A Guide to Timber Floor Finishes: Matte, Satin, Semi-Gloss or High-Gloss?
Timber floors provide a classy, stylish, sophisticated and elegant look to your home, and they suit both modern and classic interiors beautifully. In fact, no other flooring type quite compares to quality timber when it comes to durability and added value for your home. There is a vast range of timber types, colours, and looks to choose from, and one decision you’ll need to make relates to the kinds of finishes available.
When it comes to selecting the perfect sheen level for your timber flooring, you are faced with a choice between matte, satin and glossy finishes. Each option has unique advantages and disadvantages, so considering your circumstances before deciding is essential. This article will explore the different timber floor finishes available and take you through the factors you must consider when choosing a floor sheen level.
Timber Floor Sheen Explained
Enhance the longevity and appearance of your timber floor by choosing the appropriate finish. Whether it’s hardwood or engineered timber, a well-maintained finish protects against spills, scratches, and wear and tear. Over time, however, it will need refinishing. The materials used for finishing may include penetrating oil, shellac, wax, polyurethane, and moisture-cured urethane. Applying these products prevents moisture damage, reduces future wear, and forms a protective layer between the floorboards and dust and dirt. Floor finishes come in a variety of colour tints and sheen levels; in this article, we’ll be examining what different floor sheen levels are available and how to choose the best for you.
The finish type you choose will affect the appearance and texture of the floor, so it depends on your desired outcome. The four main options are matte finish, satin finish, semi-gloss finish, and high-gloss finish (from least shiny to most shiny). The different finishes affect the level of shine or lustre on the floor. They are categorised by the amount of light reflected from a 60-degree angle, which is the angle people see the floor from while standing on it. The shinier the floor, the more it reflects light.
The natural sheen level of hardwood varies depending on the species. Differences in natural wood colour or patina and whether the wood has open or closed pores will create slight variations in the sheen level.
The amount of shine you select for your polished timber flooring can affect its appearance and the frequency of cleaning required. However, the level of sheen you choose does not affect the durability of the finish when applied by professional installers such as Back to Timber.
Having wooden floors in the workplace can enhance concentration and contribute to a healthier indoor environment. Natural materials, such as timber, help to create a working environment that has a stimulating and positive effect on employees. Integrating natural building materials into the office can help people reconnect with nature without even realising it, which leads to an enhanced sense of well-being.
Daily contact with natural wood surfaces has positive emotional effects and can also improve the overall room climate. Having timber floors can help regulate the moisture levels in a room, leading to a healthier and more comfortable environment for all employees. Wood has the ability to filter pollutants from the air and its presence can provide a soothing and balancing effect in spaces with high electrical loads.
Matte Finish Timber Floors
Matte finish has about 25% lustre
A matte (or matt, if you prefer) finish is ideal for those who prefer a casual, understated look. Increasing in popularity, matte-finished floors have a lustre of 25%, which is considered a flat finish. If you want a natural look on your hardwood floors, a matte sheen finish is the floor gloss finish for you. The matte finish won’t reflect the light as much as a gloss, and ideal for people who prefer a subtle, clean appearance.
A matte finish is one of the hardest-wearing timber floor polishes you can apply to your floors, which makes it extremely popular, especially for spaces with kids, pets or high foot traffic. The matte finish hides natural imperfections in the timber, light scratches and built-up dust and dirt, improving the appearance of the wooden floor. The low-gloss finish effectively conceals the usual signs of wear and tear.
This sheen level has no shine and works well in rooms with low traffic or where you want the focus to be on the furniture rather than the floor. People who enjoy the sensation of natural wood on their feet often choose this as their preferred option.
Satin Finish Timber Floors
Satin finish has about 40% lustre
Also known as low-sheen, satin finishes are incredibly popular in homes as they offer the best of both worlds. Satin finishes have some sheen but don’t look too glossy, giving the room a classic yet contemporary feel. They provide a subtle shine without the maintenance associated with a high gloss finish.
