Keeping Your Floor Equipment in Good Condition

Installing an abrasive sanding belt on a floor sander

Your floor equipment withstands heavy use, so regular care and maintenance is essential. After all, a clean, well-maintained piece of equipment can mean the difference between an easy job and a damaged floor. Take care of your tools, and they take care of you.

Dust is always your main enemy, whether you're using an orbital floor sander, a belt floor sander or a drum floor sander to start your sanding sequence. Even for edgers, saws and nailers, dust wears down parts, shortening the life of your machine and causing floor imperfections. It's impossible to keep dust out of your machines, so the only thing to do is clean them regularly. Start by making sure your machine is unplugged.

If you're using a drum sander, remove the roller assembly, and either vacuum the assembly or use an air compressor to blow it out thoroughly. Do the same to the dust chamber, the area behind the drum and the drum pressure screws. Whatever machine you're working on, blow out the motor, and do the same to belts, gears and other exposed moving parts. If there's a cover that's screwed on, you want to unscrew the cover and get the dust out of there as well.

If your equipment has wheels, take a careful look at them from time to time, especially if you feel any bumping. Use a hand scraper to remove any dirt or grime, and check the wheels for flat spots. If a wheel isn't round, it needs a replacement. Make sure that the wheels spin freely and easily. If the wheels are on casters, those should spin freely as well. [1] While WD-40 is a common quick fix for sticky casters, it attracts more dust. Instead, use graphite powder, and replace worn bearings as needed.

You should also check your sander before every job. If your sander is leaving chatter marks, you're wasting time cleaning up after it. Check for holes and grooves on the drum of your sander, and, make sure that the drum, like your wheels, is round. Also, check to see if your drum is cutting evenly. If you drop the sander on a dark sheet of Masonite, it should leave a completely straight impression. If it's tilted, adjust it. Check the belts for wear, and make sure that they're riding in the proper grooves. A well-adjusted belt should have ½ inch of play.

Your edger is a special concern, both during setup and during maintenance. The actual contact point of your edger on the surface should only be roughly the size of a quarter, and it's standard for this position to be directly located at the center front. Placing this contact point is known as clocking, and the default is the noon position.

The edger must also be pitched forward so that only the designated contact point touches the floor while it's in use. The method for doing this is different for each edger. For different edging cuts, raise or lower the right caster of the edger.

Rubber edger pads require care that metal pads don't. To finish installing a fresh rubber pad, cover the pad's surface in chalk or sawdust, and place the contact point on some 100-grit sandpaper.

Floor sanding edger machine

Start the machine, moving it back and forth to prevent overheating. The sandpaper evenly wears the pad and removes factory deformations. If your results are uneven, you may need to briefly place the center of the pad on the sandpaper. If any rubber chunks come loose, quickly vacuum them away from your abrasive surface.

If your saw blade is worn down, it can cause damage to the saw itself, and sharpening your blade is much cheaper than replacing it. Chips on the board, a burning blade and difficult cutting are all signs that your blade needs some TLC. Always use the right kind of blade for the wood grain you're cutting, as some blades are made for cross-cuts and others aren’t.

Keep the surface of your nailer clean, and keep the sides free from dust and debris. The pistons on your nailer need to be kept free from dust, and to protect the air compressor, the filter needs a monthly change. Regularly add a drop or two of oil to the air intake, and make sure that your air compressor is providing just enough pressure. If there's air leakage, you might need to replace an O-ring. This is a bit difficult, so if you don't want to do it yourself, take it to a professional. [6] Your air compressor itself, which you should be using regularly to blow dust away from your other tools, also needs maintenance. The average air compressor holds 1/2 cup of oil, and that can get used up in one day.

If your nailer isn't driving in nails properly, you can often fix the problem yourself. Remove the hitch pin before removing the pin itself. Remove the blade retainer, and examine the driving blade; if it's damaged at all, it needs to be replaced. If it's not, wipe or blow the dust away. Examine and clean the spring in the same way.

Cords are always a concern. Check your cords for damage, particularly exposed wires, and check your cords' strain relief. Frayed or kinked cords can cause serious damage or injury. Never remove or bypass the ground plug, and always gently unplug equipment by the plug rather than the cord to prevent the prongs from bending. Wrap cords gently around your equipment. If a cord gets too tightly wound up, it can become permanently kinked.

While regular maintenance takes some effort, it ultimately saves you more time in the end. Poorly maintained equipment causes damage both to floors and to the equipment itself, requiring additional labor and expensive replacements. For all your equipment, brush away dust, keep moving parts clean and watch for signs of wear.