He continues, "The orbital sander is very much less aggressive as sanding pressures are about 10 times less than the drum sander. However, the orbital does an acceptable job with new floors by applying the same grits as with a drum sander. The orbital does screening and blending on your floor before your first coat of finish. The orbital is the sander to use if you do not need to remove your old finish. It does a fine job of dirt removal and roughing for application of the new finish."
According to Staalesen, when orbital sanders first caught on, they were based on the assumption that bigger is better, but that is no longer the case.
“It used to be the typical size pad was 12 by 24 inches. It was the bigger is better mentality, but the science didn’t support it,” Staalesen says. “In sanding, the effectiveness is based on pounds per square inch (PSI).”
In order to achieve greater PSI, the pads had to be made smaller. Today, you see a lot of 12- by 18-inch pads, while Hiretech’s HTF Orbital offers a 4 ½- by 15 ¾-inch pad that produces three times more PSI on the paper than 12- by 18-inch pads. “And the machine weighs only 96 pounds versus the usual 125 pounds,” Staalesen says.
The right questions
“The perception is that drum sanders can be a tool that in inexperienced hands can cause damage to floors,” Staalesen says. “Rental businesses are afraid that the user will damage their floor, so they rent them an orbital when they really need a drum sander. The result is a dissatisfied customer.”
Your customer's success really comes down to asking the right questions. Those questions include:
- What shape is your floor in?
- Do you need to relevel the floor?
- Is there heavy varnish to strip?
- Does your floor have any warping?
“If the answer to any of these questions is yes, your customer needs a drum sander,” says Staalesen. “If you customer’s floor is in good shape, an orbital will be fine.”
Training is key
As with any piece of rental equipment, there is always the potential that your customers will not achieve their desired results. One way to avoid this is to provide all the tools necessary to ensure their success. Those tools include paper instructions on machine operation and good old-fashioned practice. Staalesen suggests DIYers invest in a piece of plywood and use the sanding equipment on the scrap wood before hitting their floor with it. Rental businesses could even go one step further and offer a demo area in their store for customers to try out machines before taking them home.
"The drum sander does require a little practice, and its aggressive cutting action can create unevenness in the end result," says Albrecht. "With that said, even with just a little practice a novice can expect excellent results with a drum sander."
Staalesen agrees, adding, “With a drum sander, if you can get comfortable with it, you’ll have more success. The key is to always keep it moving evenly. As long as it’s in contact with the floor, you can’t stop or it will cause a ‘drum stop,’” or a noticeably depressed area.
Floor sanding trends
Among innovations in the floor sanding business is dust control. "The professional side of floor sanding has been recently visited by the EPA," says Barous. "They are demanding almost complete dust control. The rental industry is not yet under the new regulations, but it's probably on the horizon."
Regardless of regulations, Staalesen says dust control appeals to customers. “Market research shows a hindrance to DIY is the creation of dust. The traditional cloth dust bag has been around for 50-60 years, but they do allow a lot of dust to escape. Hiretech is the only company to bring disposable paper bags to market.”
Staalesen says effectively controlling dust "results is a cleaner jobsite and eliminates airborne dust particles that might contain small amounts of lead from old varnishes.”
What to look for
Whether you're looking for a drum or orbital sander for your rental inventory, there are some important things to keep in mind.
"With regard to the drum sander, look for ease of paper changes, the ability to lower the drum to the floor while keeping the sander on a steady three-point stance and the ability for the sander to be disassembled for transportation purposes," Albrecht says. "And finally, choose a unit that can be hooked into a tank vacuum for superior dust collection."