Drywall Sander Types: Top 5 Tools, Not Just for the Pros

Drywall sander ready for work
Here is the list of drywall sander tools and extras that all the pros use...different styles for different budgets.
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Sanding drywall is downright painful and don’t even get me started on drywall dust: it has a mind of its own if you are not using a drywall sander vacuum. Here is the drywall sander for every budget: from the pro-type orbital vacuum sander, (check it here, it is amazing) to the ole trusty: pad and stick.

No “off-brands” here.

These are all the same tools sold at drywall supply stores (you know, 500 bucks and you get free shipping), and the prices those stores charge for are always higher.

Ah, a drywall sander with vacuum attachment: where have you been all my life?

Are you a pro? Check out the very bottom* for your new franchise.

Bottom line—our top 5 tools for drywall sanding, all from makers of the real-deal pro tools: the first 3 suck great!
  1. PORTER-CABLE 7800 4.7 Amp Drywall Sander with 13-Foot Hose
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    Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
    We all agree, Porter-Cable is tops in the field and pro supply stores call the best drywall sander. All the contractor stores carry this (+often no others). For the 9″ paper, see below. It is a one of the best dustless drywall sander.
  2. WEN, a decent company, makes the same basic type orbital drywall sander that costs a lot less.
  3. Hyde Tools 09170 Dust Free Drywall Vacuum Sander Kit
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    Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
    A good compromise on price is Hyde Tools' hand sander. This is also a vacuum sander : it attaches to the shop-vac like the big boys above. For the drywall sanding screens (dont’ get paper) see below.
  4. This painter’s everything sander: the Dewalt 5-inch orbital with dust bag (great for many projects).
  5. An un-flippable pole sander head, not like the rectangular ones that flip on you and leave marks. All pros use this now and then: old school drywall sander—improved.

More detail on these below, plus the downside of not using dust-extractors, shop-vacs (and how to improvise one).


Drywall sander top 5

After the best sanders are some ways to control the dust.

You know those ridges left by the wall sander…like dried mud under the paint? That’s because you had a lazy sander. It used to be very hard work.

Drywall sanding a roomOur advice: Cut your time in half and get a good electric drywall sander that sucks…up almost all the dust. Then, re-sell it online: you will get most of your money back: “Only used once” … pros always need a good drywall sander vacuum, plus they will buy your leftover paper.

Of course, you need a respirator: we simplified the crazy, complex world of filters here: for drywall dust, you just need P100 or HEPA filters: look for the kit with the retaining clips.

 

1. The very best drywall sander in the business is the Porter-Cable 7800: 9-inch (8.75). You’ll fly. There is a dust collection skirt around the head: well-done PC for this quality dustless drywall sander.

PORTER-CABLE 7800 4.7 Amp Drywall Sander with 13-Foot Hose
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

  • at only 8.5 lbs., but 64 inches pros mostly use this one
  • created for DIYers as well (if you want a real work out, see the Festool at bottom*)
  • pair with your shop vac’s 1¼-inch hose (adapters for others below)
  • the motor is opposite the head, so it feels very light: most don’t have this
  • straps to tie hose and electrical cords together: smart
  • foam pad for contours is nice
  • brushes that circle knock off a lot of clinging dust in corners etc
  • variable speed up to 2,000 rpm is impressive
  • uses standard, easy-to-find, quick-change 9-inch 'hook-n-loop' (velcro) paper (8.75) (we use 120-grit on most drywall jobs)

All the contractor supply stores carry this drywall sander (+often no others). Well done PC. We receive no money from any manufacturer for any product we recommend. It will take you a few hours to fully break in the pivoting head: no worries.

Here is the best video review on the ‘net: just a guy doing his job: cool dude.


2. WEN is a company we have come to trust…somewhat. They make lower-cost power tools like this almost dustless sander. that have good reviews. Our guess is that they want to become accepted with the big boys like Hitachi (now called Metabo) and DeWalt, then they will raise prices. For a home-owner, this would be a decent choice.

