Satin vs. Semi-gloss Hardwood Floors [Which one is better]

A picture showing a hardwood floor with Satin Finish

Everyone acknowledges how the floor is a central part of any room. The fact that the flooring can even affect how you feel about the entire room demonstrates its integral importance. Hardwood floors are a go-to option for most individuals since they meet value and satisfy aesthetic requirements. 

The trickier part comes when you want to decide on your floor finish. It can get quite dithering for you, especially when selecting between two of the most popular finish levels; semi-gloss and satin finishes.

The finish type will influence the appearance of your wood floors. How glossy would you like your floors to be?

Join us in the discussion on satin vs. semi-gloss hardwood floors and get to appreciate why either of the two finishes is better than the other.

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Satin finish

Satin is a popular and versatile top layer that is excellent for hardwood floors. It is available in a liquid nature that hardens after application on floors. This is a more central type of finish that, when rated in terms of sheen levels, falls between matte finish (has a dull, non-shiny sheen) and gloss finish (has a shiny sheen).

The sheen/luster level for the four different levels of finishes is typically expressed as a percentage. The satin finish displays a 40% glossy sheen, slightly higher than the matte finish with a 25% luster. This implies that it is partially reflective but not as shiny as semi-gloss or glossy finishes. It will reflect some amount of light but not as high as a glossy finish.

This luster level rating makes satin finish an ideal way of introducing some shine without compromising the natural elegance of wood grain. This then makes it appropriate for all shades of hardwood floors. The satin finish is inarguably an absolute way of introducing a gorgeous yet cool appearance to your hardwood floors.

That being said, what would be some of the benefits you would reap from having a satin finish on your hardwood floors? At the same time, does satin finish come with some disadvantages?

Read on as I acquaint you with expounded merits and demerits of satin finishes as delineated further below.

Advantages of satin finish

Easy to maintain

With its moderate sheen level, the satin finish does not markedly display marks of dirt and fingerprints. The tendency of such marks to stick on a satin finish is even lower. For this reason, the task of frequently cleaning your floors to get rid of footprints or fingerprints is reduced. Hardwood floors with a satin finish are easier to clean.

Capable of concealing imperfections

The nature of the satin finish enables it to stand higher chances of hiding imperfections such as scratches and scuff marks. It does not reflect as much light as high gloss finishes. This is a worthy trait since you will not have to refinish them as often, helping you cut on expenses in the long run.


Satin finish has shown the remarkable capability of holding up against pets. Additionally, it has a higher rating of durability in comparison to a flat finish. The satin finish still appears to be in good shape even as you approach the periodic paint visits (every five years in most cases).


In terms of cost, a satin finish is fairly expensive compared to a semi-gloss finish. This will favor you greatly in saving costs, especially when painting.

Delivers a classic and cool appearance

Since it partially reflects light, the satin finish will not draw too much attention to your floors. This imparts a gorgeous style that accentuates the attractive patterns and grains in the hardwood.

Disadvantages of satin finish

  • Satin finish can supply some extent of dullness on some hardwood floors. This, at times, tends to be off for many homeowners because of the rusty appearance.
  • Compared to high gloss finishes, satin, a low luster finish tends to be less durable. It may not confer the protection to your hardwood floors from damage as you thought. 

Semi-gloss finish

Also known as medium gloss, a semi-gloss finish falls between satin and gloss on the sheen level scale. Demonstrating this is its luster level rating of about 55%, slightly higher than the satin finish. This type of finish introduces splendor to your hardwood floors. 

This implies that the amount of light reflected by hardwood floors with a semi-gloss finish is more and therefore displays a great deal of shine. A semi-gloss finish stands as the top sheen level for most residential purposes of the four sheen levels.

Despite making your floors more gleaming, the semi-gloss finish also shows equal detail to the grain of woods. A rich polyurethane semi-gloss finish tends to confer protection from scuff marks to your floor since it deeply infiltrates into the wood’s grain. This type of finish tends to be ideal for spaces with mid-traffic levels.

Advantages of semi-gloss finish

Accentuates the beauty of hardwood

With a luster level of around 55%, a semi-gloss finish will reflect more light off the surface. This gives more prominence to the natural lines and intricate grains of hardwood.  This then provides a fascinating shiny appearance that outstandingly brings out the beauty of your floors, granting you a more formal feel.


Semi-gloss finish tends to be relatively more durable than satin finish because of its higher gloss level.

A perfect blend for fancy décor

Due to its gleaming nature, it not only makes your space more vibrant and coruscating but also contributes to highlighting the beauty of your home’s décor.

Disadvantages of semi-gloss finish

Has a higher tendency of revealing imperfections and dust

Since it confers more brightness to your hardwood floors, a semi-gloss finish will also make imperfections such as scratches and gouges, footprints, and dust more evident. 

