Semi-Gloss vs. Satin Sheen Finish for Hardwood Floors

By Samuel N •  Updated: 07/04/23 • 

There are different floor finish sheen options you can use for your floors. These sheens are matte, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss. A glossy sheen is the shiniest, while matte is dull and reflects very little light.

Satin and semi-gloss sheen options are the most popular used on different surfaces, from floors, walls, and wood furniture. In this comparison guide, we’ll look at their differences, pros and cons, and which you should use on your hardwood floors.

Semi-Gloss Floor Finish

A semi-gloss floor finish has about 55 percent luster and reflects more light from the surface. A semi-gloss finish is the best option if you’re looking for a shinier floor finish but not too glossy. It is also slightly more durable than a satin finish, which gives it an edge when it comes to flooring.

Red Oak Hardwood with a Semi-Gloss Finish

Red Oak Hardwood with a Semi-Gloss Finish

However, as a floor finish becomes more glossy, it tends to show more imperfections. Therefore, a semi-gloss floor finish will show more imperfections, such as footprints, scratches, dirt, dirt, and dust. This makes it harder to maintain and keep it looking good.

Pros of Semi-Gloss Floor Finish

Cons of Semi-Gloss Floor Finish

Satin Floor Finish

A satin finish is a popular option for most homeowners. Satin finishes have about 40 percent luster, reflecting some light from the surface. This sheen level is great for hiding imperfections or for a person looking for a low-maintenance floor finish. Because it does not reflect light as much, a satin floor finish will hide surface imperfections like dents, dust, dirt, and dirt.

After 3 Coats of Len-Mar Satin Polyurethane

After 3 Coats of Len-Mar Satin Polyurethane

If you also want to show off the beauty of your hardwood flooring, a satin finish is the way to go. It reflects a low amount of light. Therefore, you can clearly see the wood grain or pattern.

Pros of Satin Floor Finish

Cons of Satin Floor Finish

Satin vs. Semi-Gloss for Hardwood Floors

Look & Appearance

A satin finish is dull looking compared to a semi-gloss finish. This makes satin finishes better at showing the beauty of a wood floor rather than masking it. If you have a hardwood floor with a beautiful grain and texture pattern, a satin finish will enhance and show it off.

A semi-gloss finish has a slight shiner surface compared to a satin finish. On a hardwood floor, it reflects light and has a bold appearance. However, it slightly masks the wood grain and texture because of the higher luster. However, it’s still a good option when used on low-lit floors to show off their beauty.

Walnut Flooring with Semi-Gloss Polyurethane

Walnut Flooring with Semi-Gloss Polyurethane


If you’re using a finish like polyurethane, both satin and semi-gloss finishes will offer exceptional durability to your wood floors. However, the higher the sheen, the more durable it is. This makes a semi-gloss polyurethane slightly more durable than a satin polyurethane. The difference is small, but it’s worth noting down if you’re looking for better durability.

Scratch Resistance

A semi-gloss finish is more scratch resistant compared to a satin floor finish. However, a satin finish will mask a scratch better, while a semi-gloss finish will enhance it. Repairing a scratched semi-gloss finish is also harder than a satin finish. For better scratch resistance, choose semi-gloss. However, a satin finish can still handle abrasive actions like scratches and will also hide the scratch marks better.

Slip Resistance

A satin hardwood floor finish is less slippery and offers more grip. This makes it less prone to floor slipping, which might cause accidents for children and the elderly. Semi-gloss finishes are slippery, especially when wet, and can cause slipping-related accidents.

You can apply a non-slip coating or adhesive to reduce slipping in semi-gloss finishes. However, a non-slip coating will reduce the sheen of your semi-gloss floor. Check out our guide on how to make hardwood stairs less slippery.

Satin Polyurethane on Wood Stairs

Satin Polyurethane on Wood Stairs

Cleaning & Maintenance

A satin floor finish does not reflect much light. Therefore, it hides dirt, dust, and dirt. This can make cleaning harder because you’ll not notice the accumulation of dirt. However, that also makes it easier to maintain and keep them looking good. Satin is also easier to repair, so it can easily be maintained in case of dents, scratches, and other surface marks.

Semi-gloss floor finishes will easily show dirt, dirt, dust, and other surface imperfections. While this makes cleaning easier, they need more maintenance to keep them pristine. However, scratches and other surface imperfections will easily appear and be harder to repair than satin finishes.

Which is the Best Sheen for Hardwood Floors?

Satin and semi-gloss sheen finishes are both great and popular options for flooring. Satin is durable, easier to maintain and repair, conceals surface imperfections, and offers better slip resistance.

Semi-gloss adds a little shine to your wood floors and is easier to clean. However, it needs frequent maintenance and can be slippery when wet, which poses a danger to children and the elderly in our families.

Choosing between satin and semi-gloss sheen finishes for hardwood floors also depends on your preferences. I hope this article has made you make an informative decision on the best floor sheen to choose.

Samuel N

Samuel N is the founder of Improve Floor and has been in the flooring industry since 2005. Since then, his mission has been to make flooring easier for everyone. He helps countless people with flooring installation, finishing, maintenance, and repairs each year.