Sanding drywall can take a serious chunk of time if you're doing it all by hand, which is why electric sanders are such a godsend for contractors. They get the job done in record time while requiring only a fraction of the effort. After comparing 14 popular sanders based on their quality, efficiency, ease of use, and price, it's clear that the Porter-Cable 7800 is the best drywall sander. It offers everything one could want: an ultra-lightweight body for effortless handling, a wide range of speed settings for flawless finishes, and a built-in vacuum hose for dust collection. It's no wonder this sander has the highest customer rating out of any other model on the market. Article Summary
One of the final and most important steps in the drywall process is sanding. Sanding down your surface ensures a smooth and even finish so that you (or another contractor) can move on to the painting process and put the finishing touches on your newly built wall or room. Although this is a necessary step in the process, sanding drywall is not easy nor is it clean. If you’re doing it by hand, it’s going to require a ton of sandpaper and quite a bit of manpower if you want to get it done in a reasonable amount of time. The easier, less intensive, and more efficient alternative is to use an electric drywall sander.
If you’ve worked with any kind of electric sander before, the concept is the same. You’ve got a handheld tool with a moving sandpaper surface that you press against your wall (or other surface) to achieve your desired finish. In the case of a drywall-specific sander, a spinning sandpaper disc is attach to a revolving head at the end of a long handle so that you can distance yourself from the surface, thus keeping you relatively dust and chip free. A good number of drywall sanders also feature an attached vacuum function near the disc to help collect dust as you go and make post-sanding cleanup much easier.
Just like most power tools, drywalls sanders vary widely in quality and functionality depending on which brand or model you go with. We took a look at 14 of the highest-rated options currently available in search of the best drywall sander of all. We compared them in a number of different aspects including power output, sanding pad diameter, size, weight, and more, and we also compiled dozens of user reviews on each model in order to figure out what people liked and didn’t like about each sander. Some appeared great on paper, but proved otherwise when people actually put them to work. After nearly 28 total hours spent reading and researching all of the models, there are three models that stood out above the rest due to their ease of use and efficiency in both the sanding and clean-up processes.
The best drywall sander overall
Porter-Cable is a trusted industrial brand that has been making tools for over 100 years, so it’s safe to say they know a thing or two about quality. They offer a variety of well-built products relating to finishing and construction, and their 7800 Electric Drywall Sander happens to be the most recommended tool on the market for finishing drywall. After doing our own research and comparing it to other models, it’s easy to see why this sander has earned such a great reputation.
When shopping for the best drywall sander, there are three important aspects to look at: size (both dimensions and weight), efficiency (in terms of power and speed), and clean up. Porter-Cable’s 7800 sander excels wonderfully in all three categories.
First, it features a body that’s roughly 5 feet long while weighing only 8.5 lbs. That not only gives you the ability to reach tall or difficult places, but handling it is easier than ever seeing as that’s over 10 lbs lighter than almost every other quality sander out there (notice we said quality – there are a couple other sanders around this weight, but nothing close to this quality). Customers also love the fact that the weight is pretty evenly balanced; most of these tools are pretty top-heavy and can be a pain to work with, but the even weight distribution of the Porter-Cable is a nice change.
Next, the Porter-Cable provides 4.7 amps of power, producing speeds from 1,400 to 2,000 RPM. Variable speed settings are a nice touch because it gives you plenty of power for tougher jobs, but also allows you to dial back the intensity for lighter work. Most other models have much narrower speed settings, if even offering any at all.
Finally, this is a relatively dustless drywall sander thanks to a 1.25″ vacuum head that’s constantly sucking in dust as you work. This is attached to a 13-foot hose so you can get some pretty good use out of it rather than being restricted. Does it get every speck of dust in existence? No model will do that, but considering what it does capture (about 90% of the dust), it makes the rest of your cleanup process a lot quicker and easier. In comparison to most other models, it does a fantastic job.
The Porter-Cable 7800 is at the top of the game for its ease of use and efficiency; however, as you’ve probably heard by now, quality always comes at a cost. The one downside to the Porter-Cable is that it’s one of the most expensive models on the market, with a price tag close to $500. With that said, we like to look at tools from an investment perspective. Is it going to make your job easier? Absolutely. Is it going to last for a long time? Definitely. Other cheaper sanders might be half the cost, but they also have half the lifespan, and require double the work. The choice comes down to which is more important to you; for us, the Porter-Cable 7800 is the best drywall sander available, hands-down.
