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 (dust extractor).
Re-sale value is high for good ones, so pull that trigger, fly through the work, then get your money back.
Here is the drywall sander for every budget: from the pro-type orbital vacuum sander to the ole trusty: pad and stick. See my favorite sander here: expensive, for pros or serious tool lovers. More on this baby at the bottom. But here are the main homeowner level tools:
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 are always higher!
Ah, a drywall sander with vacuum attachment: where have you been all my life?
Are you a pro? At the bottom*, you might meet your new franchise: Check it out.
Bottom line—our top 5 tools for drywall sanding, all from makers of the real-deal pro tools: the first 3 suck great!
- We all agree that Porter-Cable (company website) is tops in the field. What you see here is what pro supply stores call the best drywall sander. And it’s not that expensive for the quality, you can check the price here. All the contractor stores carry this (+often no others). For the 9″ round paper, see below. It’s probably—no, it IS—the best dustless drywall sander I’ve ever seen work.
- WEN, a decent company, makes the same basic type orbital drywall sander that costs a lot less, also pictured here.
- 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. Great tool for the price, check it here. For the drywall sanding screens (don’t’ get paper for this one), see below.
- This painter’s everything sander: the Dewalt 5-inch orbital with dust bag (great for many projects), check price online.
- An un-flippable pole sander not like the rectangular ones that flip on you and leave marks. All pros use this now and then: old school drywall sander—improved. See Online here.
More detail on these below, plus the downside of not using dust-extractors, shop-vacs (and how to improvise one).
Drywall Sanders: 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.
Our 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.
The Big Boy
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.
- at only 8.5 lbs., but 64 inches pros mostly use this one
- created for DIYers as well (if you want the top pro tool, 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.
- 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 attachment comes 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).
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 sanding 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.
- 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’.
- 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
- 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
Vacs, and 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.
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.
I compared drywall filtering shop vacs and read every review out there… and DeWalt wins the day, with a close runner-up.
I picked two: the DeWalt 10-gallon and the slightly bigger 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.
- 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
Start by clicking here, then simply search for the model numbers in bold:
- 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.
- 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)
The Vacmaster 4 Gallon with a washable cartridge filter. Big power, small price won me over when I saw this.
- 5 HP
- Washable filter: accept no less
- Tool containment: everything has a place
- 15-foot cord: thank you
You have the option for 2.5, 4, 5, or 6-gallon sizes, and the 5 comes in 3 HP or 5 HP.
Look out DeWalt and ShopVac.
Honorable mention is this surprisingly powerful and stable 1.5-gallon unit from Shop-Vac”.
- 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
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, adapters
These plastic ends taper so the will snug up when you install the one that you want.
- 1.25-inch diameter, 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:
You can use any broom, but 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 and sanders (as you know).
A good work 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.
Professional contractors dream come true: This drywall sander is pricey but it’s also the drywall tool company that makes us money. No more ladders or stilts with the extenders, (only 12 lbs with TWO extensions). There are less expensive models but this drywall sander is my pick of the lot.
Festool dust extractor for pros or geeks
The best drywall sander vac out there. Read the Fezer & Stoll company website: too much info!
- variable suction control on the unit
- virtually dust-free sanding
- locking brake
- 3-year warranty
- Festool’s video: getting started, and some of its features
There are lower costing versions, but the one shown just above is the only one that continuously self-cleans.