Satin vs. Semi-Gloss Polyurethane (What’s the Difference?)

Satin polyurethane creates a dry and textured finish because it has a low sheen (gloss) amount. Semi-gloss polyurethane creates a glossy finish that reflects light and highlights surface imperfections.

Satin polyurethane dries faster, has less sheen (gloss), and is easier to clean and maintain than semi-gloss polyurethane. Semi-gloss polyurethane is more durable and scratch-resistant than satin polyurethane.

The main difference between satin and semi-gloss polyurethane is the sheen (gloss) amount on the formula. The higher the sheen, the more glossy the finish is and the longer it takes it to dry.

What is Satin Polyurethane?

What is Satin Polyurethane Finish

Satin polyurethane is a protective coating with a low sheen (or gloss) on its formula. The satin sheen creates a dry textured protective finish that doesn’t reveal (or highlight) surface imperfections or scratches.

Satin polyurethane is available in both, water-based and oil-based formulas. It’s an ideal finish for floor surfaces that are exposed to high foot traffic.

What is Semi-Gloss Polyurethane?

What Is Semi-Gloss Polyurethane Used For?

Semi-gloss polyurethane is a protective coating with a moderate level of sheen. It creates a glossy finish that reflects light and highlights the surface imperfections or damages.

Its sheen amount increases its dry time, but this makes its finish more durable and protective as the particles have more time to harden and compact.

Semi-Gloss vs Satin Polyurethane

The differences between satin and semi-gloss polyurethane are listed below.

Paint Formula

Satin and semi-gloss polyurethane have a similar formula, but semi-gloss polyurethane has more sheen (or gloss), while satin polyurethane has more flattening agent.


Satin polyurethane dries faster than semi-gloss polyurethane because it has less sheen and oils, so the additives evaporate and dry faster.

Semi-gloss polyurethane takes longer to dry as it has more sheen on its formula that takes longer to evaporate, and its finish takes longer to become hard (rigid).

The Sheen

Satin polyurethane has less sheen (or gloss) than semi-gloss polyurethane. The higher the sheen amount, the more reflective and glossy the finish is.

The lower the sheen amount, the more dry and textured the finish is.

The Appearance

Satin polyurethane has a dry textured finish, while semi-gloss polyurethane has a glossy and reflective finish.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Satin polyurethane is easier to clean and maintain than semi-gloss polyurethane as it hides dirt and stains better and doesn’t need much cleaning.

Semi-gloss polyurethane is harder to maintain as its reflective finish highlights imperfections, dirt, and dust on the surface.


Semi-gloss polyurethane is more durable than satin polyurethane as it produces a glossy finish has better moisture-resistance and takes longer to dry giving particles more time to harden and compact.

Scratch Resistance

Semi-gloss polyurethane is more scratch-resistant than satin polyurethane as its glossy finish prevents scratch marks. However, semi-gloss polyurethane highlights scratches more if they do occur.


Semi-gloss and satin polyurethane have a similar price tag, depending on the brand.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Mix Satin and Semi-Gloss Polyurethane?

You can mix satin and semi-gloss polyurethane if they have the same base or solvent (water or oil-based). You can’t mix them if they have a different base or solvent.

Can You Apply Satin Polyurethane over Semi-Gloss Polyurethane?

You can apply satin polyurethane over semi-gloss polyurethane if you sand the finish to remove its glossy layer (barrier).

You can apply semi-gloss polyurethane directly over satin polyurethane.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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