WEN 6369 Variable Speed 5 Amp Drywall Sander with 15' Hose
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

  • a bit heavier and slower than the PC above, but look at the difference in price
  • same 9-inch hook/loop (velcro) paper as the PC above (see link just above for best deal)
  • the hose is 1.5 inches (see shop vac adapters below if you have a 2.5″, etc)
  • only 9 lbs, and has a telescoping handle: nice job Wen
  • hand help version is ½ the price (not worth it in our view)

Below we present the dust containment shop-vac.


3. Hyde’s hand block vacuum pad: drywall sander with a vacuum attachmentcomes vacuum hose adapters for any dust trapping canister style vac. Hyde also sells a similar one that has no pole attachment (save about 10 bucks).

Hyde Tools 09170 Dust Free Drywall Vacuum Sander Kit
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Get the Norton washable drywall sanding screens: the drywall supply stores sell a lot of these

  • only 3 ounces (plus the weight of the hose)
  • snap-lock, not wing nuts to hold sanding screens in place
  • comes with hose adapters for different shop vacs
  • must use standard screens, for drywall sanding: not sandpaper…(these are the best: Norton washables)

Comes with a 6-foot hose, so if you have high work, you’ll have to put the vac on a stand or get a longer hose (see below for the extensions).

Slight downer: the vacuum creates a drag on the sander, which makes it slightly more difficult to move the sander, but the reduction is dust is worth it (with a good shop vac for drywall dust—see below)


4. Dewalt Orbital 5-Inch

If you are not doing a very large job, this will handle it, but your arms will need rest after you are done. The nice thing is that this is a workhorse tool for so many other things you will do…and you will leave it to your grandkids. DeWalt is quality.

DEWALT Random Orbit Sander Kit, 5", DWE6421K
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  • we love dust catcher system you change with one hand: others are clumsy
  • the dust bag is not all that great for drywall dust but gets 100% of sawdust, so you’ll still have some cleanup
  • optional shop vac hose connector (1¼ inch) that swivels
  • larger hose adapters below
  • sanding drywall with an orbital sander is a bit messier

5. Old school: pole sander head, fits threads for a broomstick/painting pole, but also comes with ‘free’ adapter for (use with our main quick-lock paint roller pole). All pros have one of these. We like the velcro (“hook&loop”) sandpaper. So fast to change, unlike the real ‘old school’.

Full Circle International Inc. R360 Radius360 Sanding Tool with Interchangeable Center Hub 9-Inch Round
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  • does not flip (which causes new dents in new sheetrock)
  • lowest-cost way to get the prep done
  • can be paired with a washable duster head shown (necessary before priming)
  • does not control dust
    R-DUSTER FCI Radius Duster,
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  • metal ones are better than the plastic: metal spreads the force evenly from the pole: that’s very important
  • it’s not heavy-metal, Judas

Also, read about how to create a dust ‘booth’ using poles and plastic.


Other associated drywall sanding tools

The main thing today making your drywall sander into a virtually dustless drywall sander when it is connected to a dust collector—but you have to get the right filter.

 

Drywall ready for sanding
Drywall ready for sanding

IMPORTANT: You cannot use your regular shop vac for this ultra-fine dust—it will kill your upright carpet vac in one use—and instantly void your warranty.

  • “Low-dust” drywall compound (mud) is supposed to sand off in larger particles: we never found that to be much help.
  • The best way to clean up drywall dust off the floor and walls
  • These vacs are not just for dustless drywall sanders with vacuum attachments

Without dust trapping ability, you’ll blow this stuff all over the house.

Our favorite all-around shop-vac, and the very best for drywall dust collection.

We compared drywall filtering shop vacs and read every review out there… and DeWalt wins the day.

We picked two: the DeWalt 10-gallon and the DeWalt 14-gallon. Few other brands are sold in drywall supply stores that pair the DeWalt with the Porter-Cable drywall sander shown at the top.

DEWALT DXV10P 10 Gallon Quiet Poly Wet Dry shop vac
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  • The 10 gallon uses “Quiet Technology” which the 14 lacks and they claim that it is built to live twice as long. Why do they only put this in some models? But we love it.
  • The 14 has large rear wheels and a cart-handle, (yeah baby), and actually costs a bit less.

These both have long cords, about the same number of horses, and a tank drain.

In addition to the washable cartridge filter, there are different bag type filters explained below.

