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Sandpaper Grit Charts & Grades

3/6/24

Sanding can make all the difference in a woodworking, metal or drywall project. Sanding can be done by hand as well as in tandem with power tools such as electric sanders to create the best finishes on these materials. Sanding by hand works well for woodworking and finishing, especially for giving surfaces a lighter touch. Sanding with power tools helps scrape off material quicker, with the added potency of shaping and leveling wood. It’s also used to prepare metals for a paint job.

Sandpaper for power sanding is sold in sheets, belts and discs. Regardless of which route your application requires you to take — hand-sanding or power-sanding — knowing the differences among the sandpaper grades is key to completing a sanding application. Choose accordingly with our sandpaper grit chart and by following the nuances in grades and material.

What Does the Grit Number on Sandpaper Mean?

The grit of sandpapers is a rating of the size of abrasive materials on the sandpaper. The higher grit number is equivalent to a finer abrasive, which creates smoother surface finishes. Lower grit numbers represent coarser abrasives that scrape off materials much quicker. In the chart below, the grit is measured via both the CAMI (Coated Abrasives Manufacturing Institute) and FEPA (Federation of European Producers of Abrasives) standards, the latter of which is preceded by a “P.” There are two main subdivisions, micro and macro, with many more gradations included.

Micro Grit Sandpaper

Micro grits are a class of finer abrasives. They include higher grit numbers. Micro grit-sized sandpapers are commonly used on wood and some on drywall.

Grade Description CAMI FEPA Diameter Used for

Ultra Fine

Most delicate abrasives

800 or 1000

P1500, P2000 or P2500

8.4-12.6 micrometers

Final sanding and polishing thick finishes

Super Fine

Slightly wipes away patches/small inconsistencies but not strong enough for removal

400, 500 or 600

P800, P1000 or P1200

15.3 to 23.0 micrometers

Final wood finishing

Extra Fine

Slightly less fine and more abrasive than Super Fine

360 or 320

P400, P500 or P600

25.8 to 36.0 micrometers

Initiative methods for wood polishing

Very Fine

The least fine of the micro abrasives

240

P240, P280, P320 or P360

40.5 to 58.5 micrometers

Sanding finishes between consecutive coats and drywall and wood

Macro Grit Sandpaper

Macro grits are a class of abrasives that range from medium to coarse sandpaper calibers. They feature mid to low grit numbers. Macro grit-sized sandpapers are commonly used on tougher wood and metals and have a stronger clearance.

Grade Description CAMI FEPA Diameter Used for

Very Fine

A coarser material than Very Fine under the micro abrasives

150, 180 or 220

P150, P180 or P220

190 to 265 micrometers

Sanding on bare wood

Fine

Cannot remove varnish or paint on wood

100 or 120

P100 or P120

115 to 162 micrometers

Preparing wood for finishing, cleaning plaster and removing water stains on wood

Medium

Medium to coarse surface texture after sanding

80

P60 or P80

190 to 265 micrometers

Sanding bare wood to prepare it for removing varnish and final finishing

Coarse

Has the ability to remove material rapidly

40, 50 or 60

P40 or P50

336 to 425 micrometers

Wiping away a layer of debris or finish with minimal effort

Extra Coarse

Quickens the removal of most materials rapidly

24, 30 or 36

P12, P16, P30 or P36

530 to 1815 micrometers

Initial efforts in hardwood floor sanding

Frequently Asked Questions

Besides the grits and grades, sandpaper is made from materials that vary chemically. It can be made from ceramic, or from synthetic materials like aluminum oxide, alumina-zirconia, or silicon carbide. Irrespective of the sandpaper you work with, it must have a strong bond between the sandpaper grit and its backing material. If it doesn’t, the grit and backing material may become separated during use, ruining your application. Sandpaper backing includes paper, cotton, polyester, rayon, and PET film. Mylar is used as backing for extremely fine grits.

Grit size refers to the specific size of the abrasive grain (CAMI 36, 60, 120, etc.), while the grade is a broader term, with each grade including a range of grits. For example, medium grade includes grit sizes between 80 and 150.

The grit size largely depends on your project — coarser grits are used to quickly and efficiently remove material whereas higher grits are used in finishing. The golden rule of sanding is to never skip more than one grit as you progress in finishing to avoid deep scratches and imperfections. Each grit size is designed for removing material or finishing. Following the grit sequence can save time by preventing damage that can take longer to fix. Using the right sanding techniques also makes sure you get a smooth, even surface and a better-looking result.

Find the Right Sanding Equipment

Electric Sanders

Electric Sanders

Sandpaper Sheets

Sandpaper Sheets

Sanding Belts

Sanding Belts

Sanding Discs

Sanding Discs

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.