Sandpaper is an essential tool that any DIYer and homeowner should have in their toolbox. With sandpaper, you can make your paintwork look great and give your project an extra luxury finish. However, when buying sandpaper for the job, it is crucial to understand how different grits can impact the overall result.
Sandpaper grits are categorized by how coarse the abrasive material is. You will ideally start with a coarser abrasive and use progressively finer ones to achieve a smooth result. The most common grits are 60-80 (extremely coarse), 100-150 (medium grit), 180-220 (fine), and 320 (ultra-fine).
If you are not a DIY expert, all sandpaper types might look similar to you. However, picking the correct grit of sandpaper can genuinely make a difference in how smooth and appealing your surface will be – learn more about choosing the right sandpaper grit below.
What is Sandpaper Grit?
When selecting a new sheet or disc of sandpaper for your project, you will find out that there are several different grits and abrasive materials to choose from.
Understanding the differences between them and identifying the right one for your material and project is essential to obtain the desired results.
To choose the correct sandpaper grit, you need to start by understanding what grit is and its impact on your project.
Sandpaper grit represents the size rating of abrasive materials that sandpaper is made of. Sandpaper grit is divided into different categories based on the size of the abrasive particles. The larger the abrasive particles, the coarser the sandpaper. Conversely, smaller abrasive particles make finer sandpaper.
To get the best results, you should start with coarse sandpaper and progressively move towards finer ones.
Coarse sandpapers will help you eliminate significant bumps, impurities, and scratches on a surface, while finer sandpaper types are ideal for the last finishing touches.
When trying to identify the correct grit for your needs, you need to remember that:
- A number gauges the grit.
- Lower numbers designate coarser or larger grits ( #24- or #40-grit)
- Higher numbers indicate to finer grits (#600- or #1,000-grit)
- The grit is often indicated on the packaging or at the back of the sandpaper sheet
If you are in a rush to complete your project, you can find an overview of the most common types of sandpaper and how to use them in the video below:
Alternatively, keep reading to see all the details you need for a successful DIY project.
How Does Grit Work?
The grit is an essential characteristic to check when selecting a sheet or disc of sandpaper for your project.
Depending on the grit, a particular type of sandpaper might be suitable for removing paint and not smooth out bare wood – and vice-versa. Here is how grit works and how to select the right one.
Coarse sandpaper is perfect for raw surfaces that require a lot of smoothing and refining.
On coarse sandpaper, the abrasive material is present in large particles that are able to cut through the toughest surfaces.
Common abrasive materials include:
- Silicon carbide
- Aluminum oxide
Coarse sandpaper is suitable for removing wood or other materials by cutting through their fibers.
Therefore, you will notice that the surface becomes smoother faster and without having to apply much pressure. The sanding process will also take minimal effort.
You might decide to use coarse sandpaper if you wish to create a round edge out of a squared material.
Other applications include removing old paint and making a surface rougher (such as in preparing it for gluing).
Fine sandpaper is characterized by a higher-number grit and smaller abrasive particles.
There are several fine sandpaper types, and you should use a range of them rather than just one kind.
So, you can progressively use finer sandpaper and achieve the perfect result for your needs.
However, you should only move from sandpaper to a finer one once the material is smooth enough. Otherwise, you will be putting too much effort into trying to smooth out a surface that still requires harsher abrasive particles.
Aside from not wasting labor, overworking a particular area might cause it to look blotchy or shiny. It can be challenging to reverse the damage and give your surface a uniform appearance.
Common abrasives used in finer sandpaper include:
- Aluminum oxide
- Chromium (III) oxide
- Silicon carbide (common for wet applications)
What Does the P Stand for on Sandpaper?
As we have seen, the number on your sandpaper refers to its grit. While this is an excellent indicator of whether the sandpaper is suitable for your project, it is not the only aspect to consider.
Your sandpaper grit might have different numbers depending on what standards it has been measured.
The two most common criteria are:
- CAMI (Coated Abrasives Manufacturing Institute) now part of UAMA
- FEPA (Federation of European Producers of Abrasives)
For example, sandpaper marked with the number 800 in the CAMI standards will correspond to a FEPA’ P2000 or P1500.
The “P” in front of the second number indicates it refers to the FEPA scale rather than the CAMI one.
Below is a sandpaper grit chart with the most common grits of sandpaper’s grits and their corresponding numbers in the FEPA scale:
|Type||CAMI scale||FEPA scale|
|Ultrafine||800, 1000||P1500, P2000, P2500|
|Superfine||400, 500, 600||P800, P1000, P1200|
|Extra fine||360, 320||P400, P500, P600|
|Very fine||150 to 240||P150 to P360|
|Fine||100, 120||P100, P120|
|Coarse||40, 50, 60||P40, P50|
|Extra coarse||24, 30, 36||P12, P16, P30, P36|
Generally, the FEPA nomenclature is more common in European countries where FEPA regulates the sandpaper grit and quality.
However, on imported or international products, you might find both numbers.
Is Higher Grit A Finer?
The grit of sandpaper refers to the size of the abrasive material on the sandpaper. Higher numbers refer to finer sandpaper, which is suitable for smoothing out surfaces and adding the finishing touches to your DIY project.
