Homeowner’s Guide to Sandpaper

By: Julie Day
Grits on packages of sandpaper

Sandpapers come in a wide range of grit sizes.

Sandpaper Grits

Once you’re decided which kind of abrasive you need, the next step is to choose the right grit. Sandpaper grits are graded according to the size of the abrasive particles, with lower numbers for larger particles and higher numbers for smaller particles.

You can find the grit size on the package label and printed on the back of each sheet of sandpaper. Grit is generally classified as follows:

  • Coarse: Grits less than 60. Coarse grit sandpapers are used for removing material rapidly, such as when shaping corners or stripping paint.
  • Emery sandpaper

    Emery sandpaper for metal.

  • Medium: Grits ranging from 80-120. Medium grit sandpapers are used to smooth rough surfaces, remove scratches, and prepare surfaces for paint or finish.
  • Fine: Grits ranging from 150-220. Fine grit sandpapers are used for final smoothing of surfaces before application of finish, or for sanding between coats of finish.
  • Superfine: Grits above 220. Superfine grit sandpapers are used to smooth or polish surfaces between coats of finish.

When sanding, start with the lowest grit required, then work your way through successively finer grits, with each finer grit used to remove the scratches created by the grit before. For example:

  • When stripping and refinishing a piece of wood furniture, you might start with 60 grit sandpaper to remove the old finish, then work your way through 80, 120, 180, and finally 220 to smooth the wood.
  • To sand a piece of new unfinished furniture, you could begin with 120 grit sandpaper and work up to 220.
  • For sanding between coats of finish, you would use 220 grit or higher sandpaper.

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