3M vs. Bona vs. Norton Hardwood Flooring Sandpaper

Overview of What is Flooring Sandpaper

We all know that sandpaper, sands. In this case hardwood flooring sandpaper is meant to sand hardwood flooring. There is different variations of sanding such as:

  • Sanding smooth flooring perfectly (haha) smooth and flat. Smooth floors are your typical strip flooring or plank flooring that has no special options like band sawn, circle sawn etc.
  • Sanding with just to get burs/splinters/slivers off the floor. This would be like a band sawn, circle sawn or wire-brushed floor. These floors need to be sanded with a buffer or something similar with vary little wood coming off.
  • Inter-coat abrasion – This is where you need to make a finish smooth and not the wood itself. This helps with any grain raise and specifically adhesion of a coating to itself.

Sandpaper & abrasives works simply by using a grit or mineral and having it touch the surface you want to grind. These minerals scratch and wear differently. The type of mineral & backing matter when it comes to making sure the paper lasts and scratches the surface the way you are expecting it to. Most people do not know that different minerals can make or break a hardwood flooring job. At specific times of sanding a floor knowing the different minerals can be a real asset.

Below we will go over what each sandpaper company uses for minerals and where they best preform.  Just like everything in life there is always some give and take when deciding which mineral to use for a specific task/step of sanding a hardwood floor.

Common Different Minerals of Sandpaper

Silicone Carbide: This mineral from using it is good for using on a fine sanding like 100g-120g. WE find that this mineral dulls quickly but also scratches very fine at the 100-120g range and does not gouge the floor. Silicone carbide mineral is typically used on screens and some sanding sandpaper.

Zirconia: This mineral is by far the most wild of grains. Typically it is hard to use this grain except for middle papers. It is sharp but the grains tend to leave random scratches since the mineral is not the same heights and tends to break off oddly. We typically try to keep people away from this type of paper if they are staining. It is ok for belt sanding only.

Aluminum Oxide: This is not the best grain, is not the longest use and typically is ok for the value. However, we recommend to stay away from this grain as it is not the best for hardwood flooring.

Ceramic: We find this to be the most advanced mineral.  Typically we find that this mineral is great to use for all aspects of sanding and over the years offers the longest use, best scratch and gives a consistent cut. Some of the newer sandpapers from Norton use this.

What Each Sandpaper Mineral Does Best At

Silicone Carbide: This mineral is great at not making random scratch marks. WE find that using silicone carbide on random orbital sanders like the bona powerdrive helps keep random scratching down. The reason being is that when silicone carbide starts breaking down it will get duller and not resharpen. This resharpening can sometimes make the paper have longer, more deep scratching that will be seen after you do a stain.

Zirconia: This mineral is find for taking coatings off and belt sanding. WE find that this mineral breaks oddly and leaves more scratches in the floor and really is not ideal for anything but belt sanding. WE recommend staying away from this mineral for the most part as it is a blend, the scratch pattern can get odd.

Aluminum Oxide: This mineral is a jack of all trades and a master of none. WE find that this mineral is not the best for hardwood floor sanding as it is not super sharp, doesn’t break well and leaves random scratch patterns. WE highly suggest using another type of mineral. This can be seen from almost all major manufacturers of sandpaper for hardwood flooring as they don’t supply this mineral anymore.

Ceramic: Ceramic like the Norton Red Heat is great for sanding floors. This material seems to last extremely long, is consistent. WE find that this material is great for all aspects of the job and leaves low amount of scratches. Ceramic sandpaper is great all the way till the last step.

Different Floor Sandpaper Companies

There are a few different hardwood floor sandpaper companies but, we only sell 3 different companies floor sandpaper & abrasives. These 3 companies we believe to be the best for quality. These 3 companies are obviously – Norton, 3M & Bona. The reason we find that these 3 companies are the best is that they try to make their sandpaper best for each step of the hardwood flooring process. Below we will go over about who the company is and what they offer to the industry of hardwood flooring.

Norton Sandpaper Company

Norton is probably one of the biggest innovators of the hardwood flooring sandpaper companies. This company has really taken the sanding process of flooring to another level. Lately they have come out with their newest product of the Norton Power Mesh Screens. Before that they came out with Norton Blaze belts and edger discs for extreme sanding on rough floors. Norton is owned by Saint Gobain and is a giant in the world sandpaper & abrasive field. You will find these products are always some of the best.

Red Heat – A Full ceramic product that leaves less scratches because of the same mineral size. Even when this mineral breaks down it does not break down into super sharp long grain. This mineral/grain is perfect for hardwood floor sanding on all types of wood.

Blaze – This mineral is a bit more aggressive so it is great at striping hardwood floors of finish or making them flat, but not recommended for fine sanding.

Mesh Power – The newest in the line of Norton, Mesh power is a ceramic product. These discs offer better scratch pattern for planetary/orbital machines. Unlike the red heat it seems to leave less visible scratches since the grain is on a mesh like product.

More info here.

