Decoding Grit Numbers: A Comprehensive Guide to Sand Paper Grading


Decoding Grit Numbers: A Comprehensive Guide to Sand Paper Grading

Sandpaper is an essential tool for any DIY enthusiast or professional tradesperson. Whether you are sanding wood, metal, or even glass, the right sandpaper can make all the difference in achieving a smooth and polished finish. However, with the wide variety of sandpaper options available, it can be confusing to understand the different grit numbers and their corresponding uses. In this comprehensive guide, we will decode grit numbers and provide valuable insights into choosing the right sandpaper for your specific project.

Understanding Grit Numbers

Grit numbers are used to indicate the coarseness or fineness of the abrasive particles on the sandpaper. The higher the grit number, the finer the particles and the smoother the finish. Conversely, lower grit numbers indicate coarser particles, which are more suitable for heavy material removal or rough sanding.

Common grit numbers range from 40 to 600, with 40 being the coarsest and 600 being the finest. However, there are also sandpapers available with grit numbers exceeding 600 for specialized applications.

Coarse Grit Sandpaper

Coarse grit sandpaper, typically ranging from 40 to 80 grit, is ideal for heavy material removal and shaping rough surfaces. It is commonly used for tasks such as removing paint or varnish from wood, smoothing rough edges, or preparing surfaces for further refinishing.

When using coarse grit sandpaper, it is important to exercise caution and avoid applying excessive pressure, as it can cause damage to the surface being sanded. It is recommended to use a sanding block or an orbital sander for even and consistent results.

Examples of coarse grit sandpaper include:

  • 40 grit sandpaper
  • 60 grit sandpaper
  • 80 grit sandpaper

Medium Grit Sandpaper

Medium grit sandpaper, ranging from 100 to 150 grit, is suitable for general sanding and smoothing tasks. It is commonly used for removing scratches, preparing surfaces for painting or staining, and achieving a smooth finish before applying a topcoat.

Medium grit sandpaper strikes a balance between material removal and surface refinement. It is versatile and can be used on a variety of materials, including wood, metal, and drywall.

Examples of medium grit sandpaper include:

  • 100 grit sandpaper
  • 120 grit sandpaper
  • 150 grit sandpaper

Fine Grit Sandpaper

Fine grit sandpaper, ranging from 180 to 240 grit, is used for finer sanding and surface preparation. It is commonly employed for removing small imperfections, smoothing wood surfaces, and preparing surfaces for finishing coats.

When using fine grit sandpaper, it is important to sand with the grain of the wood to avoid creating scratches or swirl marks. Sanding in a circular motion can result in an uneven finish.

Examples of fine grit sandpaper include:

  • 180 grit sandpaper
  • 220 grit sandpaper
  • 240 grit sandpaper

Extra Fine Grit Sandpaper

Extra fine grit sandpaper, ranging from 320 to 600 grit, is used for achieving a smooth and polished finish. It is commonly used for final sanding before applying a topcoat, removing small blemishes, or preparing surfaces for intricate detailing.

Extra fine grit sandpaper is often used in woodworking, automotive refinishing, and other applications where a high level of precision is required.

Examples of extra fine grit sandpaper include:

  • 320 grit sandpaper
  • 400 grit sandpaper
  • 600 grit sandpaper

Specialized Sandpapers

In addition to the standard grit numbers, there are specialized sandpapers available for specific applications. These include:

  • Wet Dry Sandpaper: Designed for use with water or other lubricants, wet dry sandpaper is suitable for wet sanding applications, such as automotive refinishing or smoothing drywall joints.
  • Micro Grit Sandpaper: With grit numbers exceeding 600, micro grit sandpaper is used for ultra-fine sanding and polishing tasks, such as jewelry making or restoring delicate surfaces.
  • Waterproof Sandpaper: Similar to wet dry sandpaper, waterproof sandpaper is designed to withstand exposure to water and is commonly used for wet sanding applications.

Choosing the Right Sandpaper

When selecting sandpaper for your project, it is important to consider the material being sanded, the desired finish, and the level of material removal required. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Material: Different materials require different sandpapers. For example, wood may require a finer grit sandpaper compared to metal.
  • Finish: Determine the level of smoothness or roughness you desire for your project. Coarser grits are suitable for rough sanding, while finer grits are ideal for achieving a polished finish.
  • Material Removal: Consider the amount of material you need to remove. For heavy material removal, coarse grit sandpaper is recommended, while finer grits are suitable for light material removal or surface refinement.
  • Application: Specialized sandpapers, such as wet dry sandpaper or micro grit sandpaper, may be required for specific applications.


Choosing the right sandpaper is crucial for achieving a professional finish in your DIY or professional projects. By understanding grit numbers and their corresponding uses, you can make informed decisions when selecting sandpaper for your specific needs. Remember to consider the material, desired finish, level of material removal, and any specialized requirements for your project. With the right sandpaper in hand, you can tackle any sanding task with confidence and achieve outstanding results.

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