Whether a floor-finishing product is classified as low-luster, satin, semigloss or high-gloss depends on its sheen level, also called gloss level, which is a measurement of the amount of light reflected by the finish. The terminology sometimes varies from one manufacturer to another, so look for the sheen level, written as a percentage, to get a clear idea of how shiny you can expect the results to be.
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Low-Luster or Matte Finishes
A finish with a sheen level lower than 35 percent is considered a low-luster floor. Low luster floors are the easiest to care for, since they tend to conceal scratches and dust much better than higher-gloss finishes, and they protect the wood while letting its natural gran come through. If you like a very natural look and aren't overly fond of floor cleaning, a low-luster finish may be a good choice.
A satin finish has a sheen factor of 40 percent to 50 percent. This is the level of finish applied to most prefinished flooring. Satin finishes add some shine, while still letting the natural beauty of wood grain come through. A satin finish floor is easier to care for than a high-gloss floor and will last longer without needing to be refinished.
If you like a shiny look but don't want to be a complete slave to floor care, a semigloss finish may be a good choice. With a typical gloss factor of 55 percent to 70 percent, these finishes reflect more light and are often applied to certain prefinished hardwoods. Semigloss is somewhat more revealing of dust, scratches and footprints
A high-gloss floor with a gloss factor over 75 percent is the type commonly used in gymnasiums. In a residential setting, the effect can be dramatic, and some people are willing to put in the needed work to keep it that way. High-gloss finishes will show every speck; even clean, bare feet may leave prints. They'll also show any imperfections in finishing or sanding and will need to be refinished more often than the less shiny varieties to keep that mirror look.