What Sandpaper Grit for Wood Before Painting

Last Updated on July 24, 2023 by Ernest Godia

When it comes to woodworking and painting projects, achieving a smooth and flawless finish is essential. 

One crucial step in preparing wood surfaces for painting is sanding. Sanding not only smoothens the surface but also helps the paint adhere better, resulting in a professional-looking finish. 

However, choosing the right sandpaper grit can make a significant difference in the outcome of your project. So, what sandpaper grit for wood before painting?

In this article, we’ll explore the various grits of sandpaper and guide you on selecting the ideal grit sandpaper for wood before painting.

What is Sandpaper Grit Scale for Wood?

The grit scale refers to the measurement used to determine the coarseness or fineness of sandpaper. It is the measure of the number of abrasive particles per square inch on the sandpaper’s surface.

The grit number is inversely proportional to the coarseness, meaning the higher the grit number, the finer the sandpaper.

Conversely, lower grit numbers indicate coarser sandpapers. Coarse grit sandpaper has larger abrasive particles, making it ideal for heavy material removal, while fine grit sandpaper has smaller particles, offering a smoother finish.

The Role of Grit in Sandpaper for Wood 

The grit in sandpaper is composed of abrasive particles that help remove material from the wood surface. Different grits serve various purposes, from removing rough patches to creating a smooth finish.

What Grit Sandpaper for Wood Before Painting

The recommended sandpaper grit for wood before painting is 150-grit. This grit sandpaper is ideal for final sanding as it creates a smooth surface with little texture, ensuring better paint adhesion. 

However, always ensure you start with medium grit sandpaper before final sanding. And if the wood has a previous finish on it, remove it with coarse grit sandpaper before switching to medium and fine grit sandpaper. 

What Grit Sandpaper for Wood Before Painting

Importance of Sanding Wood before Painting

Sanding wood before painting is critical as it directly influences the results of your painting work. Sanding serves the following essential purposes:

  1. Smooth the wood surface: Sanding helps to remove imperfections, bumps, and rough spots on the wood surface, providing a smooth canvas for applying the paint.
  2. Ensure enhanced adhesion: Sanding creates tiny scratches on the wood, allowing the paint to adhere better to the surface. This goes a long way in reducing the risk of peeling or chipping.
  3. Create an even coat: A sanded surface ensures that the paint is applied evenly, preventing blotches and ensuring a professional-looking finish.
  4. Enhance the quality of results: Since sanding eliminates bumps and creates a smooth surface, the resulting paint coat will look smoother and more appealing. Paint colors also appear more vibrant on smoother wood surfaces.

Different Grits of Sandpaper and Their Uses

The right sandpaper grit for wood depends on what you want to achieve. That said, different sandpaper grits are suitable at different points, and choosing the right grit at the right stage will ensure the best results. 

Here is a detailed look at the various grits of sandpaper and their respective uses. 

  1. Coarse Grits (40 to 80)

Coarse grit sandpapers are used for heavy material removal, such as stripping old paint or varnish and smoothing rough surfaces. 

Coarse grit sandpaper is also ideal for removing deep scratches and shaping rough surfaces. It is the first step in the sanding process for wood that requires significant material removal.

This sandpaper is not recommended for the final sanding before painting as it can leave visible scratches. You must use a finer grit sandpaper to smooth out the visible marks these sandpapers leave before applying the paint or primer.

  1. Medium Grits (100 to 150)

Medium-grit sandpapers are suitable for general sanding and removing scratches left by coarse grits. They help refine the wood surface, preparing it for the final sanding.

  1. Fine Grits (180 to 220)

Fine-grit sandpapers are ideal for the final sanding before painting. They effectively smooth the wood surface and create a uniform texture.

Fine grit sandpaper can further refine the wood and eliminate any remaining scratches from the medium grit sandpaper. Fine-grit sandpaper is suitable for most wood painting projects and ensures optimal paint adhesion.

  1. Extra Fine Grit Sandpaper (240 to 400)

Extra fine-grit sandpapers are used for sanding between coats of paint to achieve an exceptionally smooth finish. Paint can have a glossy surface that inhibits proper adhesion. Sanding between layers of paint can prep the surface for subsequent coats. 

These very fine grit sandpapers are also helpful for polishing wood surfaces.

Choosing the Right Sandpaper Grit for Wood Before Painting 

Now that you know the various sandpaper grits for wood on the market, the next thing is to decide which grit to use for your next project and how to choose. 

The appropriate sandpaper grit choice depends on the wood’s condition and the project’s requirements. 

Here are some guidelines to help you choose the appropriate sandpaper grit for wood before painting. 

Initial Sanding

Use coarse grits (40 to 80) to eliminate imperfections and roughness for initial sanding and heavy material removal.

Smoothing Imperfections on Wood Surfaces 

Transition to medium grits (100 to 150) to smooth out any scratches left by the coarse grits and prepare the surface for the final sanding.

Final Sanding before Painting 

For the best results before painting, use fine grits (180 to 220) to achieve a smooth and even wood surface.

The Importance of Sanding Before Painting Wood Furniture

Sanding wood furniture before painting is a vital step that can make a world of difference in the end result. This section explores why sanding is so important and how it can enhance your paint job. 

