanding belts a breeze.
The other is the dust collection system. It’s large, with a clear plastic hopper that lets you see clearly that it’s full. Unfortunately, it also pops off easily when you’re sanding, so you have to be careful. TIP: I actually used some tape to keep it in place when sanding.
This is also one of the quietest belt sanders I tested and it’s priced at a great value. I was actually surprised to see how low the price was given the quality of other Skil products.
What I Liked:
- Easy belt replacement that takes less than a minute
- Great value considering the brand
- Large and clear dust collector that makes it easy to see when it’s full
What I Didn’t Like:
- Dust collector tends to pop off
- Small belt which makes sanding take longer
This Skil belt sander is one of the best sanders for deck refinishing because of it’s value, versatility, and quality. While it’s going to be slower than the Makita and DeWalt above, it’s a quality sander for wooden decks that’ll make your job easy.
4. Craftsman CMEW213 Belt Sander
- 7.0 amp 3in. X 21in. Belt sander with an angled belt Design to sand closer to adjoining surfaces
- Max 800 FPM For fast material removal
- Tool-free belt release for quick and easy belt changes
The Craftsman CMEW213 Belt Sander is designed for homeowners who want an affordable, reliable sander. It takes a 3” x 21” belt, which is powered by a 7-amp motor. While it’s not absurdly aggressive, it’s more than tough enough to get through a large deck job.
Then again, there are a couple of features that are worth pointing out. To begin with, there’s a large plastic handle over the top of the housing. This is much easier to hold onto than a smaller forward grip. Meanwhile, the large nylon dust bag holds an impressive amount of sawdust. And if anything goes wrong, you’re protected by Craftsman’s 3-year manufacturer’s warranty.
What I Liked:
- Large wood dust capacity
- More affordable than other options
What I Didn’t Like:
- Has a narrow belt
- Can’t easily tell how full the dust bag is
- Not quite as powerful or efficient as other models
The Craftsman CMEW213 Belt Sander is the best belt sander if you’re on a budget. It’s large enough to complete your wooden deck refinishing project and other woodworking projects and it also has a decent dust collection system.
5. Makita BO4900V Sheet Sander
- Uses commonly available 4-1/2″ x 9-1/8″ hook-and-loop or 4-1/2″ x 11″ half sheet abrasive paper
- Efficient through-the-pad dust collection system for a cleaner work environment
- Minimized vibration and contoured grips for added comfort
The Makita BO4900V Sheet Sander is a large sheet sander that can cover a correspondingly large area. It requires 4-1/2” x 11” half sheet paper, which is the largest standard size for electric sanders. Alternatively, you can use 4-1/2” x 9-1/8” hook and loop pads. They’re a bit smaller, but they’re easier to switch out.
That said, the mechanical retention clips are also easy to operate. They do a superb job of retaining paper, which is important when you’re pressing down and moving the sander around a lot. On the downside, the paper seems to wear down faster than with other sanders.
The housing is well-engineered, with an extra grip on the front for two-handed operation. A 4,000-10,000 RPM speed dial allows you to switch tasks with ease. And a large dust bag with a powerful vacuum keep the mess to a minimum.
This isn’t the best option for deck sanding, but it’s great for other projects.
What I Liked:
- Uses large 11-inch half sheets which make the sanding process faster
- The ergonomic design was comfortable and my hands never felt tired
- Includes an excellent dust collection system that collected almost all of the dust particles created
What I Didn’t Like:
- It went through sandpaper very quickly, so I had to order many sheets
- A little more expensive
Ultimately, this Makita BO4900V Sheet Sander isn’t my favorite choice for deck refinishing. While it did have the power and and a decent sized surface, it went through sheets fast and wasn’t able to sand down the wood nearly as effectively as others.
Types of Deck Sanders
Before you choose a deck sander, it’s important to understand what you’re looking at. Most consumer-grade sanders fall into three categories: belt sanders, random orbital/sheet sanders, and finish sanders. Here’s a quick overview of each.
Belt sanders use a looped belt of sandpaper instead of a flat sheet. This sanding belt fits over a set of rollers, with a drive wheel at the rear and a tension wheel at the front. A tension release loosens the tension for changing belts, or engages to lock the sanding belt in place. These kinds of sanders will also have separate controls to fine-tune the tension and alignment. This ensures that the belt doesn’t go off track while it’s spinning.
