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TRIO Sanding Machine for Flat Floors

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I’d like to introduce you to one of our secret weapon’s that plays a huge part in allowing us to provide clean, flat and beautifully finished hardwood floors for our Naperville clients.

It’s the specialized hardwood floor sanding machine pictured below – the TRIO.

TRIO Sanding Machine

One of the common questions we get when we unload the TRIO is: What is that? It is a weird looking contraption. It kind of looks like a funny vacuum cleaner, especially with all the hoses attached.

And in fact a big part of it is a vacuum system – we’ll come back to that in a moment though.

First – What Is This Thing Used For?

Well it’s a specialized hardwood floor sanding machine used to get floors extremely smooth and flat.

Most hardwood floor refinishing businesses in Naperville, IL use a few different sanding machines to restore floors. Each have their place in the sanding sequence.

First, there’s the big belt sanding machine that removes the existing finish to take the hardwood floors back to bare wood…

Belt Sander for Wood Flooring

The next common sander is the small edger which is used around the edges of the floor up to the walls…

Edger Sanding Machine

After a few cuts with both of these machines, the third common machine used is a buffer. This is used to blend the very different sanding patterns of the first two machines together and preps the floor for coating…

Buffer Sanding Machine

This system – with these 3 machines – is the most popular way to refinish hardwood floors in Naperville.

One problem we have found with this system is that the last section – the buffing process – can easily dish out the grain of the wood, resulting in not very flat floors.

Now just to be clear, flat and level are two completely different things. If your floor is not level, there is not much a hardwood floor refinisher can do as we only take off a very minimal amount of wood from the surface.

But flat floors can be achieved if the right methods and tools are utilized.

Nothing bugs us more than a newly refinished hardwood floor that looks like a wavy ocean when you see it looking into the light. As mentioned above this is commonly caused by the buffer. As the buffer rotates across the floor it sands different parts of the wood in different ways. The hard grain in the individual plank or piece of wood stands up well to being sanded this way, while the softer parts of the wood are sanded more aggressively. As more soft wood is removed it causes a wave effect. As professionals we call this unwanted result “dish-out”.

When you have parquet floors, dish-out is even more noticeable as there are many more pieces of wood in the floor. In the photo below (not a floor we sanded), you can see a lot of dish-out…

Waves and Dish Out on Floor

Dish-out is ugly, unnecessary and results in a far less than professional look.

Here is another close-up photo of dish-out of the soft wood…

Dish Out

Because of the above reasons, we decided to scrap the common buffer for this step and instead invest in a far, far better piece of equipment that provides much better results.

When it comes to guaranteeing flat floors, the TRIO really shines.

Instead of one big single sanding pad that easily causes dish-out, the TRIO has 3 smaller pads that rotate separately and much more evenly across the floor.

Trio Machine

This results in an extremely flat surface that looks great once finished. And when you look into the light, you won’t be made to feel sea sick because of all the waves.

After the first passes with the belt sander and edger, we fire this puppy up and do two final cuts. This takes quite a bit of extra time as it’s not a fast process, but we feel the much better results are definitely worth the extra time and effort.

TRIO Sander

You can see the end results of using the TRIO in the photo below. Notice how flat the floor is – even though it’s not perfectly level (which is impossible)…

Flat Floor After TRIO

In the photo, you can clearly see the different types of grain – the dark and light areas – in the wood. With a normal buffing machine, these areas would have noticeable dish-out. But as you can clearly see above, the TRIO eliminates this unwanted effect. Instead you’re left with a great looking, wonderfully flat and smooth floor.

Other Benefits of the TRIO…

Another great feature of this sander is that it can be used on floors that the other machines might not want to be put on… like cork flooring and certain types of engineered floors.

It also is amazing at prepping floors that are going to be stained. One of the most common things you will see on a stained floor is edger marks that haven’t been completely removed. These are easily noticeable once stained and they will be in your floors forever, constantly annoying you…

Sanding Marks

This happens because the edger leaves circular swirl marks in the wood close to the walls where the straight cut sanding pattern of the belt sander can’t reach. Most hardwood floor refinishing companies in Naperville will attempt to blend these completely different sanding patterns with the buffer but if a hand sander is not used, the results can be somewhat lacking.

With the TRIO, these sanding marks are always removed. In fact the TRIO can get within a ¼ inch from the wall. Plus the sanding pattern is the same across the entire floor, leaving a perfect canvas for stain to be applied. (You can read about the steps of staining in detail here.)

What About It’s Dustless Capabilities?

Now at the start of the article we talked about how some people mistake it for a weird looking vacuum. In fact it does have a vacuum built into it that works astonishingly well for built-in dust collection. This is another great leap in technology over the average buffer which is by far the biggest culprit that causes dust. The average buffer (without any type of skirt) will cause clouds of dust within minutes of starting to buff.

Not exactly what you want to happen to your home.

We’ve modified our TRIO a bit to make it even better in the dustless area.

TRIO Nooked to Dustless Vacuum System

In the above photo you can easily see the vacuum hoses running from the machine. These connect to a more powerful vacuum system we utilize. Now instead of having to empty the bag often, we can run it continuously and ensure your house is left virtually dust free. A much appreciated bonus for our clients.

In Conclusion

So hopefully this gives you a little insight into this funny looking machine you’ll see us using in your home and why we love it so much.

Here’s another photo of a perfectly flat floor that we are able to obtain with this sander…

Super Flat Sanded Oak Floors

We love restoring floors and we’re constantly looking for ways and equipment that will help us do our job – making your hardwood floor restorations as close to perfect as humanly possible. The TRIO is a winner all the way around for your floors.

If you’re interested in seeing it in action, make sure you ask us when we’re refinishing the hardwood floors in your home.

Updated June 2020

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11 Comments

That is a pretty cool looking machine. It sounds like a dog barking when you start it up! Thanks for the detailed information on the trio. Just a quick question. What do you do for the last quarter inch next to the wall that does not get sanded?

Hi Sammy. It does sound like a bark doesn’t it. I’ll think of that everytime I start it up now :)

With the edges of the floor we use hand-held sanders to finish them up to the same condition as the rest of the hardwood. Once that’s done we use a system called “water popping” to blend it all together before staining.

Hope that helps.

Thank you for this blog article. Awesome.

You’re welcome Antonio :)

Enjoyed watching the video in this blog post. Thank-you.

Glad you liked it Enrique.

Thanks for sharing this, very interesting. Wished you lived closer to us though so I could get you to do our floors.

You’re welcome Maggie :)

Hi! I’ve been reading your website for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Porter Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the fantastic work!

Thanks Lelia :)

Great article! Just ran across your blog. We maybe thinking of purchasing one of these ourselves.

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