In this post I am going to be discussing the importance of sanding before finishing, whether you’re staining or painting. I am also going to be taking a look at some interesting facts about sanding while answering some of the most common questions about sanding.  

Painting or staining may seem like a straightforward process but achieving the best and longest lasting paint or stain job requires a multitude of steps. 

Sanding is one of these major steps. But what exactly does sanding do? And why should you sand your surface before you begin painting or staining? Let’s go over a few important details about sanding. 

So, what is Sanding Anyway? 

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If you’ve ever worked with wood before, then chances are that you’re familiar with the process of sanding. During sanding, a piece of sandpaper or another sanding tool, is usually rubbed against a surface in order to remove paint, smooth out a surface, or in other instances, make the surface rougher. 

Whether you are planning to apply stain on wood, repair or re-coat an interior wall, or simply paint furniture, sanding is extremely integral to the process. By sanding, you are not just making the surface smoother, but you are also creating an adhesive surface for the primer, paint, or stain to stick to. 

So How and When Exactly Should You Sand?

Yes, sanding is an integral process before you can stain or paint your surface. However, at what point should you perform this task? As mentioned earlier, sanding is just one of the many steps before actually painting or staining. So, where exactly does it come into play? 

In truth, sanding comes at different points in the process depending on which project you are undertaking. In most cases, sanding should come after you’ve cleaned a given surface. Even though sanding before finishing does remove dirt and debris from a surface, water and detergent does a better job of eliminating them. 

So if you are planning on painting your home, you may want to start with washing your walls first. Then once the walls are dry, you can then sand the surface. Cleaning and sanding makes sure that your wall achieves the strong adhesion for your paint.  

If you don’t do any of these things, then you may notice that your paint will start to crack or flake. Paint cracking on ceilings and walls happens for a variety of reasons. However, one of the major problems is poor preparation of a surface prior to painting.

We have already looked at how and why sanding is important before painting, but what about staining?


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Applying stain is a pretty straightforward process that doesn’t require a lot of explanation. However, for those not familiar with wood staining, knowing how to prep the wood is a separate process. 

Some may know that certain types of woods such as pine and maple have difficulty accepting stain. When they do accept stain, the result can be blotchy and messy. 

To avoid this, you need to start out with sanding. Remember, staining highlights scratches and dings in your wood. Therefore, you want to have a smooth surface that has no blemishes. If you have enough material on the wood, sand down to clean wood before you apply any stain. 

Also, make sure to get rid of all sanding dust before you do anything. Invest in a good vacuum cleaner and a tack rag to wipe the surface clean of any remains. If you wish, you can wipe down the surface with a wet/damp cloth. 

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By sanding your wood before staining, you make sure that:

  • You have fixed the imperfections on the wood. Minor flaws such as scratches or old stains can be easily removed and restore the wood to a better condition. 
  • You allow stain to penetrate through the pores of the wood evenly. Sanding creates small invisible scratches on the wood that enhance the adhesiveness of the stain while evening out the wood.
  • You have removed mill gaze from new wood. Mill gaze is a shiny look on wood that’s produced when a blade cuts wood into its finished shape. It’s prevents stain from permeating the wood if it’s not removed. Sanding helps get rid of it quickly. 
  • You have stripped away all the finish on the wood. Some people prefer chemical stripping of paint or stain on a piece of wood. Unfortunately, it’s not always perfect as it can leave traces of the previous stain on the wood. However, with sanding, you can easily get rid of all previous stains or paint on a piece of wood. 

You may be familiar with the words: “The start makes the finish”. If so, then you probably understand why sanding your surface is the start of a beautiful finish, or paint. Therefore, before attempting to paint or stain, make sure that you prepare the surface thoroughly by sanding. 

Some of my favorite stains:

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