Painting Tips by a Professional

No Ads. No Pop-ups. 

When you buy through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission that does not cost you any extra. Learn more

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.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on reddit
Share on email

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,  to the ole trusty: pad and stick. See my favorite sander here.

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? 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!
  1. We all agree, 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. 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.
  2. WEN, a decent company, makes the same basic type orbital drywall sander that costs a lot less, also pictured here.
  3. 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 (don’t’ get paper for this one), 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 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.

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.

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

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 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:

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”.

  • 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

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

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!)

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.

* The Ultimate

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: 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.


Related:

Painting Drywall with how-to steps

Best Drywall Primer and how to do it

 

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on reddit
Share on email

4 thoughts on “Drywall Sander Types: Top 5 Tools, Not Just for the Pros”

  1. Hello! My fiance and I are renovating a mobile home of her aunts for us to move into. Our son’s room has two original walls (mdf board I believe) that originally had wallpaper and two walls a previous tenant replaced with drywall. Well, I started to sand through about 3 or 4 layers of paint as well as wall texture that was hideous. The top portion of one panel took me about 45 minutes with an electric sander and 60 grit sandpaper. The stuff was thick! While I was at work one day a couple of weeks ago, my fiance thought it a good idea to just start peeling the paint and wallpaper off the walls. 🤦🏽‍♂️ I assume because it was quicker and she has no patience for tedious work. So, now I am faced with 3 of 4 walls that have no white paper covering and are down to the brown paper. Two of the walls are the original and one is sheetrock. I lightly sanded over some of the brown paper by hand to get it somewhat smooth and to stop balling up underneath the sandpaper on the first panel. I used Zinssers oil-based primer for stains, white can with brown background, on that panel as well as the second that I got lazy on and didn’t sand as well as the first. The first panel looked good and seemed to take really well. The second blistered. My question is, will using that primer on all the walls make them able to be just painted again or will they have to be replaced? We are just trying to do the most cost effective thing right now. Thank you for your time.

    • Hi. Hard for me to be sure since I cannot see it, but it sounds like there is a low cost way to make them as nice as any new wall: and it sounds like you have the time… which is what it will take.
      The answer seems to be “skim-coating”. This is when you put a thin coat of drywall compound on the entire wall then sand flat, prime with drywall primer linked on this page, then 2 coats of paint. It’s expensive to have a pro, but you can do it. Just watch it done on youtube. This will make the walls flat and any paper, the texture and imperfections will be covered.
      Generally, latex paint is not something you can sand. Oil, yes, latex no.
      If you send me a photo or 3 I’ll be able to know if this is good advice, but it’s the best I can do for now.
      The primer you used is more powerful than you needed: it’s mostly for stains…but no harm is done…just spent too much money!
      If you skim coat, use the basic drywall primer then look to see if stains come thru…then spot prime with the Zinssers.

      Good luck!
      b

  2. Good info. I have an existing coat of paint on my bathroom, but it had started to flake/chip so I had to do a LOT of scraping. Then I had to smooth things out with a thin coat of mud over half of the wall surface. So now based on what you say about flashing I’m not sure if two regular coats of paint will work or if I need a coat of drywall primer to even out the mud.

    • Sounds like you did it right. You definitely need primer before your paint or it will flash. No harm priming the old paint as well, to ensure an even take-up of the new paint. Look with a light at the sanding job: hold the light at a sharp angle, and if you see shadows or mounds, sand a bit more. It’s very hard as you now know, to sand after painting. Primer does sand a little easier, but still… get it now!
      Good luck

Question or Comment: Ask me anything!