Drums Vs Orbital Sanders

If you are someone who is looking forward towards refinishing your hardwood floors on your own, then you may need to make a few decisions and one of them is choosing between a drum sander and an orbital sander.  Both these two tools are used for sanding the floors and have their own set of positives and negatives.

Thus picking one out of the two can be slightly difficult. For your help, we have brought a list of the main differences and points of comparison between drum and orbital sanders as given below:

drums Vs orbital sanders

Sanding Action

Where on one hand drum sanders use a sleeve of sanding paper which can slide into a square drum, orbital sanders on the other hand make use of a grinding action. In case of drum sanders, the paper slides on the floor while the drum is spinning and just a little part of the drum and paper are in contact with the floor.  This gives an aggressive cutting action which cuts fast through wood and finish. In case of orbital sanders, the sanding pad tends to oscillate back and forth in an orbital type of a motion which gives a slower and lighter sanding action.

Time and Labor

Drum sanders usually tend to work faster in comparison to orbital sanders due to their aggressive cutting action.  This sander can help save a great deal of time especially if you have a large room or many layers of hardwood to finish.  But at the same time, this kind of sander may lead to scratches in tight areas where you need to sand across the wood grain. On the other hand, orbital sanders are gentler and require less of labor or physical exertion from you.  But they also take a longer time to remove the heavy finishes.

Difficulty Level

Using a drum sander in the right way takes a lot of practice since this sander works based on speed of the drum, pressure applied, grit of the sandpaper and the pace at which the sander is moved.  On the other hand, orbital sanders rely on the sander’s weight to result in the optimum pressure needed.  Basically, you are less likely to make mistakes with an orbital sander and hence it is the easier tool to use out of the two.  But one must remember that with both kinds of sanders, you must keep the sander moving as long as the sandpaper is in contact with the floor with the aim of avoiding the creation of depressions on the surface of the hardwood floor.


For hardwood floors which are damaged, cupped or have several layers or finish need an aggressive kind of a sander and this is where a drum sander is perfect.  But on the other hand if the hardwood floors are in good condition and do not need much of work, then orbital sanders prove to be a much better option since they are less aggressive and easier to use in comparison.


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