Sandpaper is the unsung hero of many D.I.Y. tasks. It comes in handy for a wide range of jobs, helping you achieve a professional-looking (and splinter-free) finish whether you’re painting, woodworking or preparing surfaces to be glued. Here’s what you need to know about this smooth operator.
Safety tip: Always wear the appropriate safety equipment (safety glasses, ear muffs and a mask, for example) and always follow the instructions for the product or equipment. Always sand in a well-ventilated area.
The numbers on the back of the sandpaper refer to the paper’s grit rating. “The grit number is the number of holes per square inch in the sieve that sorts the abrasive material. The smaller the number, the larger or coarser the grain,” says Steven Hutchinson of Flexovit.
For jobs that involve sanding away large volumes of material (such as shaping timber or removing paint), opt for the coarsest grits of 40 and 60. For general sanding jobs, 80-grit is reasonably rough while still giving you plenty of control and not gouging or scratching the surface. By the time you get to 120-grit, you’re moving into ‘fine grit’ territory. For a satiny finish on timber, or a smooth-down after the first coat of paint on a timber workpiece, go with 180-grit. Although the details will vary depending on what you’re using it for, the general rule of thumb is to start with a coarse-grit paper such as 60 or 80, and then progress through 120-grit and finally 180- or 240-grit for a smooth-as-silk result.
It’s important to sand between coats of paint because some of the fibres on the surface of the timber can lift as they absorb the primer or first coat, creating a bristly surface. Giving your workpiece a quick once-over with 180-grit paper eliminates the bristling, while also ‘cutting’ the surface of the paint so that the topcoat can bind to it more effectively.
Tip: When sanding timber pieces, work in the direction of the grain for best results.
Match the type of sandpaper to the particular job you need it for. Painter’s sandpaper is designed so that it does not accumulate paint dust that would clog ‘standard’ sandpaper intended for timber. Wet-and-dry paper won’t fall apart when saturated and is often sold in extremely fine grit ratings of up to 800 and beyond. “Wet-and-dry paper, which has a distinctive black appearance, can be used with a lubricant – usually water,” says Steven. “Typically made with silicon carbide grain, it is used to resurface or restore metal surfaces. The water assists by reducing clogging of the abrasive, helping to achieve a high-gloss finish.”
Pro tip: You can freshen up a clogged piece of sandpaper by giving it a once-over with a wire brush. When it is no longer abrading properly, throw it out and grab a new one.
Sandpaper comes in a wide variety of pre-cut shapes, rolls and sheets.
From the humble sanding block to the high-performance belt sander, there’s a tool for every type of smoothing task.
Follow our guide on how to sand back a deck and get it ready for resealing.
Photo Credit: Ryobi, Natasha Dickins and Getty Images.
Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.
When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.