When working with a concrete floor or countertop, it is important that you sand it for a striking finish. Why, you ask? Because the action doesn’t only smooth over the rough surface, but it also improves the overall appearance of the material. However, when you are handling a DIY project that comes with a limited budget, it’s not possible to always have a sander handy with you.
Having faced the same problem in the past, I had to adapt to concrete sanding without depending on commercial equipment. In this article, I am going to help you learn that process and answer the following question: How to sand concrete by hand?
By using handheld tools, you can sand concrete without relying on heavy or commercial-grade equipment. In order to sand concrete by hand, you just need to get a few affordable items that are easily available at popular retailers. These items include diamond sanding pads, concrete patching slurry, and sponges.
With that basic info in mind, let’s go ahead and find out how to put your hands to good use in order to sand concrete for a smooth finish. Remember, the process may seem difficult at first. But with proper practice and instructions, you can easily get it done.
Equipment you Need
As I mentioned above, you need to get some common equipment for this project. Luckily, these items are easily available and quite affordable. You don’t even need to go to specialty stores to purchase them. A quick search at your go-to online marketplace often does the job.
The list of equipment you need for sanding concrete by hand includes the following supplies.
These sanding pads are stronger than usual sandpaper, which is why they can work on concrete. The strength of these sanding pads is defined by “grit”. The higher the grit, the sturdier the sanding pad. Low grit sanding pads are also classified as the coarser form of sanding pads, while higher grit sanding pads are referred to as finer variations.
For concrete sanding, you need these diamond sanding pads in different strengths or grits, ranging from the very coarse 60 grit to the finer 1,500 grit.
In an attempt to give your concrete surface a smooth finish, you need to pay attention to pinholes and abrasions just as much as the roughness of the material itself. Concrete patching slurry is a great help in this aspect.
Available in dry form, this concrete patching slurry can be mixed with water to create a filler solution. Just make sure to pick a slurry that matches the shade of your concrete surface.
This is as simple as it gets. You can literally buy any typical sponge to fulfill this requirement, or even use an old one that you already own. You are going to use it to clean the debris that your concrete surface sheds during the sanding process.
Just make sure that your sponge has a good grip. That’s all you need to ensure that this little item works as an effective tool during the sanding process.
Now that you have the details about the basic equipment you need, let’s dive into the process.
How to Sand Concrete by Hand: a Step-by-step Guide
- Start by making sure that the surface is clear of any external elements. Sweep away the dust. If required, do a thorough cleaning and let it air dry. This way, the sanding process will be easier since there won’t be additional dirt to scrape.
- Make your patching slurry by following the instructions on the packaging. Use the material carefully to fill out any pinholes or scratches. Let your concrete surface dry again for the slurry to set in.
- Start sanding by using the coarsest diamond sanding pad that you have. Typically, you should begin with a 60 grit sanding pad and work your way up to higher grit levels.
- Make sure to sand thoroughly and wipe down any debris using your sponge. Wet it just enough to remove the dust. Otherwise, you are going to wet the floor too much and you will have to wait for it to dry before being able to sand again. Repeat the process until you have a smoother surface that cannot be sanded anymore with the same pad.
- Switch to the next level of the sanding pad and repeat the wipe down and sanding process. Remember that this should be a higher grit sanding pad, which could typically go over the 220 grit range.
- Keep increasing the levels of the sanding pads and repeating the process until you see visible improvement, smoothness, and shine over your concrete surface. Before switching, make sure that the concrete surface is clean.
- If you want to top off your sanding job with a protective sealant, make sure to use a high-quality concrete sealant product. Follow the instructions on the sealant packaging for optimal performance and application.
Remember, using higher grit levels manipulates the final look of your concrete surface. Make sure to see examples over the web of using different grit levels and their expected results to achieve the look you want.
Can You do It?
The process that I have outlined above applies to sanding concrete floors by hand. It works just as effectively on indoor and outdoor floors as it does on counters, walls, steps, and other surfaces.
If I’m being honest, the process is definitely time-consuming and requires more manual labor than using a sander. But when you compare the efforts and costs you have to put into buying or even renting a commercial-grade sander, the advantages of sanding concrete by hand are clear as day. This is especially true if this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of project for you.
Sure, the process requires you to use some physical force, but it is not completely exhausting if you are used to doing DIY projects on your own. With a little practice, you will be able to benefit from this pocket-friendly and highly effective method for breathing new life into your concrete surfaces.
Can You Rearrange the Sanding Concrete Steps?
Each step that I outlined above follows a careful approach to sanding. Deviating from the given process can botch the whole procedure and make it go south.
For instance, If you apply your patching slurry after sanding, it will mess up the whole process. Similarly, if you start sanding with finer sanding pads right from the start, the roughness of your concrete surface will stay in place.
Keeping these factors in mind, make sure that you follow these steps to a T. Otherwise, you would not achieve the results that you need.
Can You use Regular Sandpaper?
Regular sandpaper is great for evening out wooden surfaces and removing paint from walls. Higher grits of sandpaper can even work on concrete to some degree, but it still falls short of smoothing out the hard surface as well as diamond sand pads can.
With this in mind, I would recommend that you stick to diamond sanding pads for concrete sanding. Since diamond sanding pads are not hard to find, I would suggest getting them for this project.
What Grit is Recommended?
For concrete sanding, you need to start with coarse and low grit diamond sanding pads at around 60 grit. Depending upon the look that you are going for, you can work your way up to finer sanding pads, up to 1,500 grit.
Following this approach allows you to get the most out of your sanding efforts and also gives you complete control over the final result of the process.
Since breathing in concrete particles can be harmful, you need to keep a bucket of water close to you to clean off your sponge and use it frequently on the concrete surface you are sanding. This keeps the debris from spreading throughout the air too much. If you are working indoor, keep the windows open to ventilate the room, and seal the door to prevent dust from spreading in the rest of the house. Your wife will thank you for that. Also, remember to wear a mask and glasses for additional protection against dust.
However, using a wet sponge creates additional concrete slurry that you need to wipe down from time to time. This is where your sponge once again proves itself to be highly useful and provides you with an easy way to keep your surface as clean as possible. Let the surface dry before working on it again, or you will clog your sanding pads.
For added safety, you should also make sure to keep your children away from your project site. While there are no sharp objects involved in the process, the potential mess of slurry and debris as well as the sanding pads should be kept away from the reach of the young ones.
This article proves that sanding concrete by hand is not at all difficult, especially if you have the steps clearly outlined for your assistance. However, the added efforts and time that it takes to pull off this task should be kept in mind before you take on the project of sanding a concrete surface by hand.
As a rule of thumb, make sure that you dedicate ample time to research and preparation before executing the project. This ensures that you set realistic expectations out of the project and know about the kind of results that you are going to achieve through it.
For instance, if you want your concrete surface to simply get some shine, then you only need minimal sanding. On the other hand, bringing out the sharper aggregate look in your concrete surface requires you to dedicate more time to your sanding efforts. By understanding the requirements behind each look, you can ensure that your concrete surface stands out in certain structures.
As always, if you need any assistance during your DIY endeavors, don’t hesitate to ask questions from experienced members of your community. This helps clarify any ambiguities and ensures that all of your projects end with your desired results.