Belt sanders are the most aggressive type of consumer sander. The constant movement of the belt makes quick work of raised grain, paint, and stain. They’re the perfect tool for stripping deck wood down so you can refinish it.
That said, belt sanders also have some downsides. For one thing, you have to remain constantly in motion. Stay in one place, even briefly, and you’ll sand a divot into your wood deck. Another thing, you can only sand parallel to the wood grain. Cross-grain sanding will ruin your finish, leaving it with a scarred appearance that nobody wants.
You can order belt sanders in multiple sizes, based on the width and length of the belt. The most popular sizes are 3” x 18”, 3” x 21”, 3” x 24”, 4” x 21”, and 4” x 24”.
When sanding decks and other large surfaces, using a belt sander makes sense. They’re faster than an orbital sander and can help you get the job done quicker.
Random Orbital and Sheet Sanders
Random orbital sanders are the Swiss Army Knife of power sanders. They can do just about anything, from heavy-duty work to finishing.
Don’t get me wrong; a belt sander is far more aggressive, and a finishing sander can get you a smoother finish. But a random orbital sander will be “good enough”. The same is true of sheet sanders.
There are two main differences between random orbital sanders and sheet sanders.
First off, sheet sanders use half or quarter sheets of sandpaper. The papers attach with mechanical clips, which are very secure, but which can also be a pain to lock in. Random orbital sanders, on the other hand, use a 5- or 6-inch circular sandpaper with a hook and loop backing. The backing makes them a breeze to swap out, but the hook and loop connection can weaken as the pad on the sander gets dirty. You’ll need to blow it out occasionally with compressed air to keep it clean.
The other difference is the motion of the sandpaper itself.
On a random orbital sander, the head moves in a random motion. As a result, it can be used cross-grain as well as with the grain, since it won’t leave any scratches. A sheet sander, on the other hand, moves in a predictable orbit. It will leave scratches if you try to sand against the grain.
That said, both random orbital and sheet sanders are suitable for similar types of work. They’re good for large, flat areas like the surface of your entire deck. You can use one for stripping if you’re patient and you don’t want to risk using a belt sander. Alternatively, you can start sanding with a belt sander, then follow up with an orbital sander for the final pass. Either way, an orbital or sheet sander will be essential for refinishing your deck railings.
Finishing & Sheet Sanders
Finishing sanders are ideal when you want to give your wood an ultra-smooth, polished finish.
When a random orbital sander won’t get you the smoothness you desire, these are what you use. They function similarly to sheet sanders, with standard ¼, 1/3, or ½-sheet designs.
Finishing sanders won’t typically be necessary on a deck job however, there are niche cases where they can be useful. For example, maybe you’re restoring the porch on a Victorian house, and you want a glassy-smooth finish on the natural wood handrail before you shellac it. In that scenario, a finishing sander would be the tool for the job.
Which Type of Sander is Best?
Here’s my take. If you’re experienced with belt sanders, use a belt sander. If you’re not experienced with belt sanders, consider practicing with one on a piece of scrap wood. It won’t take long to get the feel for it, and you’ll finish your deck job that much faster. If a belt sander still makes you uncomfortable, go with an orbital or sheet sander.
You can also check out my guide to belt sanders vs orbital sanders for more info!
Features to Look for in a Deck Sander
Besides choosing the right type of sander for your needs, there are also some features you should consider. Here are some of the things I found that separate the best deck sanders from others.
At first, it might seem like the fastest sanders would automatically be the best. The faster your motor runs, the faster you can get your job done! The reality is a little bit more nuanced.
You’ll want to sand at different speeds for different purposes. The most obvious example is your railing, where you’ll typically want to sand at a slower speed. The same goes when you’re trying to smooth out a minor imperfection.
For this reason, it’s best to look for a variable-speed sander. That way, you can adjust your speed on the fly for any application.
Deck sanding creates a ton of dust, especially when using an electric sander.
Therefore, having a sander with a proper dust collection system is required. This isn’t optional, in my opinion.
The most important feature to look for is the size of the collection bag or hopper. The bigger the better, since you’ll have to replace it less often.
Compared to other concerns, noise is a minor consideration. But it’s still something you should think about when you’re choosing your sander.
