Finish Gloss or Sheen Levels For Hardwood Floors
What Is a Gloss or Sheen Level?
Gloss is an optical term that describes the ability
of a surface to reflect light. The higher the gloss level,
the more it directly reflects light. The lower the gloss level,
the surface absorbs and diffuses the light sources. This is
normally measured at a 60 degree angle which is equivalent to looking
at the surface while standing up. The sheen calculation is derived by the amount of
reflection from the finish.
The luster is measured with a small device called a gloss meter, which measures the amount of reflected light from the light beamed at a given
angle onto the floor.
The gloss meter compares this value with the black-glass
standard, which has a defined refractive index of 100 "gloss units." While it's
common industry practice to describe the luster level as a percentage of this
given standard (i.e., 60 percent luster), some refer to this figure as a gloss
As a homeowner or commercial property manager it is key to understand what this means.
The higher a gloss level, the more wear and tear will show. Think of a piano finish;
high gloss ….. it shows everything! The lower gloss level shows less wear and
depending on the gloss level will actually bring out more of the naturalness of your wood floor.
While the traditional belief that shiny or high gloss flooring is the more attractive option
among hardwood products, there is a new trend toward low-gloss floors, which offer a number of
benefits for the homeowner. First, low-luster floors hide small scratches and dents better than
their high gloss counterparts. This can be an important benefit for people with pets or small
children. The wear and tear from pets, toys and heavy foot traffic, including the potentially
damaging affects of high heels is more noticeable on a shiny floor and is more difficult to hide
As you might expect, low-luster floors are easier to maintain and clean than high-gloss varieties;
it is easier to keep the natural look of the floor because there is less "shine" to maintain.
Again, this is less work and less worry for homeowners, especially those who live in areas where harsh
weather conditions bring a lot of moisture and dirt into the house.
Modern prefinished topcoat finishes are typically more resistant to scratches and
dents than those with an oil finish, adding durability and extended wear
performance Topcoat-finished floors also offer easier maintenance that,
again, could be very important depending on a person's individual needs and
It is important to note that not all hardwoods will produce the same sheen level.
Natural wood color or patina and
differences between open and closed grained woods will produce subtle and
unique variances in the resulting sheen level. Other than appearances, the sheen level chosen is an aesthetic choice
that does not affect the durability of the finish.
Low Luster = Minimal Sheen at 25-35 percent Luster
Gaining popularity in recent years, a low luster finish is best
at offering an authentic representation of a wood floor look without a finish
while masking dust buildup and footprints. While already popular in Europe, low
luster hardwood flooring is gaining popularity in North America and offers a
wide range of benefits for consumers.
Low-luster floors are already popular in Europe, and we
are seeing an increased demand for it in North America. Many lower-luster
products in North America are offered in approximately 30 percent luster, while
those in Europe are at nearly 0 percent luster. As the trend toward low-luster
finishes in North America continues, expect to see even lower luster finishes.
A low-luster finish tends to highlight the color and texture of the wood more
than a reflective finish and creates a sophisticated, timeless look that provides a softer,
quieter atmosphere in the home.
Satin = Low Sheen at 40-50 percent Luster
Satin finish levels are most
popular among prefinished flooring manufacturers and professionals that finish
floors on site. Satin finishes provide easy maintenance; marks and scratches show up less, so satin finishes
look newer longer than higher glosses.
Semi Gloss = Medium Sheen 55-70 percent Luster
Semi Gloss is also commonly found in commercially prefinished national brands.
Unlike Low Luster and Satin sheens, the Semi Gloss will reflect more light,
accentuating imperfections and dust
High Gloss = Maximum Sheen over 75% Luster
High Gloss is most common in commercial settings such as bowling lanes, basketball floors and gymnasiums.
High Gloss tends to highlight imperfections including dust buildup , facilitating more frequent cleanings.
Other complaints include visible foot prints by walking in bare feet. Expect higher gloss floors to show wear more
quickly in high traffic areas opposed to the previous three.