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Q: One visitor asked, "I sent a question regarding the sanding of pine treads. What is the best type of sander to use? We plan on sanding, staining and polyurethaning the treads and risers. After we will utilize a carpet runner since we have been told that the pine is too soft. Should we use the runner or is there some type of finish that acts as a wood hardener also."

A: Aside from professional, very high powered and high priced equipment such as a floor edger, There are other choices for the home owner to use. It depends what is on the pine steps currently. If they are painted, you may want to use a chemical stripper first. I have a Porter Cable random orbital sander that uses hook and loop self stick abrasives. this is actually a fairly aggressive little machine and only a bit over $100. A decent orbital sander that takes 4X8 sheets, (I have a Porter Cable) will cost up around $200 or more, but does a good job of smooth sanding. You will need a hand scraper that uses the double sided blades which need to be frequently sharpened with a fine toothed file.
There is no finish available to us that will make a wood harder. There is a process in manufacturing hardwood wherein an acrylic is impregnated into and all the way through the wood from top to bottom so that the wood fibers become totally engulfed in this plastic finish. I don't think we can do that to your pine treads.:) However, don't walk on them with high heel shoes and they shouldn't get badly marked up.

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