Sanding wood floors sounds like the least hazardous activity, but there are dangers associated with the sanding of wood floors. This seemingly simple procedure presents multiple opportunities where you can injury yourself and even damage your floor.
When sanding wood floors, you make use of powerful machines and even expose yourself to high levels of dust and even dangerous fumes.
When handling the machinery, you must do so skillfully and take necessary precautions against dust and fumes. Here are some dangers of sanding wood floors you need to be wary of before undertaking a refinishing job
Dangers Of Sanding Wood Floors
Table of Contents
Handling the Sanding Equipment
The machines used in sanding are very dangerous, loaded with extra power, with sharp cutting power. Any machine that can remove as much as 1/16 inch of wood from a floor in a single pass can easily remove a part of a finger or toe if not handled properly.
You also run the risk of damaging your floor with the sanding equipment if you do not know just the right way to handle it.
You get to learn by experience just how important the moment the drum sander contacts the floor is. You need to start moving the machine forward as quickly as possible to avoid creating a noticeable depression in the wood that is unremovable.
You also need to know that the heavy-duty disk sander called the edger can also create deep depressions, as well as ridges and cross-grain scratches. This is why it is recommended to gain sanding experience on practice surfaces than on your living room floor.
Hazardous Effects of Sanding Dust
Ensuring that the dust generated during the sanding process is effectively controlled is very crucial.
This is not only because of the mess that the dust settling on different surfaces from the furnishings to the electronics, shelves, closets, plumbing work, and even vents can cause but because of health risks, fine dust particles suspended in the air pose a real to the building’s occupants.
When the wood particles are broken down during sanding, they become irritants that affect the eyes, nose, throat and even the skin.
When exposed to wood dust, the workers and the building’s occupants can experience symptoms like dryness, shortness of breath, and sore throats. Other illnesses such as conjunctivitis, which is the inflammation of the mucous membranes of one’s eyes, runny nose, constant coughing, and sneezing, can also occur.
Dermatitis, where the skin becomes itchy, red, dry, and may even blister, can also occur due to the chemicals that are present in the wood.
Spending hours on the job sweating while inhaling fine dust will definitely be detrimental to your lungs; it may cause allergic reactions like hypersensitivity, and even pneumonitis may occur, which is the inflammation of the air spaces and airways.
It is usually confused with flu as it presents similar symptoms of chills, headaches, nausea, sweating, and occasional breathlessness.
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis conditions can also be further aggravated by mold growths that may have been in the wood. When inhaled, those tiny abrasive particles can cause permanent scarring, which damages one’s lung capacity.
Wood dust is also carcinogenic and leads to various kinds of cancer, according to the international agency for research on cancer (IARC).
The contractors at the forefront of carrying out this task are usually at a greater risk since they encounter dust on a routine basis; hence, they usually employ dustless floor sanding techniques.
How toxic wood dust varies according to different wood species. The chemicals in the wood can be absorbed into the body through the lungs, skin, or even the digestive system, and they carry varying effects.
Toxic Chemicals Sanded Off The Surface
Old treatments like lacquers, varnishes, wood stains, sealants, and other products are removed alongside the wood dust. The combination of different toxic chemicals leads to different health issues once it gets into the body system.
Safety Measures For Sanding Wood Floor
Floor sanding and restoration, as easy as it seems, can hide potential dangers. This can be said for every craft, but many disregards sanding as simple and end up paying the price afterward.
To ensure a successful refinishing, there are certain safety gears you have to adorn to cover everything from top to bottom.
This includes personal protective equipment, and you aren’t just protecting yourself against possible injuries during the floor restoration process but also keeping yourself safe from exposure to certain toxic chemicals found in modern adhesives and floor finishing products.
Personal Protective Equipment:
Ear Plugs/Defenders – The loud noise floor sanding equipment produces can damage your hearing if you handle them without proper protection for prolonged periods. Use ear defenders to prevent this from happening and to make the working process more comfortable.
Dust Mask – This is an essential tool needed most when doing aggressive sanding or dealing with bitumen stains or old finishes. Once these chemicals are sanded down, they become mixed with the sawdust and can freely enter your lungs which is why wearing a mask is highly recommended.
Goggles – To prevent the possibility of metal or fine particles finding their way into your eye, you need to wear goggles. Goggles are super helpful during rough edge sanding, deflecting any potentially harmful particles, thereby keeping your eyes safe.
Protective Suit And Gloves – These are also super helpful and protective, though the suit may cause you to sweat a bit.
Hand gloves will keep your hands safe from bruises and prevent direct contact of your skin with the flooring product. The high solvent content in some floor finishes can cause skin irritation and other severe issues.
Knee Pads - To prevent you from suffering from joints pain after a refinishing job, a knee pad is needed. A fine expanded foam knee pad makes the sanding job a lot more comfortable.
Make Adequate Preparations
Before you begin sanding, you need to ensure that certain preparations have been put in place. First, ensure that any protruding screws, nails, and staples have been punched into the ground until no more than 3 mm is out to prevent them from hurting you or damaging your expensive hired equipment.
Clout nails should be removed entirely as they can cause the wood to split. Also, fix your telephones, alarms, TVs, and internet cables in place with duct tape; you don’t want them on the floor as you sand. Generally, remove anything fragile and breakable, like pictures or mirrors.
Floor finishes are dangerous and usually flammable; they contain chemicals that can trigger asthma, allergies, cause damage to the reproductive or the nervous system, or even cause a fire outbreak if not appropriately handled.
When purchasing a floor finish or hiring sanding equipment, make many inquiries and, better still, opt for floor finishes made from natural products that do not contain any toxic chemicals. These products may be less durable but are a lot safer.
There are a few dangers associated with sanding wood floors, one of which is carelessly using floor sanding machines.
Always consult an expert if you don’t know how to use a piece of equipment properly. Remember to use safety equipment such as glasses, masks, and ear defenders as you sand the floor and clear the areas before sanding. With all these tips in place, you are bound to achieve a successful refinishing of your wood floor.