Glossy, Semigloss, Satin: What’s the Difference Between Hardwood Finishes, Anyway?

In addition to stain, color, feel and texture, there’s another major consideration when it comes to your wood flooring: sheen (or, in other words, how much light a floor will reflect). Are you a glossy, semi-gloss, satin or matte kind of gal? And what are the everyday implications of each? Let’s break this thing down.

The Ultimate Guide to Flooring

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10 to 25 percent luster

From a practical standpoint, this soft, clean finish is your best bet in high-trafficked areas and kids’ rooms, since a matte finish absorbs the most light (and therefore best disguises nicks, dirt, debris, you name it). This also makes cleaning especially low frequency and low maintenance. Vibe-wise, it’s best suited to rooms with a casual, country-house or Scandinavian decor scheme.

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35 to 40 percent luster

The most popular of all the options, this finish gives off a subtle, pretty shine without reading super glossy. And since it doesn’t reflect much light, it disguises imperfections beautifully and needs minimal upkeep. Rely on satin if you want a formal look but have a modern, active lifestyle.

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45 to 55 percent luster

We’re moving up in the shiny spectrum, guys. A semi-gloss finish bounces around a good deal of light, making it a lovely option for darker spaces that might benefit from a mirror-like surface. Something to remember: The higher the shine, the less hardwearing the finish. So this modern option isn’t the greatest for areas of high activity and kiddo domination.

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70 percent luster and above

While ultra-high-shine wood flooring has fallen out of popularity in recent years, those looking to make a major statement still shellac it on thick. The trouble with these shiny ponies? Their light refracting quality shows dirt and dings, hence it needs to be cleaned and sanded frequently. It’s best for modern spaces with minimal traffic (or you know, your private bowling alley/barre studio/gymnasium).

Grace Beuley Hunt

Home Editor

From 2014-2019 Grace Beuley Hunt held the role of Home Editor covering interior design, styling, trends and more.
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