Buffer screens are simply pieces of window screening with abrasive particles glued to the mesh. The mesh doesn’t hold as many abrasive particles as paper, so sanding screens are gentler than sandpaper. So, a 100 grit piece of sandpaper with be much more aggressive and leave much more visible sanding scratches than a 100 grit screen. We turn to sanding screens when we want to leave plenty of tooth in the wood, but we don’t want to see a coarse texture. Most modern floor finishes require a relatively coarse wood surface to allow them to soak in and really bond. Sanding screens help us to leave that texture without leaving as many unsightly sanding marks.
Different buffer screen grits have different purposes:
60 or 80 grit Are you trying to recoat a floor that really should be sanded? These coarse screens might let you get away with it. These won’t reliably remove finish or make a floor bare, but they can grind off some accumulated, ground-in dirt from foot traffic.
100 or 120 grit Usually only on raw wood after the big sanding machines (the drum sander and edger) have finished to create a well-blended, uniform, but barely visible scratch pattern over the entire floor.
150 or 180 grit Usually used on already finished floors to create a “tooth” or texture in the existing finish so that they next coat has something to grab onto so it can stay bonded to the previous coat.
These are two-sided; expect to get 100-150 sqft per side before they are too dull.
Always use a buffer screen paired with a white buffer pad. Never put a screen directly against your buffer’s drive plate because it will sand off all the little grippy nubs! And you will not get your damage deposit back and you will be sad.