A great bang for your buck
Coming in at almost half the cost of our top pick is the ARKSEN 750W Drywall Sander. This is a great pick in terms of value for your dollar, as it has many great features that make it one of the industry’s favorites. For example, the extendable handle is something that even our top pick didn’t offer! The ARKSEN does have a few drawbacks which have held it back from our top spot, but nothing that would shy us away from recommending it for those looking for a great bargain.
In terms of power, this sander actually has a bigger range than our top pick at 1,000-2,000 RPM, along with variable speed settings just like Porter-Cable. The extra 400 RPM at the bottom of the range isn’t going to give you any extra horsepower for tough jobs, but for extremely light-duty tasks, it provides a softer touch so that projects can be eased into. The diameter of the sanding pads are also a quarter of an inch larger than our top pick, providing a bit more sanding area that can be employed to get jobs done with increased swiftness.
The ARKSEN also features a telescoping handle that doesn’t offer any more length than our top pick, but for tight spaces, the ability to telescope the handle to make it shorter can offer versatility. In addition, this is also another dustless drywall sander thanks to a built-in dust collection hose. Customers have reported that dust collection isn’t quite as efficient as our top pick, but the feature is there nonetheless.
While those are your key benefits in comparison to Porter-Cable’s 7800-series, there are a few drawbacks to be aware of as well. First, the ARKSEN is heavy in comparison to our top pick. In fact, over twice as heavy. Weighing in at around 19 lbs, it can be extremely tiring to hold after some time, especially on jobs that require a lot of sanding and finishing. In addition, the entire assembly of the grip and handle is a bit clunky and uncomfortable when compared to the low profile and streamlined design of our top pick.
Aside from the heavier weight and somewhat uncomfortable design, which are admittedly important aspects, this is still a great drywall sander, especially when you consider the price. At around $200 less than our top pick, the ARKSEN 750W Sander is an easy sell for those looking for quality on a budget.
A good sander for tall projects
The third and final option on our podium is the ALEKO DS2252 Drywall Sander. This is the cheapest option on the list, but also the least powerful. With that said, this is still a great sander for moderate jobs, plus it offers an extra-long telescopic handle for tall or hard-to-reach places, which is why we’d recommend it if neither of the above two picks fit your personal requirements.
Starting with a positive, this sander has the largest diameter sanding disc out of all three featured in our guide, meaning it can cover more surface area than the other models. However, the efficiency of the larger surface area gets cut short because the power only goes up to 1,750 RPM. At only 250 RPM lower than both of the above picks, that’s not too significant, but it’s worth noting. It should still be enough to handle light and moderate jobs without an issue, but to make quick work of tough jobs, the power is a bit lacking.
Another positive is that this is the longest model of all three picks, coming in at 13″ longer than our runner up and 9″ longer than our top pick. This makes it extremely easy to sand hard-to-reach places. This sander also has a very streamlined construction, making it easier to handle – if you have the muscular endurance to hold its weight, that is. Like the ARKSEN above, the ALEKO weighs in quite a bit heavier than our top pick at around 15 lbs (which is about four pounds lighter than the ARKSEN but about six pounds more than Porter-Cable). This obviously affects the ease of use, and consumers have reported it to also be a little top-heavy, which adds to its awkwardness in handling.
Despite its weight and slightly lower power output, with the low price, streamlined construction, larger diameter sanding disc and overall value, the ALEKO DS2252 is definitely worthy of a third place pick if you’re trying to conserve money for other tools.
Things to consider before buying
When shopping for the best drywall sander and comparing features, there are as many different technical aspects as there are grades of sandpaper. You’ve got different sizes, weights, power outputs, discs, and even the design of the handle can play a role in ease of use. Rather the trying to compare every last variable, keep the following four things in mind as they are the most important aspects:
A single pound variation between two models isn’t going to make a big difference in the first half hour of sanding, but once you’re an hour or two in, you’re going to be wishing it weighed even a quarter pound less. Weight varies a lot between models, with the average drywall sander being in the realm of 15 lbs. This is one of the main reasons the Porter-Cable 7800 is so coveted. Not only is it durable and mechanically sound, but at 8.5 lbs, it’s one of the lightest drywall sanders on the market.
