SurfPrep Sander Alternative

When you don’t have the budget for an expensive SurfPrep Sander, but you want one so bad, what do you do? Here’s a great SurfPrep sander alternative to get you through! This combination of an efficient and affordable sander with the use of SurfPrep foam pads is perfect for sanding furniture on a budget. There’s a reason it is in our list of furniture painting tools and supplies!

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at this SurfPrep sander alternative and explore why it’s such a great option for your sanding needs.

photo of ryobi detail sander with text overlay

When you’re painting furniture, sanding is a huge part of the process to make sure that it turns out, and looks (and feels) amazing!

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But, if you’re stuck sanding by hand, it can be so frustrating to sand before painting, between coats of paint and after making any repairs to your furniture.

That’s why we bought a SurfPrep Sander. Its a small sander that you can attach to foam pads, that make sanding furniture a breeze!

But, the SurfPrep Sander has a big price tag! So, what do you do if you want to make sanding furniture easier, but you can’t afford the SurfPrep Sander?

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Some of the biggest reasons to buy a 3×4 Electric Ray SurfPrep Sander is to get access to:

  • their amazing foam pads
  • the ability to get into corners easily
  • and the vacuum compatibility to suck up dust

Learn more about our favorite SurfPrep sander here! We also go into detail about the many features and benefits of the SurfPrep Electric Ray 3×4″ Sander here.

foam pad for sanding furniture

But, you don’t necessarily have to buy a SurfPrep to get all of those things.

*Note: Obviously, there are more things that make a SurfPrep sander a great sander, but those 3 features are the top reasons I’ve seen for wanting to get a SurfPrep.

Not all sanders are built as well, and most budget friendly sanders don’t have variable speeds. Not to mention the SurfPrep sander is super quiet. (Until you turn your shop vac on to collect the dust haha).

If you’re just looking for the basics though, here are some alternatives to get you through!

The Best SurfPrep Sander Alternative on a Budget

So, the best budget friendly SurfPrep sander alternative, in my opinion, is the

All in all, getting the Ryobi sander, the shop vac, and the adapter is around a 1/3 of the price compared to getting the SurfPrep 3×4 electric sander with the hose, adapter, and shop vac setup!

ryobi detail sander attached to shop vac hose with adapter
close up image of shop vac hose with adapter

More SurfPrep Sander Resources

SurfPrep Sander Alternative

Here’s how you can turn a budget friendly sander into all of these things!

Amazing Foam Pads

These foam sanding pads are SO DARN GOOD! They make it possible to use an electric sander on curves and details!

If you try to take an orbital sander to furniture or trim, you’ll end up ruining the shape! But these foam pads contour to the shape of the furniture or trim work, so you can sand without ruining the details!

But how do you recreate that for a regular ole sander?? SurfPrep actually makes foam pads that will fit other sanders!

You can buy SurfPrep foam pads for your own

  • 5″ or 6″ orbital sander
  • rectangular sander
  • detail (mouse) sander!
close-up of sanding pad on curves of furniture

They come in the 3 different thicknesses, 5mm, 10mm, and 1/2″. They even have options with no holes or holes!

*Note: Pay attention to the hole spacing and the exact size of the foam pads compared to your sander! I can get 4 of the holes to line up with this Ryobi Sander and SurfPrep Foam Pads combination.

Check out all of the SurfPrep foam pads for other types of sanders here!

I believe these foam pads were actually made to be compatible with the high end Festool sanders, so the holes and dimensions might be a little bit off for budget friendly sanders.

If you want to learn more about Festool sanders, you should check out our Festool RTS 400 REQ sander review and our post about the best Festool sander for furniture.

I think for a budget friendly option though, this is a great alternative!

Sanding Inside Corners

If you own an orbital sander, you know how big of a pain it is to sand in corners. And furniture has a lot of corners to get into!

So, instead of using an orbital sander, use a detail (mouse) sander or a rectangular sander. Learn more about the different types of sanders for furniture here.

sanding in corner with ryobi detail sander

Both are able to get into corners because they have straight edges instead of being a circle. Enough said right?

Vacuum Attachment

I absolutely love that I can sand furniture inside of my home without worrying about dust flying everywhere!

So, if you want to replicate the SurfPrep, get a sander that you can attach a shop vacuum hose to! (Make sure your shop vac is powerful enough to suck up all the dust! SurfPrep recommends at least 5 HP!)

I have this Ridgid shop vac hooked up to my SurfPrep using the 1 1/4″ Ridgid hose.

Orbital Sander

This Ridgid orbital sander can easily hook up to either of the Ridgid shop vac hoses (1 1/4″ or the 2 1/2″ hose)! But, that’s an orbital sander, so it won’t help you get into the corners.

Detail Sander

But, with an adapter, this Ryobi detail sander can hook to your shop vac too! Just tighten this flexible PVC coupling to the sander’s dust port and then to your shop vac hose.

Check out my list of the best detail sanders for furniture here.

photo of flexible PVC coupling

**Note: I used the 1 1/4″ to 1 1/2″ coupling in these photos. But I have since traded it for the 1″ to 1″ coupling. (The dimensions on the coupling indicate what size it can tighten down to, and are about 1 3/8″ wide inside before you tighten it down.) And then I attached it to the end part of my hose that attaches to other accessories.