Higher maintenance costs

The effort and expenses involved in maintaining hardwood floors with a semi-gloss finish are higher. Such floors will need frequent cleaning and other maintenance routines to get rid of dust that shows more. This means that you will also have to invest more of your time.

When compared to high-gloss finish, a semi-gloss finish is slightly less durable.

Satin vs. Semi-gloss hardwood floors (which is better)

The principal factor that brings significant variation between satin and semi-gloss hardwood floors is the appearance. The differences in appearance are majorly due to the luster factor. The measure of the amount of light reflected off a floor’s surface when a source of light shines on it is the luster level.

That said, the discussion about which finish is better, satin or semi-gloss, really narrows down to personal preferences and the type of material used. Semi-gloss is glossier and reflects more light making your floors have a shiny appeal. On the other hand, the satin finish reflects less light due to its low sheen level giving your floors a moderately dull appearance.

This is where the aspect of personal preferences comes in. If you wish your floors to sparkle when the sun shines, a semi-gloss finish is a way to go. This finish will deliver the drama and lustrous appeal of a high sheen level without turning you into a complete slave to floor care.

If you seek a more practical finish that delivers a contemporary and classic feel, a satin finish is your best bet. Its luster level will give your floors a low-sheen appearance that is meritorious since scratches and footprints are less displayed. It, therefore, tends to maintain that new look for longer. Not only is it a low-maintenance finish option, but also a friendly option if you have kids and/or pets in your home.

Here’s what to remember: the glossier you go, the more the reflection. The more the reflection, the more likely the surface shows imperfections. Therefore, it is crucial to tout for the sheen level, typically expressed as a percentage, to understand how glossy you expect the outcome to be.

The type of hardwood species influences the sheen levels when it comes to the type of material used. For instance, open and closed pore woods will offer subtle differences in the sheen level. Additionally, patina or natural wood color will also produce differences in sheen level.

What type of finish is most stylish for hardwood? Satin or Semi-gloss finish?

The answer to this is relative. However, the satin finish is currently considered to be the most popular and stylish finish. This is because it is somewhat reflective but not as reflective as a semi-gloss finish. Its low-sheen nature provides your space with a quintessential and a la mode feel.

In fact, a Satin finish is a common run-to option for most decorators. This is because it also fits well with its surroundings. Technically, satin is a favorite for most people because it is not too dull like the matte finish and yet not too shiny like high gloss finishes. It rates in between.

Ideally, it all comes down to your taste. One may consider the shiny appearance of semi-gloss hardwood floors as stylish. It may be a different case for another homeowner who may consider the partially gloss appearance of satin hardwood floors as fashionably elegant.

Below is a video of the best paint sheen to use for the different types of floors: Satin or Semi-gloss

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is gloss more durable than satin?

The principle is, the glossier the finish, the more durable it is. Gloss finish ranks with the highest luster level among the four levels of floor sheen finishes. This means it is the glossiest and hence slightly more durable than the satin finish.

Can you stain Brazilian Cherry floors GREY?

Yes, you can. This is achievable by refinishing your Brazilian Cherry floors. Here is a concise breakdown. You will begin by re-sanding the floor. Aim to eliminate the deep red hue of jatoba floors by using two coats of two-component bleach. Proceed to stain. It is recommendable to use a grey oil-based stain. Seal the project by applying three coats of matte water-based finish.  

Can you change the color of Brazilian Cherry wood floors?

You can alter the natural red color of Brazilian cherry wood floors by opting to either darken or lighten the surface. This is done through refinishing, which involves sanding and applying a preferred finish. It is possible to stain the Brazilian cherry floor to change its color.

Are Brazilian Cherry floors outdated?

As of now, Brazilian cherry floors are a bit out of style. This is because their deep red color fails to blend with the rest of your wooden floors. These floors, however, were trendy about 8 to 10 years ago. They, however, still have their solid advantages and can be updated on the upside.

Can you stain cherry wood?

Cherry wood is a common find since it is easy to work with. It adapts to most stains, given that you can prepare the wood by sanding. The use of clear stains will accentuate the reddish-brown color of the wood. There is a concern, however, when refinishing cherry wood. It has a likelihood of blotching with tinted oil or any kind of stain.

Final verdict

Flooring is a high-priority aspect of any housing structure, especially homes. The choice of type of finish to use on your hardwood floors is even a more profound task. You will probably find yourself in a quandary when trying to determine the perfect finish choice for your hardwood floors.

As elucidated in this article, much light has been shed on this debate of satin vs. semi-gloss hardwood floors to help you stand guided. The luster factor is the most obvious key concept that stands from this piece. 

This factor holds much weight in your purchase decision. Therefore, it is important to make head or tail of the sheen level concept as it will help you distinguish between the two finishes in the discussion. 

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