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Painted vs. Stained Kitchen Cabinets: Which One is Better?

You want your kitchen cabinets to have an elegant finish and that their looks should endure for decades. While deciding between painted vs. stained kitchen cabinets, you want to take into consideration the cost as well as how paint vs. stain choice meshes with the rest of your kitchen choices such as countertops and flooring.

Usually, if you have hardwood flooring with a certain pattern of graining, it won’t go that well with stained cabinets with a different pattern of wood grains. That said, if you are going cherry, walnut, chestnut, oak or pine wood cabinets, staining will bring out their unique character and staining will last longer than painting them. Getting them repainted by professionals will be an expensive affair as well.

Let us list the pros and cons of painted vs. stained kitchen cabinets

Advantages of Painted Kitchen Cabinets

Painted Kitchen Cabinets offer Smooth Finish

Painted kitchen cabinets offer a smooth and sleek finish to your kitchen no matter what color you choose. Stained kitchen cabinets, on the other hand, make the grains visible, which may not result in a smooth and flawless look you’re looking for. Moreover, light colored kitchens cabinets give the kitchen a bigger look. Stained cabinets cannot reproduce this kind of light, sleek look. Homeowners who don’t prefer the wood grains to be visible should go for a sleek, painted look.

Painted Kitchen Cabinets Retain the Hue

Painted kitchen cabinets are able to retain (and often showcase) the hue, which is not the case for stained kitchen cabinets. This even more true when the cabinet colors are submarine yellow, lipstick red or tranquil teal. If you want your kitchen cabinets to evoke a more powerful presence, paint can help you get there. While paint hides the natural grains and knots of the wood, stain highlights them.

MDF and Paint Go Well Together

If you do not want to splurge on kitchen cabinets, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is a great option and it is also meant to be painted. These come in a variety of colors that are in vogue in the modern kitchen and in line with modern kitchen design aesthetics.

Once painted in cream, white or gray, MDF cabinets are as good as wooden cabinets in the looks department.

One could argue that painted cabinets ‘age’ less than stained cabinets. And in the aesthetics department, if you have hard-oak flooring, wood grains visible in stained cabinets can conflict with the flooring.

Disadvantages of Painted Kitchen Cabinets

Despite the aforementioned advantages, painted kitchen cabinets still suffer from some drawbacks which you should consider before choosing between painted vs. stained kitchen cabinets.

Paint Hides Unique Features of Wood Such as Grains

The paint is thicker than stain; therefore, no matter whichever coat of paint you choose, the painted kitchen cabinets will hide the unique features. If you want to highlight the natural patterns of your expensive kitchen cabinets, staining is the way to go as painting will hide those unique features. Decide whether you want to hide or highlight the unique character of the wood you use for your kitchen cabinets.

Painting Can be Complex

Paint consists of a primer, two coats of paint, and two coats of lacquer as a finishing coating. And you need buffing to achieve that high gloss finish that modern looking cabinets have. Staining has two coats of stain, seal, and three coats of clear finish. Staining may result in lower bills to kitchen cabinet installers and kitchen cabinet professionals.

Painted Cabinets will Deteriorate Faster

Humidity conditions — or wild swings in humidity — affect wood and wood cabinets. Less expensive types of painted wooden cabinets will wear a worn look in a few years depending on the quality of the painting process. As wood expands with higher humidity, hairline cracks will show up in the paint where the joints are.

Painted cabinets can be expensive and it is difficult to touch-up painted cabinets because custom-made cabinets can come with unique colors that are spray-painted. You cannot do a good job of touching upon a surface that was spray-painted.

Advantages of Stained Kitchen Cabinets

Stained Cabinets Showcase the Natural Unique Patterns of Wood

If you are going for top-notch quality wood, then it’s better to highlight their grain patterns. Stained cabinets will maintain their looks for a long time and they are easy to touch-up. You can go for a different stain after a while too with equally good results as the original stain. Stained wood cabinets give a cozy feel to the kitchen and wood patterns are timeless unlike painted cabinets which can go out of fashion as new kitchen colors and aesthetics come into vogue.

Disadvantages of Stained Kitchen Cabinets

To begin with, MDF kitchen cabinets and stain do go hand in hand. MDF doesn’t take stain as well as paint does; therefore, if you’re planning to use stain on MDF cabinets, you might need to rethink your strategy.

Stain is unable to hide the blemished on your kitchen cabinets, which may be a disadvantage to some homeowners. Flaws such as uneven grain distributions and inconsistencies may leave your cabinets looking awful.

Stained cabinets with darker colors will look dusty as dust will stand out more on dark surfaces than on light surfaces. If you are not comfortable with the wood grains showing through, staining wood cabinets is a bad idea.

So Which One Should You Go with?

Ultimately, homeowners may not even have to choose between painted vs. stained kitchen cabinets. Homeowners may opt to have both which will give variety and benefits of both.

It’s all about personal preference and whether you are planning to build or redesign the kitchen in your own house or whether it’s merely about redesigning the kitchen in a rental home. Are you looking forward to using the kitchen for decades to come or for just a few years?

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