By Ben Carmichael
Last fall, my girlfriend and I bought an old colonial house in Concord, MA. In the words of our real estate agent, it has “lots of character.” My grandfather, upon visiting the house for the first time on Thanksgiving, said it had “lots of potential.” Upon walking into the house, you get this impression pretty quickly: it needs work. And so enter the Ryobi Random Orbital sander.
In deciding which projects we should tackle first, we decided to start by repainting the walls and doors on the first floor. The walls were easy, but the doors another matter entirely.
Sand Those Doors!
If you know older houses, you know that the doors are often in rough shape. Doors in houses this old (more than 150) have certainly been through many owners if not renters. Through these owners, they’ve likely been painted multiple times by multiple different people — and often people of varying levels of painting and home DIY skill, if not concern for the property.
The result is often the kinds of doors we have: the texture on the doors shows a history of people making feeble efforts to remove layers of paint, efforts that yield doors marked by rough contours, large cracks, and, when looking at poorly painted the edges, layers of paint that read like rings on a tree. (See photo.) This is the “character” our agent referred to.
And so I wanted to take them down and start afresh. In my opinion, the doors weren’t of high enough quality to warrant completely stripping them of paint, and so I decided on a two-fold approach of filling some major dents with wood filler (see photos) and then sanding them thoroughly.
Which Sander Is For Me?
To do this, I’d need a sander. In making the purchase, I had a four criteria in mind:
- I’m of a home DIY skill level;
- I’ll have a bunch of projects for sanding, but I won’t be using it constantly; an
- I wanted something in a reasonable price range, as we have a limited budget and a lot of home projects ahead of us.
- I wanted a sander that accepted easily obtainable hook and loop sandpaper
With these criteria in mind, I settled on the Ryobi 5 inch random orbital sander. For the price — around if not just shy of $30 — it’s right in the home DIY price point sweet spot: enough power at 2.6 amps for a thorough sand, compact enough to fit on my limited tool shelf space (it’s compact at 7.5 inches, weighs 4.5 pounds), and cheap enough that it won’t break the bank.
So I dove into this project, armed with a new sander, now I just needed a process…
My Sanding Process
Through the process, I’ve been taking the doors off their hinges and bringing them down into the basement, and putting them on some inherited sawhorses (see photos). In doing this, I’ve been able to apply more pressure and thus remove more layers of paint. As a consequence, I’ve been able to cleanly even out any visible edges between layers of paint, clean the surface, and ready the door for a thorough layer of primer and subsequent paint.
This is an important point, as I’ve read some reviews about how the sander has worn out quickly. I’ve used it on a few doors now, while applying sufficient pressure to do the job well, and it’s still whirring along perfectly.
The only thing that I question about it, I question about all sanders: that little dust bag. I confess it does its job — it collects dust while I sand — but a significant amount of dust still ends up on my clothing, on the floor, etc. I’ve yet to use a sander — at any price point — that collects a satisfactory amount of dust from the job.
Instead, I often turn on the shop vac while I work to collect dust as it comes off the surface of what I’m dusting. And so I don’t blame Ryobi for this. I am planning on investing in a sanding rig and vacuum similar this one: dust free sanding
NOTE – we tested these doors for lead paint prior to sanding. If there had been lead paint we would have chemical stripped the doors, dipped them or at the least used a HEPA vacuum attached to the sanders. Read more on lead paint regulations or containing lead dust.
Overall, I’m really happy with the Ryobi 5” orbital sander. It’s fairly light, at 4 lbs, and fits nicely in the hand, making it a comfortable choice. For someone at my DIY skill level, it’s just what I need.
With all the walls painted, and many of the doors redone, we’re beginning to see more of that “potential” my grandfather referred to — thankfully, the Ryobi isn’t too loud, either, so you can even talk about it.
How Much And Where To Buy?
The Ryobi 5 inch Random Orbital Sander sells online for approximately $30.00 here: Ryobi-ZRRS290-5-Inch-Random-Sander
About the Author:
Ben Carmichael is a communications and marketing professional, currently working at Concord Academy. He is also the proud owner of an historic home in Concord, Massachusetts.
Growing up in Maine, he worked summers painting and shingling, with some roofing and basic carpentry. Just enough, in other words, to be dangerous.