A satin finish has a classic yet modern appearance, making it a choice many prefer because it won’t become outdated over time. This timber floor sheen has about 40% lustre and is easy to keep clean, and this level of shine disperses light and doesn’t show imperfections or dirt.
Satin floor finishes are easy to maintain and keep clean, and depending on the stain colour you choose, the floor doesn’t show up dirt and dust as much as the shine on a high gloss. Satin finishes are also great at hiding minor scratches and imperfections, which makes them an ideal choice for high-traffic areas. As a result, satin sheen is best suited to areas like living rooms, hallways and master bedrooms.
Satin timber floors show fewer scratches, imperfections and dirt. So, it’s easier to clean and maintain and tends to look newer for longer. If damage occurs on a full gloss floor, light reflection will accentuate it at the edges. In contrast, the lower sheen finishes reflect less light, so it’s visually much more forgiving.
A satin finish is a popular choice as it gives a neutral type of finish that is versatile enough to fit with various interior decors and styles. Low-sheen finishes are low maintenance and an excellent choice for families with a busy lifestyle or landlords of rental properties. They have a contemporary feel and look that compliments new renovation work and are the choice of most builders when constructing new homes.
Semi-Gloss Finish Timber Floor
Semi-gloss finish has about 55% lustre
Semi-gloss finishes are the perfect balance between shine and softness. This sheen level has a moderate shine, providing a subtle glow that reflects the light nicely. If you prefer a shinier look to your floors, the semi-gloss floor finish is a good option. It’s shinier but not as impractical as a glossy finish. Semi-gloss has around 55% lustre, meaning it’s lustrous but not as impractical as a full glossy finish. Its gleaming finish is a striking feature in a home or office, which is why this timber finish is so popular.
Semi-gloss finishes are still good at hiding scratches but they do show off dirt, dust and other debris more than a matte or satin finish. Semi-gloss finishes are easier to clean than their higher gloss counterparts, making them a practical choice for family homes or commercial spaces. A semi-gloss finish is a good option for anyone who wants a glossy finish without a high level of maintenance.
High-Gloss Finish Timber Floor
High-gloss finish has about 70% lustre
A full gloss, high-gloss or simply glossy finish is the most reflective of all the sheen levels, providing a noticeable shine and a glamorous finish. A high-gloss finish provides a gleaming, reflective appearance to your timber floors with a lustre of 70%. It highlights the unique details in the floorboards and offers a desirable feature for a home, especially if exotic hardwood flooring is chosen. It is classically beautiful and very sophisticated.
The glossier a floor finish, the more light is reflected. High-gloss is often seen in commercial spaces but can also be in homes where the owner wants to make a statement. In the past high-gloss finishes were the go-to for timber floors, but technological advances and changing tastes have seen them relegated to niche designs and gyms.
Scratches, dirt, dust, and debris will be more visible on this sheen level, requiring more maintenance to keep it looking new. Therefore, homeowners should opt for a high-gloss finish only in areas with light traffic. These floors need to be cleaned frequently due to the amount of light reflecting off the floor. Even footprints from walking barefoot (which is best for the floor) will show up on a high-gloss floor.
However, a gloss finish can be high maintenance, so it takes some regular care to keep that pristine gloss finish gleaming for years. It is more prone to wear in heavy traffic areas and is very high maintenance, requiring cleaning more frequently than other finish types.
Talk to the Experts
If you are unsure which timber floor finish to choose for the style you want in your home’s decor, contact Back to Timber for help. We can show you examples of the work we’ve done on your type of wooden floors and how different finishes might look with a gloss, matte or satin finish applied.
In conclusion, selecting the appropriate sheen level for your timber flooring depends on your personal preferences. Thinking about what’s most functional for your home is the best way to choose which level of sheen is best for you. The types of finishes available and the selection you make will not affect the durability of your floor or its finish – it is purely an aesthetic choice.