The short answer to this is NO! All hardwood sheens are EQUALLY durable. In this article I’m going dispel several myths related to hardwood and polyurethane:
- Myth 1: Shinier hardwood floors are more durable compared to matte and satin finishes. FALSE.
- Myth 2: Adding a glossy coat of finish in the lower layers of polyurethane will increase the durability of the hardwood. FALSE
- Myth 3: Adding additional coats of polyurethane will make your hardwood shinier. FALSE.
All of these are false, and apparently there are even many installers that believe these myths. I am not sure why so many installers believe this. It may be due to using a shinier finish on basketball courts (so they mistakenly think it’s a harder finish). Or it may be due to the chemical that is added to make the floors less shiny, and they mistakenly believe it weakens the finish. It doesn’t!
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Are shiny hardwood floors more durable?
No, all sheen level have the same durability, regardless of whether it is glossy, semi-gloss, satin or matte. This is a common myth that some homeowners and even some refinishers and contractors believe, but it is incorrect.
Technically, they are all equally as durable.
HOWEVER, shinier floors tend to look like they wear down FASTER (not slower). Why is this? Well the shinier the finish, the more the light reflect off of it. And, it highlights the wood’s dents, scratches and flaws as well dirt. So, selecting a flatter finish (such as satin or matte) will allow your floors to look better longer, and there appear to be more durable.
While there are definitely differences among polyurethane brands (see: top polyurethane brands here), within a brand, changing the finish level won’t change the durability. It is more of a taste preference (and satin and matte finishes are more stylish).
If you add a glossy coat of polyurethane on the 1st or 2nd coat, will it make the floors more durable?
So because of this mistaken myth about shinier floors being more durable, many refinishers recommend using a glossy (or semi-gloss finish) for the 1st. But, it makes no difference – it neither helps nor hurts the strength of the finish.
If you add a glossy or semi gloss coat on the earlier coats, will that increase the sheen on my floors?
No. The only sheen that “counts”…or shows…is the TOP layer. So, if your refinisher uses a shiny coat and you don’t like the look of it, don’t worry. It’s the final coat that will determine the shininess of your hardwood floors.
Often, contractors will use whichever finish they have on hand for the earlier coats, and that is perfectly fine.
Does adding extra coats of polyurethane make the floors shinier?
No, the number of coats of poly does not impact how shiny the floors will be. As mentioned above, it’s only the top coat that will define the sheen.
While the number of coats of polyurethane won’t have an impact on the final sheen, it will (of course) have an impact on durability (and a minor impact on how smooth or rough the floors will be).
Which sheens are most popular for hardwood floors?
Currently, there is a strong preference towards satin and matte finished (i.e. less shiny). Semi-gloss looks rather dated (and cheaper). And, of course it shows dirty and scratches much sooner…and of course much more maintenance.
Glossy floors are rarely seen in residential homes. You are more likely to see them on basketball courts and a few other commercial establishments. These floors are even more maintenance, and they look slippery.
I think some people associate shinier floors with cleanliness. Part of this may be because decades ago, many of the cleaning products gave your floors a sheen (and some of this was because many floors were waxed (rather than polyurethaned).
And, while I’m on this topic, please stay away from all cleaning products that promise to make your floors shiny or restore the sheen to your hardwood. They are playing on these misconceptions and gullible customers. What they don’t tell you is that these will only temporarily restore the sheen…BUT, these products will actually degrade and wear down the polyurethane on your floors…so you’ll need to call someone like to me sand and refinish them much sooner!
Don’t fall for this! Just use a regular hardwood cleaner. I recommend Bona hardwood cleaner to all of my customers.
You can read more about hardwood flooring sheens (and see pictures) in this article: Most popular hardwood sheen finishes.
How many coats of polyurethane should you use?
I would generally recommend 3 coats of polyurethane as that will give your floors more protection (vs 2). Also, as you buff between the 1st an 2nd coat, as well as between the 2nd and 3rd coats, your floors will come out a bit smoother. Any rough patches or even brush strokes will be smoothed out (well assuming you hired a competent and professional installer).
If you want to save a bit of money, you may be able to get away with just 2 coats of poly on the 2nd and 3rd floors as these areas get less traffic. Of course 3 is better.
Or, if you’re about to sell your house and want to save some money, 2 coats will usually suffice as you are less worried about durability.
What if I don’t like the sheen that my installer just used?
If you’re not happy with the sheen, you can have the refinishers do a screen and recoat (or buffing) and add on another coat of poly. You can either go shinier or less shiny, pending your preference.
Of course this will cost a bit more and take an extra day. But, it’s better to do this than be unhappy with your floors. Be sure to check out your floors before the furniture is moved back as that help you avoid unnecessary moving expenses.
Related polyurethane articles:
- Best brands of polyurethane for hardwood floors
- Which brands of polyurethane don’t yellow
- Which sheens are mos popular for hardwoods
- The best brands of water based polyurethane
- Does polyurethane make hardwood floors waterproof?