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What type of sheen is most stylish for hardwood? Satin or Semigloss finish?

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)

what type of hardwood floor finish sheen is most stylish westchester county - SatinThe 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

hardwood floor finish sheen - satin - westchesterSatin 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.


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Hardwood sheen finishes

Matte finish low gloss level

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 finish - most popular - hardwood floor finish sheen

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 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

glossy finishYou 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.


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What if you don’t like the current finish on your hardwood floor?

What is the most popular type of sheen for hardwood floorsThe 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.


flooring mistakes


Video – Which type of sheen is most popular for hardwood flooring?”

You can find the transcript for this video at the end of the blog post as well as the brands we use.


Other useful hardwood flooring articles:


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For more info, check out my Ebook – Discover the 6 Secrets to Refinishing Hardwood floors.

6 Secrets of Refinishing hardwood floors ebook


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 polyurethane shine and sheensWhen 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.

most popular stain finishes and polyurethane for hardwood

Oil based polyurethane

best sheens for hardwood using durasealWhen it comes to oil based poly, we typically use Duraseal. It comes in different finishes, but most of our customers prefer the satin finish.

most popular stain finishes if using oil poly



Buy me a coffeeDid you find my tips helpful? If so, feel free to buy me a coffee and support my blog

Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors


What sheen is most popular for hardwood floors



Most popular sheen finishes for hardwood floors: Satin vs Semigloss








12 thoughts on “What type of sheen is most stylish for hardwood? Satin or Semigloss finish?”

  1. Thank you this was so very helpful as I am currently doing this right now! I was torn between matte and semi gloss but now I am going satin!!

    1. Mavel – No, they don’t. It’s 30 days for curing, not for furniture. Those are 2 different things.

      I just checked their website and they said 1 week for area rugs (which I think it too soon…30 days is better…and certainly a min of 2-3 weeks). Furniture is fine after 4 days. Area rugs should not go down until floor is fully cured which is generally 30 days to be safe. But, it is fully cured when all smell goes away and sometimes when it’s dry and house is well ventilated, that might be 2- 3 weeks.

          1. We have prefinished hardwood floors. It’s new construction and we are the first owners. It should be a satin finish but the builder applied Orange Glo, (supposedly just once) to make it appealing for selling. Since we moved in I’ve been using Bruce Hardwood cleaner on a flat mop. How can we remove the glossy residue?
            Screening? I see you mentioned that screening wouldn’t work on floors treated with Orange Glo, but what if it was only one time?
            How about a product like Bona Polish Remover?
            Thank you, as a new construction home owner you expect everything to be brand new and “perfect”. Thank you for your advice.

          2. Frank – Oh sorry, that’s awful and especially on new construction. Definitely do not do a screen and recoat. That won’t work. And, for sure a full sand and refinish will work, but I’m assuming you’re trying to avoid that (unless you can negotiate with the builder to do that). I honestly don’t know if Bona Polish remover will work. I would call Bona and talk to someone in their tech department. I might also call Orange Glo, but somehow I’m guessing that they may not have a tech department or may not be helpful.

            Also, whatever you do try, try it in some inconspicous places first (e.g. underneath refrigerator, stove or in a closet. I hope this helps at least point you in the right direction.

  2. Your blog is so helpful – I never knew how complicated hardwood floors were! We are in the process of refinishing our floors because the Bona HD Extra Matte that went on is streaking and always looks mottled/dirty. I was hoping you could help with a couple of questions:
    1/ Is that just what happens with Bona HD Extra Matte? Or can it be cleaned and not look mottled, if applied correctly?
    2/ Is there a difference in durability between HD Extra Matte, HD Matte and HD Satin? We really love the matte look but not if it means the floors always look wrecked.
    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Stephanie. So sorry for the delay in responding. I just saw this comment. So this is not normal and may be due to poor application and/or using wrong type of cleaning product. I recommend Bona Hardwood Cleaner. And, not there is no difference in durability among the poly finishes/sheens.

  3. I have had a Mannington floor for 15 years (Chesapeake Hickory). It was originally a satin finish but after some time it is now more shiny. Any recommendations to get it back to its original satin finish?

    1. Oh gosh, that sounds like someone over the years has used some sort of wax on the floors (and most likely by a product that promises to restore your sheen. If that’s the case, the only way you can fix that is to fully sand and refinish the floors. You can’t do a screen and recoat (which would enable to you to change the sheen) if that’s the case.

      You can read more here: What is a screen and recoat?

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