3M Sandpaper Company

3M is one of the first companies to hardwood flooring. We find that this brand is great & the mineral that they use is a tough and long lasting one. However, 3M does not specialize its sandpaper for hardwood flooring and it has not been innovated for a few years now. However, good minerals are still good minerals and the 3M belts are some of the best in the industry. Sometimes what we find frustrating and other contractors agree, is that 3M will substitute different mineral ratings in boxes if out of it. They also offer their sandpaper with thin backing for discs for 6″ and 5″ sanding machines.

Regalite – This is a ceramic blend material. We think that this mineral is great for striping wood floor finish off and making floors flat. However, it can leave more scratches behind compared to a bona black or mesh paper.

Bona Sandpaper or Sia

Bona sandpaper is really Sia Abrasives. This company is a great company that is a bit smaller in size but still a giant in the field of abrasives. Sia offers great paper that lasts long, is durable and gets the job done. The wonderful thing about Bona/Sia sandpaper is that it is color coded so you know when to use it and how to use it. However, using a higher quality sandpaper this color code system is not needed. Overall Bona sandpaper is great and leaves a good scratch pattern for staining.

Green – This paper is super strong, is aggressive but leaves a ton of scratches behind. This is a ceramic blend that really rips floor finish off.

Blue – A paper we find that is bad for floor sanding. This paper is easy to gum up, leaves random scratches and is really a paper we do not suggest.

Black – A great find sanding paper. This is a silicone carbide paper that break down, does not leave random scratches but does wear out  pretty quick.

More info here.

About Different Sandpaper

There are many different sandpaper types and each has a different use. Believe it or not different sandpapers are better for different steps of hardwood floor sanding. While different sandpaper brands like Norton, 3M & Bona don’t really matter for this –  you should know which brands use which minerals for which types of sandpaper.

8″, 10″ & 12″ Sanding Belts  or Sanding Rolls – These are typically best if you use th strongest and most aggressive materials. You are able to get away with almost any mineral for this task since you are going straight with the grain so no matter what you use you will have good results. However, if wood floor finish is involved we find that a ceramic or ceramic blend to be the best. These belts last a long time and get the job done, even if the mineral is something not amazing.

Sanding Discs – We find that these discs really can make or break your wood floor sanding results and your hardwood floor project.  These sanding discs for hardwood floors are usually used for fine sanding such as on the edges or using a Lagler, American Sanders or Bona sanding machine. So, in this case we find that a full ceramic material or a silicone carbide to be the best. Sample sanding discs that are good are the Norton Red Heat or the Norton Mesh Power. The reason these hardwood floor sanding discs are so good for fine sanding is that the mineral does not randomly break down. These minerals break down and do not leave random scratches that when you use stain (we prefer Duraseal quick coat stain) will ruin the floor look.

Inter-Coat Abrasion – The goal of intercoat abrasion is to sand the floor finish smooth as possible and have it not have scratches (if in a home, gym’s typically have scratches for maximum adhesion between gym oil coats). For this step in the process,  it depend son which floor finish you used.

Waterbased Sealer – We recommend a Norton PSA Roll

Oil-Based – Screen in either silicone carbide or ceramic

Norton Red Heat 8" Sanding Belt 120 Grit
Norton 6" Disc Red Heat 100 grit
Norton PSA Sheet Roll 220 Grit

So Who Wins the 3M vs. Bona vs. Norton Hardwood Flooring Sandpaper Contest?

This is honestly a hard answer, but, we have a good way to answer it. what matters basically is do you want a fool proof system to success or do you want to have to change paper per job depending on the wood, finish and stain color. We find that doing the best paper for every job to be the easy way to have a great job. This means that either 3 companies will get the job done, with great results. We tend to side with the Norton and Bona systems – maybe Norton more so since you can use the same mineral the whole way through and it is the best mineral for all sanding.

Norton offers full ceramic start to finish and in different machine types. No other brand does this with the results Norton Abrasives offers.

What Is the Best Norton Sandpaper Progression Then?

This has proven to work job to job and wood to wood no matter if the finish is waterbased or the floor is stained with Ebony DuraSeal Quick Coat Stain.

  • Red Heat Sanding Belts – These are great at ripping finish off and leaving less straight scratches since the mineral is so similar in size mineral to mineral.
  • Red Heat Sanding Discs – Using these for edging is ideal as it will leave less scratches on the edges you have to get out. Circular sanding machines leave visible scratches if not done right. Using a right mineral helps alleviate having to be perfect.
  • Norton Mesh Discs – These are a must use for final sanding on an orbital machine or if you do not have one of those, on a traditional floor buffer.
  • PSA Rolls  – Using these for inter-coat abrasion really makes a floor smooth, scratchless and perfect!

I think a note needs to be said here – The contractor really wins when these companies are competing. They seem to push each other to develop better paper. So, if you are a brand guy and you do not like Norton, use what you like They all work awesome.

The Hardwood Floor Sandpaper Conclusion

While we think all the brands: 3M, Norton & Bona are great and cannot go wrong with any of them, there is definitely a best, bestest and bestestest option. When it comes to hardwood floor sandpaper options and offerings Norton brings the best to the table. This companies innovation is often copied by the others shortly after they innovate hardwood floor sanding. Red Heat, Blaze & Mesh Power by Norton really take the top of the sandpaper charts for quality.

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