If you have a large deck, you might be sanding from morning through the evening. Working all day with an obnoxiously loud sander can damage your hearing and do you really want to hear your neighbors complain? I didn’t think so. Try to find a quite sander that’s powerful.
How to Sand a Deck
The first step to sanding your deck is to power wash it. If you have an existing finish, try to remove as much as you can. Use the yellow (medium) tip for your pressure washer if need be, but be careful not to get too aggressive and gauge your wood. Never use the red tip under any circumstances. It will damage your deck.
Even if your deck is brand new, don’t skip the pressure washing step. It will remove any dirt or debris from the surface. The water will also soak into the surface, raising the grain. This makes it far easier to sand smooth.
When you’re done pressure washing, give your deck a full 24 hours to dry out. This means a full day with no rain. It can help to check the weather forecast in advance and plan accordingly. That wait, your project doesn’t get further delayed.
If necessary, you can fill any holes or cracks in your deck with one of these wood fillers for decks. Be sure to let the filler dry before staining.
Next you can sand and stain your deck for a new finish! Be sure to check out these deck stains for pressure treated wood.
Choosing the Right Sandpaper
There are a number of sandpapers to choose from, and I could easily go off into the weeds talking about different types and materials. For deck sanding purposes, any sandpaper will work as long as it’s designed for wood.
Instead of worrying about the brand of sandpaper, look at the grit. A lower grit number indicates a coarser sandpaper, while a higher grit number indicates a finer paper.
If you’re stripping an old finish, start with an ultra-coarse 360-grit paper to remove the finish, then follow up with an 80-grit paper to smooth things out. If you’re starting with fresh wood, you can skip straight to the 80-grit paper.
Either way, you should make a final pass with 150-grit sandpaper. This will eliminate any remaining rough patches and leave you with a smooth surface. This fine, final pass also opens up the wood pores, which allows your paint or stain to adhere better.
For more tips on technique, check out this video!
Deck Sanding Safety
As with any home improvement project, deck sanding comes with its share of safety risks. It’s not as if you’re working on your roof or wiring in a new circuit breaker. But there are still a couple of dangers to consider.
To begin with, your sander will kick up a lot of dust. Even if it has a good quality collection system, you’ll find that the air is full of sawdust. Deck boards are typically pressure treated, so this dust is full of toxic chemicals. The same goes for any finish you sand away. Before you start sanding, gear up with a dust mask and a pair of safety glasses. If you use a respirator and full goggles, so much the better.
Dust isn’t the only thing your sander puts out; it will also create a lot of noise. And while five minutes of sanding won’t hurt you, an entire day of it can do serious damage to your hearing. Pick up a set of earmuffs that are designed for hearing protection. If you want to save a few bucks, you can use foam ear plugs instead. The last thing you want is to develop a case of tinnitus.
Knee pads are a must. You’ll be down on your knees all day, and decks aren’t exactly known for their comfort. A good set of heavy work gloves is also a good idea. They’ll help to prevent bruises and chafing.
How do I sand my deck?
Pressure wash the surface, regardless of its current condition. Wait for it to dry, then sand it down, starting with coarse paper and ending with finer paper. It’s that simple.
What sandpaper should I use for my deck?
It depends on the deck’s condition. For new wood, start with an 80-grit sandpaper, then finish up with 150-grit paper. For wood with an existing finish, follow the same process, but start with a 36-grit paper.
Do I have to sand my deck?
Like any other structure, a deck is subject to weathering. Eventually, the finish will fade or peel. Left untreated, the wood will eventually warp and crack. Regular sanding and refinishing is necessary to prevent this. You can delay your next sanding project as long as possible by investing in a high-quality finish.
Can I remove deck paint with a sander?
Absolutely! A coarse-grit sandpaper can remove just about any finish, including polyurethane or varnish. Be careful about very old decks, though, since the paint might contain lead. If you’re not sure, lead test strips are cheap at most home improvement stores. In the event that your deck has lead paint, you’ll need a particulate respirator to safely sand it.
Final Thoughts on the Best Sanders for Decks
The best sander for deck refinishing is the Makita Belt Sander. It’s powerful, durable, and has a great dust collection system to making sanding your deck surface easy.
If you’re looking for a budget friendly option, go with this Craftsman Belt Sander. It’s a tremendous value given the price and it’ll make the sanding process easy.