When it comes to hardwood floors, which type of finish sheen is most in style?
There are 4 levels of hardwood floor finish sheens: Matte, Satin, Semi-gloss, Glossy (from least shiny to most shiny)
The sheen measures how shiny or glossy your floor’s finish is. Different people have different preferences. The luster level is determined by how much light is reflected off the floor from a 60 degree angle (consistent with how the floors are viewed while someone is standing on them).
The glossier you go, the more light reflects off the floors. This in turn, shows more dirt/dust as well as imperfections in the floor.
It’s important to realize that different hardwood species will produce different sheen levels. Natural wood color or patina, as well as differences caused by open vs closed pore woods will produce subtle variances in the sheen level. The sheen level chosen is more of an aesthetic choice and does not impact the durability of the finish.
Note: At the end of this article, I share the brands of polyurethane we typically use, so I hope this comes in handy. Please note that this article may contain affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.
Currently the most popular and stylish sheen is a satin finish
Satin finish has some sheen, but doesn’t look too glossy. It give the room both a classic and contemporary feel. Most decorators recommend this sheen level, and my higher end customers tend to strongly prefer satin finish. Importantly, satin shows the scratches, imperfections and the dirt less. So, it’s easier to clean and maintain, and, it tends to look newer longer. Also, when you go glossier, it tends to show foot prints more, if you walk around with bare feet and/or if you have dogs or cats in the house.
The trend over the last few years has been towards lower gloss finishes as they are more practical, especially for households with kids and pets. They help hide the normal wear and tear from walking, chair movements, toys and high heels. In addition, satin finish shows footprints less due to the lower luster.
Hardwood sheen finishes
Matte finish has 25% luster
A matte finish has very little sheen and many feel that the floors look dull with this type of finish. Others strongly prefer this flat finish as it gives them a clean look.
Satin has around 40% luster
Satin is by far the preferred choice for Westchester County. Most of my customers specifically ask for this finish and virtually all decorators strongly recommend it. Satin sheen level is preferred on all shades of hardwood from dark to light and everything in between. I would venture to guess that 80-90% of my customers choose a satin finish.
Semi gloss has around 55% luster
For those that prefer shinier finishes, this is a good option. It’s shinier but not as impractical as a glossy finish.
Glossy has about 70% luster
You typically see glossy used on gym floors and bowling alleys, and some of the exotic hardwood use this finish as well. A glossy finish tends to show every spec of dust, every dent and lots of footprints. Think of black shiny absolute black granite counter tops and how those show everything. These types of floors tend to need to be cleaned more often and often require more frequent sandings.
What if you don’t like the current finish on your hardwood floor?
The good news is that you can usually do a screen and recoat to change the sheen level of your floor. This is easiest to do if you have a solid hardwood floor that was finished on site (rather than prefinished in a factory). It’s the top level of poly that will give the wood it’s shine and luster. So, if you want to go from semi gloss to satin, or vice versa, this is usually a fairly easy process. You can read more about a screen and recoat here.
Video – Which type of sheen is most popular for hardwood flooring?”
Flooring poll – sheen preference:
Other useful hardwood flooring articles:
- 2018 Hardwood flooring trends
- How long does it take to refinish hardwood flooring?
- Water based vs oil based polyurethane: which is better for hardwood floors?
- Stain color trends on hardwood flooring
- Which are the best brands of polyurethane?
- FAQ’s for hardwood floor refinishing
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For more info, check out my Ebook – Discover the 6 Secrets to Refinishing Hardwood floors.
What brands of poly do we use?
While I do not recommend attempting to Sand and Refinish your hardwood floors yourself (as I have seen countless disasters), I do feel comfortable in recommending polyurethane so that you (or hopefully) your installer uses top quality products. This will help with the outcome and longevity of your floors. But, remember, if you don’t have a great installer and top notch equipment, the job will never come out well.
Water borne polyurethane – Bona Traffic HD Bona Traffic HD
Buy Bona Traffic HD
When it comes to water borne poly, there is no dispute, Bona Traffic HD is the best in the market place. It looks great, dries quickly, and doesn’t amberize. It’s perfect if you’re staining your floors gray, or white, or just going for a natural super clean look. It costs more than Bona Mega, but it’s worth it as it looks better, lasts longer and amberizes less. This is the only product we use with gray or white washed floors.
Oil based polyurethane – Duraseal Oil based polyurethane
When it comes to oil based poly, we typically use Duraseal. It comes in different finishes, but most of our customers prefer the satin finish.
Do you need a local flooring pro? Find one here.
Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors
Most popular sheen finishes for hardwood floors: Satin vs Semigloss