Since the PVC is flexible, you can tighten it a little bit and get a good seal, even if the dimensions don’t exactly match the dust port or your shop vac hose.

photo of tightening the coupling onto the sander and shop vac hose

But, you definitely want the dimensions to be close!

The Ryobi detail sander has a dust port opening that is 1 3/8 inches (outside) and 1 1/8 inches (inside). And the Ridgid shop vac hose is 1 1/4 inches.

It’s definitely not the SurfPrep Sander, but if you’re on a tight budget, and want something with these features, it’s a pretty good option until you can upgrade!

Check out this video I made about my SurfPrep Sander. Near the end I show the alternative SurfPrep Sander setup!

Safety Measures While Sanding

Sanding can get messy and be a bit risky, but no worries! With the right safety measures, you can avoid any accidents or injuries.

First and foremost, wear eye protection while sanding to prevent any debris from getting into your eyes. It’s also a good idea to wear a mask to protect your lungs from any dust particles that may be released while sanding.

In addition to protective gear, it’s also important to use the proper techniques while sanding. When sanding, make sure to keep a firm grip on your sander and move it in a smooth, even motion.

Avoid pressing too hard or sanding in one spot for too long as this can cause uneven surfaces or damage to the wood.

If you feel any discomfort or pain in your hands or wrists while sanding, take breaks and stretch to avoid any repetitive strain injuries.

Always make sure the area you are working in is well-ventilated to prevent any buildup of dust or fumes.

Lastly, never leave your sander unattended while it is turned on. Always make sure to turn it off and unplug it before changing sanding pads, making any adjustments or basically when you’re not using it.

More Sander Resources

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closeup of ryobi detail sander attachment to shop vac hose with adapter
ryobi detail sander attached to shop vac hose with adapter
closeup of sanding pad on curves of furniture
flexible PVC coupling
ryobi detail sander with foam pads and ridgid shop vac
tightening the coupling onto the sander and shop vac hose
sanding in corner with ryobi detail sander
Surfprep sander with 1/2" foam pad sanding furniture


  1. Susan Ciaburri says:

    I can’t thank you enough for this information!!
    I’ve been searching for an alternative to the SurfPrep for year’s.
    (Until I can afford one ) ?
    Just ordered a multi set…

  2. You’re a life saver! I’m buying the foam pads now for my sander!

  3. Cheryl Atkinson says:

    Wow, i didn’t know Surf Prep had foam pads for normal sanders!! Thank you for that information. There is no way i can afford a surf prep sander. My business is small.

  4. Donna Kolb says:

    Hello, thank you for your video.. It was so informative. But I did go out and buy a Ryobi rectangle hand sander and ordered the foam sanding paper from SerfPrep. I wish I had ordered the Ryobi detail sander (the one with the pointed front) like I see in the video you made. I guess I misunderstood and thought it would work on the Ryobi rectangle sander but I cannot figure out how to attach the foam sand paper to the sander. It has these bracket holder things on the side and the SurfPrep sandpaper isn’t that wide, maybe on the detail Ryobi sander you were using it held on by velco?? Is that how SurfPrep foam sanding paper holds on? This has been so frustrating and now I have the foam sanding paper that I can’t put on anything. Help! Thank you

    1. Oh no!
      Yep, the SurfPrep sandpaper is held on with hook and loop (velcro). And yeah, the rectangle sanders after have those hooks to hold the sandpaper on. So the square sander isn’t going to work with the SurfPrep foam sandpaper.

  5. Where do you get the sander

    1. There are links in this post that take you right to home depot so you can buy the sander.

  6. Hey! To sand down an oak railing to the raw wood, you will need some coarse sanding sponges as well.
    Best of luck!

  7. Great question! No, the holes don’t match up exactly. You can for sure get 1 or 2 of the holes to match up.
    Yes the setup still works, but the dust collection will not be optimal because the holes don’t line up.
    I honestly haven’t ever tried different sandpaper for the corner cat sander, so I don’t know for sure. I’m sorry!

  8. For a person that flips furniture regularly would the investment in the surf prep make more sense or would you recommend trying the Ryobi and seeing how long that will last for before purchasing surfprep. Is the finish the same with the ryobi?

    1. If you flip furniture all the time, yes a surfprep is worth it. The Ryobi doesn’t sand as well and it isn’t as easy to use (the rectangle shape of the surfprep is much easier to sand furniture with instead of the triangle.)

      If you can’t afford the surfprep, by all means, get the ryobi to get you through until you can get a surfprep.

  9. So glad I stumbled upon your blog! Just bought some for my sander in hopes of helping me with my 100+ year old doors i have been struggling to refinish all the intricate parts.

  10. Kristi Johnson says:

    I have the Ryobi 18V ONE+ Corner Cat Finish sander. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a dust extractor tube. But which of the foam pads/sanding sheets would you recommend for this sander? Surf Prep Sander is out of my budget!

    1. I would use the same triangle shaped foam pads that I shared in this post that even the ONE= version of the sander.

  11. I use a variety depending on what I’m sanding. So I use coarse somteimes, but mostly medium, muedium plus, fine and very fine. You cuould probably get away with just medium and fine if you wanted. For scuff sanding, I use Medium or medium+.

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