1. Achieving a Smooth Surface

One of the primary reasons to sand wood furniture before painting is to achieve a smooth and even surface. Wood surfaces can be imperfect, with rough spots, bumps, and even minor damage. 

Sanding helps to level out these imperfections, creating a clean canvas for the paint to go onto. 

2. Enhancing Paint Adhesion

Paint needs a good surface to grip onto, and sanding provides just that. 

Sanding creates tiny scratches and micro-abrasions on the wood surface, giving the paint something to grip (tooth).

Without proper sanding, the paint may not adhere well to the smooth wood surface, leading to premature peeling and chipping. 

3. Preventing Uneven Coats

If you skip sanding and apply paint directly to the wood, you may end up with an uneven coat of paint.

Some areas of the wood may absorb more paint, leading to patchy or blotchy results. This outcome can be frustrating. So consider sanding to ensure the wood is uniform and that the paint goes on evenly, providing a consistent finish across the entire furniture piece.

4. Creating a Professional Look

Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or a professional painter, the goal is always to achieve a high-quality and professional-looking finish. 

Sanding is an essential step in achieving this goal. A well-sanded surface provides the perfect foundation for paint, enabling you to create a flawless, polished look that rivals factory-finished furniture.

5. Ensuring Longevity and Durability

Sanding wood furniture before painting improves the aesthetics and contributes to its longevity and durability. 

Properly adhered paint is less prone to wear and tear, making your furniture piece more resilient against daily wear and tear. Additionally, a smooth surface is easier to clean and maintain, ensuring your painted furniture looks fresh and vibrant for many years.

Recommended read: Paint or stain wood deck: which is better?

Sanding Techniques for Optimal Results

Sanding requires proper technique to achieve the best results. Here are some tips to ensure optimal sanding:

  1. Follow the Grain: Always sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid creating cross-grain scratches.
  2. Consistent Pressure: Apply even pressure while sanding to maintain a uniform surface.
  3. Use Sanding Blocks: Utilize sanding blocks when sanding by hand to achieve a level surface and prevent uneven sanding.
  4. Change sandpaper Regularly: Replace worn-out sandpaper regularly to maintain its effectiveness.
  5. Avoiding Over-sanding. Be cautious not to over-sand, especially on edges and corners, as it can damage the wood and compromise the final finish.

Safety Measures when Sanding Wood 

Sanding wood generates dust particles that can be harmful when inhaled. Follow these precautions to keep you safe while sanding wood before painting.  

  • Wear protective gear: Wear a dust mask, safety goggles, and gloves to protect yourself from dust and debris.
  • Work in a well-ventilated space: Work in a well-ventilated area or use a dust collection system to minimize dust accumulation.
  • Observe proper cleanup after sanding: Clean up the work area and dispose of sanding dust properly to prevent accidental inhalation. Consider using a vacuum to suck up the wood dust and a damp rag or tack cloth to clean the dust off the wood surface. 


Can I skip sanding before painting wood?

While it’s possible to skip sanding, it’s not recommended, as it may result in a less durable and less appealing paint finish. Sanding ensures better paint adhesion and a smoother finish.

Can I reuse sandpaper for multiple wood sanding sessions?

It’s best to use new sandpaper for each project to ensure optimal sanding efficiency and a smooth surface. Reusing sandpaper can result in less effective sanding, leading to suboptimal sanding results. 

Used sandpaper

How often should I change the sandpaper while sanding?

Regularly check the sandpaper for signs of wear and tear. Change it whenever it becomes clogged, worn, or less effective to ensure optimal results.

What should I do if the wood has a stubborn finish?

Consider using coarser grit sandpaper to remove the stubborn finish and then progress to finer grits.

Should I sand in-between coats of paint? 

Yes, sanding lightly between coats of paint can help achieve a smoother, more professional-looking finish. However, ensure you sand lightly and use fine-grit sandpaper to avoid removing the paint layer while sanding. 

Can I use a power sander for intricate carvings?

It’s best to avoid using a power sander for intricate carvings, as it may damage the details. Hand sanding is more suitable for such areas.

Can I use an electric sander for sanding wood? 

Yes, electric sanders can be used for sanding wood, but it’s crucial to use the appropriate grit and be careful not to over-sand.

How long should I wait after sanding before painting?

Allow the sanded wood surface dry completely after wiping the wood dust with a damp rag or tack cloth. This wait time can be a few minutes or up to half an hour, depending on the weather and how damp the wood is.

Can I use the same sandpaper for all types of wood before painting? 

Different wood types may require different sandpaper grits when prepping them for painting. Consider the wood’s hardness and condition when choosing the right sandpaper to use before painting.

What Sandpaper Grit for Wood Before Painting: Final Take 

Selecting the right grit sandpaper for wood before painting is crucial for achieving a flawless finish. 

Use coarse grit sandpaper for heavy material on the wood surface, such as the previous finish, medium grit sandpaper for smoothing wood imperfections, and fine grit sandpaper for the final sanding before painting. 

While at it, ensure you wear the appropriate safety gear, and consider hand sanding for intricate areas. By choosing the right sandpaper grit and following proper sanding techniques, you can ensure that your wood paint job is flawless and visually appealing.  

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