Finer sandpaper is not designed to remove as much material from the surface.
This type of sandpaper is generally suitable for sanding softer surfaces that don’t require coarse abrasives to achieve the desired result.
While fine sandpaper with a higher grit is a must-have in any toolbox, it should only be used after you have already worked the surface with other tools or with a coarser grit of sandpaper.
This technique will help you avoid wasting labor and ensure a consistent result.
What Grit Is More Coarse?
If you are looking for more coarse sandpaper to create rounded edges or remove old paint from a surface, go with smaller numbers.
For example, a #20- or #40-grit sandpaper indicates a coarse consistency of the abrasive material.
Some of the most coarse types of sandpaper are referred to as macro grits. These are the numbers from P12 to P220. Extra coarse sandpaper is perfect for quickly removing impurities. You can also use it to sand hardwood flooring before using finer sandpaper to add the finishing touches.
Other applications include making a surface rougher. You might need to do so when gluing two surfaces together.
Indeed, roughness can increase an adhesive’s strength, creating irregularities that protect the surface from cracking and make the bond more resistant to fatigue.
How Do You Know What Grit Sandpaper To Use?
When selecting the right sandpaper for your project, it is essential to understand the different grits and use them.
However, if you are new to DIY projects and it’s your first time buying sandpaper, use these tips to make sure that you are not putting your money on the wrong product.
Check the Coarseness Level
If you find the coarseness codes confusing, don’t fret! Indeed, on most sandpaper packages, you will also find an indication of the level of coarseness in writing.
For example, you might find indications such as “suitable for metals, painted surfaces, wood, and plastic” or “general purpose.”
Therefore, you won’t have to rely on codes alone to make a decision. You can also check out whether a specific type of sandpaper is “medium,” “fine,” or “coarse.”
These indicators are easy to understand, and they often come accompanied by a short description of the uses of that sandpaper, making it almost impossible to buy the wrong product!
So, when shopping for sandpaper, the only thing you need to know is what result you are trying to achieve.
Know When You Need Extra Coarse
Extra coarse sandpaper comes with large abrasive particles. While this sandpaper is extremely tough and practical, its uses can be limited.
Indeed, you can use it to remove old paint or varnish, or sand the old floor. It is ideal for shaping wood and removing strong coats and finishes.
At the same time, using this sandpaper on a softer or brittle surface can cause severe damages, including scratches and cracks.
If you are unsure about the right type of sandpaper for your project, select an assorted rage and start with a finer grit.
Medium Sandpaper Is Versatile
Medium sandpaper – grits ranging from #100-#150 Grit – is one of the most versatile types.
With some extra labor, you can use it as macro grit and shape wood and round edges. However, you can also make the most of it when giving your project the last finishes.
Have a Range of Sandpapers
If you are unsure about the best kind of sandpaper for your needs, buy multiple types, from coarse grits to fine ones.
Indeed, during a project, you are likely to need several different types of sandpapers.
At the beginning of your project, you will use coarse sandpaper to take off as much rough material as possible. You will then apply progressively finer grits until you get the results you want.
What Are the Different Grits of Sandpaper Used For?
As we have seen above, it is crucial to find the right type of sandpaper for your project. The indications above are an excellent starting point to find good sandpaper grit for your job.
However, if you are unsure which one to use to obtain the results you want, the overview below can help you.
1. Coarse Sandpaper: #60–#80 Grit
Coarse sandpaper has the lowest numbers. The abrasive material is made of bigger particles designed to cut through most materials.
For example, you can use this type of sandpaper to round rough edges or corners of hardwood and other tough materials.
While this type of sandpaper can be potent, it also needs to be used appropriately. Indeed, it is easy to damage more delicate surfaces and layered materials such as veneer plywood with coarse sandpaper.
2. Medium Grit Sandpaper: #100–#150 Grit
Medium grit sandpaper ranges from 100 to 150, and it is the most common sandpaper out there.
Thanks to its high versatility, you can use it to round edges and corners or apply the finishing touches to your piece.
It matches many materials; you just need to modify the pressure to apply. For example, if you wish to remove a lot of material from a surface, you will need to add more pressure.
Conversely, you can preserve more delicate materials by applying less pressure.
3. Fine Sandpaper: #180–#220 Grit
Fine sandpaper ranges from 180 and 220 grits, and it is seldom used alone.
Indeed, for your project, you are likely to need more coarse sandpaper to remove some of the material first – and then you can use the finer sandpaper to add the finishing touches.
You might also find that some fine sandpapers are also used to smooth out specific paint works before applying the next coating.
Ultra-Fine Sandpaper: #320 to #1000 Grit
Ultra-fine sandpaper has numbers ranging from 320 to 1000. No finer types of sandpaper are usually used for DIY projects.
Ultra-fine sandpaper helps smooth out surfaces or the paintwork in-between coatings.
Sandpaper is an essential tool in any homeowner’s toolbox. However, with so many options on the market, selecting the right one for your project can be challenging.
You can base your decision on grit size, which represents how big the abrasive particles are. Coarse sandpaper has lower numbers and can cut through tough materials such as hardwood. Fine sandpaper is perfect for finishing touches and details.
You should have a range of sandpapers in your toolbox and move from coarse to progressively finer sandpapers.