There is a pretty moderate range of RPMs between different sanders, and having one within the higher RPM range will give you the power you need to get the work done quickly. Bear in mind that super-high RPM motors will add a bit of weight, and generally make the tool more expensive too. With that said, they will easily save you both time and effort on the job, so consider which aspect is more important to you (cost or effort).
Sanding pad diameter
A sanding disc with a larger diameter will contact more of the drywall with each revolution and get the job done faster. In that, however, a larger disc diameter is going to add a bit of weight to the tool, so the magic lies in finding the happy medium between disc diameter and the total weight of the unit. If you have a sander with a large disc diameter but you can’t lift it around the room, it’s not going to do you a whole lot of good.
Price can be a tricky category in any purchase – especially when you’re dealing with power tools and other construction/finishing equipment. While the different price tiers do represent increases in quality, more expensive does not always mean better. Determining your budget is going to keep you within your financial ballpark, but automatically going with the most or least expensive item, as we all do with other items, isn’t going to benefit you in this case.
How to use a drywall sander
Part of what makes drywall sanders so handy is their ease of use. They do require a bit of skill to master, but that skill can be acquired within an hour or two of practice no matter how experienced you are with construction. If you’ve never used one before and you’re not sure where to start, we’ve prepared a quick guide on how to setup and use an electric drywall sander.
Step 1: Setup
Setting up your drywall sander correctly is important to its functionality on the job. There are two main parts you’ll need to worry about during setup. The first part of setup that needs to be spot on is the sanding pad application to the head. The sanding pad is what actually sands the drywall, and for it to achieve this purpose you’ll want a sanding pad that is drywall-specific. Make sure that the pad is securely attached and there isn’t any overhang on the sides of the disc – this will ensure that, even at higher RPMs, your disc will be rocksteady and do the job. The other part of setup is getting your vacuum hose connected. This is usually a simple push-and-twist, or maybe with no twist at all, depending on the sander; but, getting the hose connected properly is going to be the difference between a few dust particles on the floor/in the air and a dust storm inside the workspace.
Step 2: The initial sand
This is the sanding that takes place right after all of the imperfections, dips, cracks and screw holes have been filled with joint compound. Simply switch on the drywall sander, along with your shop vac, and start working it across your surface, paying attention to the level of abrasion and how much your sander is taking off – you might need to raise or lower the RPM. This sanding will take care of the drywall paper imperfections and help smooth out any bumps caused by fills with joint compound.
Step 3: The finishing sand
Sanding after priming is a step that is often missed, and contributes to a shoddy finish with some fuzz and other imperfections showing through. Once the surface is primed, go ahead and refill any remaining dips or gouges with joint compound and give it another sand, this will take care of the last of the raised or uneven areas in your surface. Many think this step is worth overlooking, but for a clean finish, it really is essential.
Electric drywall sanders vs manual sanding poles
There is a little bit of debate in the finishing community about which is the best way to sand drywall. To join in that debate, and provide some insight that might be helpful to you, we have compared both hand sanding and power sanding on some key points.
In this area, there is no doubt that the electric sander has the upper hand. Having a revolving disc and a long handle is going to allow you to cover a lot more surface area in a shorter amount of time.
Although electric drywall sanders can offer a lot of control when mastered, you will almost always have more control when using a hand tool. Sanding by hand allows you to put different amounts of pressure on different areas, so you can sand at an angle or use an edge of the sander for a tricky spot.
Again, hand sanding is no contest for using an electric sander in this category. Making a large, sweeping movement with your arm with each pass of sandpaper is going to be extremely tiring, especially if the space is large. Having the ability to make much smaller movements and cover a larger area is going to make your job quite a bit easier.
Wrapping it up
An electric drywall sander is an extremely useful tool to have, whether you’re a DIY enthusiast with a big project or you’re an industry professional. It will significantly cut down your working hours and guarantee a perfect finish on your drywall, but they are a bit costly. DIY enthusiasts will probably be able to get away with a cheaper model for a one or two time job, but for industry professionals, investing in the best drywall sander is highly recommended to ensure you have a model that will last through many jobs over the years.