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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. Gloss Finish Sheens ExplainedThe 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 unit.

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.


Bountiful Benefits

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 or repair.

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.


Knowing Finishes

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 lifestyle.

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 on Colonial Cabin Wide Plank White Oak FlooringLow Luster on Selected Clear Walnut Narrow Plank FlooringLow Luster on Selected Clear Red Oak Traditional Plank Flooring

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. 

Satin Sheen on Selected Clear Red Oak Narrow Plank FlooringSatin Sheen on Colonial Cabin Wide Plank White Oak FlooringSatin Sheen on Selected Clear Stained Hickory Narrow Plank Flooring

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

Semi Gloss Sheen on Selected Clear Hickory Narrow Plank FlooringSemi Gloss Sheen on Selected Clear Walnut Narrow Plank FlooringSemi Gloss Sheen on Colonial Cabin White Oak Narrow Plank Flooring

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 Sheen Selected Clear Cherry Narrow Plank FlooringHigh 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.

High Gloss Sheen Selected Clear Walnut Narrow Plank Flooring

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