The filters are easy to find with the model numbers:

Washable Cartridges

  • The “standard” cartridge comes with the unit (1.0 micron, DXVC6914)
  • Add the fine (.3 micron, DXVC6914, about 30 bucks)
  • Add the very fine, HEPA (.3 micron, DXVC6914, about 40 bucks).
  • We had never before seen a washable HEPA filter for a shop-vac. Nice going DeWalt.

Filter bags

  • use with 2 types filters for whatever the job calls for and they are not expensive for a change (average 5 bucks each)
  • fleece bag DWV9402 (concrete, wood, drywall dust)
  • dustbag – DWV9401 (concrete, wood, drywall dust)

Honorable mention is this surprisingly powerful and stable 1.5-gallon unit from Shop-Vac.

Shop-Vac 5895200 2.5-Peak Horsepower AllAround EZ Series Wet/Dry Vacuum 2.5-Gallon With Extension Wands, Tool Storage & Wall Bracket, Uses Type B Filter Bag & Type R Foam Sleeve
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

  • uses washable filters that go a long time: just love that.
  • downside: you have to clean the filter after suctioning up drywall dust for 20 minutes, but that goes fast: we have washed some 50 times
  • recommended for non-pros
  • works with reusable filters: the best deal is from Shop-Vac, not China!

Here is our video of one way to trap the dust as you sand using an older model. We travel with this powerful mini Shop-Vac everywhere: it is strong enough to pull paint out of carpet: thank you, thank you, thank you.

Shop vac hose adapters

WORKSHOP Wet Dry Vacuum Adapter WS25055A Wet Dry Shop Vacuum Adapter Combo Kit
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These 3 adapters should work for any hose and any vac, but measure your hose: size matters.

Counting for wall thickness, you will get, for the inner diameter (ID) about 1+3/16″. They are tapered so they will fit if you are close.

 

Extension hoses

These plastic ends taper so the will snug up when you install the one that you want.

  • 1.25 inch in 8 feet of hose with 3 end types to fit most vacs (optional wands and nozzles)
  • here is a 2.5 inch 20-footer )
  • You can find just the hose if you are willing to add the fittings on each end: this would be the lowest-cost option.
Wipe down your walls before priming/painting or your walls end up feeling like sandpaper:

Complete info for drywall priming and painting:

Before priming, you must dust the walls—start with the ceiling (even if you did no ceiling sanding…the dust flies up and sticks!)

Wooster Brush 1800 Duster, Gray, Mop Like, 16 in. L
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You can use any broom, but a a treated pad is the fastest,and you will wipe down twice. This is a Wooster product (well-known to us in the biz) and it really grabs the dust. Never wash it: just shake it off outside. The shape fits into all corners and it is designed not to flip over.

Wooster is a paint/drywall tool company brand all the pros use, as much as Purdy and Benjamin Moore.

Use with a broomstick or the standard painter’s quick-lock types.

We use these for general house cleaning as well.


Ear protection is helpful with shop-vacs (as you know).

A good light is key to finding ridges before the primer (when everybody will see them).

FUN TIME: Improvised dust-trapping shop-vac.

This video is a copy of a buddy’s idea to trap dust in water in the chamber of the vac with just the large-particle foam filter. We wonder if all the resistance we created will kill our motor. It’s a risk.


FAQ: What about wet sanding? Meh. It’s only ok for drywall sanding the 1st coat of mud at best. It does a poor job: the topcoats must be dry sanded unless you just don’t care. Fredo, don’t break my heart.

Here is a short video showing that wet sanding ain’t all it’s cracked up to be

* The Ultimate

Festool Planex Professional Drywall Sander and Dust Extractor Vacuum with Auto Clean
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
Professional contractors dream come true: . This drywall vacuum sander is pricey but it’s also the drywall tool company that makes you money. No more ladders or stilts with the extenders,(only 12 lbs with TWO extensions).

A less expensive way to go is to get them separately (but you don’t get some extras like extender pipe):

Festool drywall sanders, maybe the best drywall sander. Read the Fezer & Stoll company story: very cool. 

 

  • variable suction control on the unit
  • virtually dust-free sanding
  • this company stands behind their tools.
  • 3-year warranty
  • Festool’s video: getting started, and some of its features

Related:

Painting Drywall with how-to steps

Best Drywall Primer and how to do it

 

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