What Grit of Sandpaper Should You Use Before Painting Wood?

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Have you ever worked on a project, sanded it, painted it, and yet it still didn’t quite turn out as polished as you hoped? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Achieving that professional finish can be elusive, especially if you’re unsure about the right sandpaper grit to use for your particular project, especially when paint is involved.

But fear not! In this guide, I’ll shed light on the mystery of sandpaper grits for wood before painting. Let me walk you through everything you need to know to get that project looking just the way you want it to.

Sandpaper Grits and Their Recommended Uses

Grit size and grains per square inch are used to determine the results. Many projects begin with a rough sandpaper grit before progressing to finer grits as they mature. 

Although there is a wide variety of sandpaper grades to choose from, the following grits are recommended for most sanding tasks:

30 to 36 Grit

These extra-coarse grits are typically used as a first step in sanding a hardwood floor. They can be purchased as either a belt to go on a drum sander or a disk to go on an edger.

36 grit sandpaper

40 to 80 Grit

This grade of sandpaper is perfect for removing stubborn paint and smoothing up rough edges. Furthermore, it can remove adequate material for shaping and rounding edges.

If you want to preserve the sharpness of your edges and corners, you avoid using a sandpaper with a coarse grain.

100 to 150 Grit

Grit sizes in the middle of the spectrum are the most popular for choice. Sandpaper grits in this range are generally safe bets for most tasks.

By applying more force to your workpiece, you can reduce the toughness of the material. Alternatively, you might put gentle pressure to protect delicate materials. Typically, this grit is reserved for usage on unfinished wood.

190 to 220 Grit

Sanding with grits finer than 220 is unnecessary for raw wood stains. When working on furniture, use sandpaper with a fine or ultra-fine grain.

220 grit sandpaper

While you can use fine-grit sandpaper on the first pass, it’s usually reserved for subsequent passes until the surface reaches the desired smoothness. You can roughen glossy paint with fine-grit sandpaper before being primed for a second coat.

1200 to 2000 Grit

This grade is ideal for polishing bare metal and highly polished wood to a mirror shine. Additionally, these ultra-fine grits is best for final wood sanding, polishing thick coatings, and achieving a mirror-like sheen on various surfaces. 

But what sandpaper grit is equivalent to 0000 steel wool? Find out next! 

How to Choose a Sandpaper Grit for Your Project

Repainting Wood Surfaces or Furniture

If you want to paint over the wood again, you can get it nice and smooth with 120-grit sandpaper. After you’ve given the surface a once-around, you should move to a finer grade, such as 180 grit, and give it a second going over.

If necessary, you can move to an even higher micro grit of sandpaper to achieve a smoother finish.

sanding the wood surface

Painting a Surface With Latex Paint

Before applying latex paint over oil-based primer, you must roughen the oil paint because a rougher surface is required for the latex adhesive to adhere properly.

Alternatively, you can rough up the surface using 220 grit sandpaper. When working on DIY projects, this will ensure a good grip.

Drywall Prep

Small scratches or defects in drywall or plaster are usually easily remedied by painting over. In case of imperfections, aside from using a top-rated filler to prep the wood for painting, medium-grit sandpaper, such as 120, should be used to scuff and polish the surface.

When it comes to fixing small issues with your drywall, grab a 3M sanding sponge. If you’re only dealing with minor imperfections on the surface, this should do the trick without a hitch. 

However, if you happen to spot any significant flaws, make sure to address those before diving into the sanding process.

sanding the drywall

Drywall Repair

The most common types of drywall damage are gouges, nail holes, cracks, and scratches. Putty, wood filler, or spackle can be used to cover up these imperfections.

Once it’s dry, you can use fine sandpaper to buff off any rough spots. Sandpaper with a granularity of 120 is frequently employed for such tasks. You can conceal any repair signs by painting the area after smoothing it.

Why Sand Wood Before Painting?

No one likes a sloppy or splotchy paint job on hardwood furniture or woodwork. However, the trick to a flawless paint job is in the steps taken before the paint is applied. 

Sanding wood is the first step. If you want your paint to look smooth for a long time, give it a good sanding before application.

See Also: Is It Okay To Sand Wet Wood?

sanding wood after applying glue

Will it Make Wooden Surfaces Rough or Smooth?

You can get a smooth or rough finish with sandpaper by adjusting the grain size.

For instance, using a lower count, coarser sandpaper to create a rough surface is preferable when preparing the surface for external painting to ensure a strong bond between the primer and paint.

It makes sense to use a higher grit number to create a smooth finish if you plan on painting or varnishing your furniture after applying filler.

Sandpaper Numbers, Explained

Two common numerical schemes can be used to categorize sandpaper grits. C.A.M.I. or The Coated Abrasives Manufacturers’ Institute and Association of European Producers, or FEPA [1].

sandpaper numbers

The American National Standards Institute recognized the CAMI numbering system, making it the de facto standard in the United States. In contrast, FEPA is popular in Europe and a few other regions.


What grit of sandpaper should I use for wood before staining?

The grit of sandpaper you should use for wood before staining is 80 grit. This will get rid of deep scratches and blemishes. Then, work your way up to 120 and then 220. The sanding process will widen the wood’s pores, allowing the stain to penetrate more deeply.


Selecting the right sandpaper grit is the first step towards achieving a perfect finish when painting wood. Whether you’re working on a stunning hardwood floor, a sleek oak cabinet, a tabletop, or even a painted wall, the key is to choose the correct sandpaper grit. 

This ensures a flawless result that will leave your project looking expertly done. For a top-notch paint job, it’s absolutely vital to prepare the surface properly using the appropriate sandpaper and technique before you start applying your paint

Interesting Read: Painting Burnt Wood Tips

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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