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Painted vs. Stained Cabinets: Pros, Cons & What Is Right for Your Home

February 08, 2023 6 min read

Painted vs. Stained Cabinets: Pros, Cons & What Is Right for Your Home-Wholesale Cabinet Supply

When it comes to selecting the right cabinets for your home, one of the considerations you must make is whether to go with painted or stained cabinets. Perhaps you've already decided and know exactly which path you'll take. Maybe you're still contemplating which choice is best for you. If so, have a look at our kitchen cabinet samples to help you decide.

Both are good choices, but they look and function differently. It all boils down to personal choice and what you want from them. Here is a guide to the differences between painted and stained cabinets from our experts at Wholesale Cabinet Supply.

Painted Cabinets

Painted cabinets are modern and clean. Because cabinet paints are thicker than stains, they produce a smooth, uniform surface that conceals any wood character below. With this type of cabinetry, you have an infinite number of color selections, including fashionable tones like black, blue, green and gray.

painted cabinets pros and cons

Pros of Painted Cabinets

1. Provides a Clean Aesthetic

Paint is ideal for homeowners who desire a smooth, faultless surface over the character markings typical in our stained wood cabinets.

2. Let's You Play With Colors

Try painted cabinets in calming teal, lipstick red or submarine yellow for your kitchen. Unlike stain, paint adheres to the wood's surface and does not become lost in the blend of grains and knots. As a consequence, paint highlights any color you choose and provides you with additional options for customizing the design of your kitchen.

3. Paint Soaks Better in MDF

You may cut your cabinet expenses by using medium-density fiberboard. MDF is also paintable. When painted, it's practically impossible to discern between MDF and natural wood.

Cons of Painted Cabinets

1. Costly

If you compare them to stained cabinets, you'll notice that they're generally more expensive. How much higher is it? The cost largely depends on the manufacturer and your location, although they normally cost 10% to 15% more. Depending on the dimensions of your kitchen, you may be spending hundreds or thousands more.

white cabinets in mudroom

2. Paint Conceals Character Features

Since paint is denser than stain, it is not absorbed by wood in the same manner that stain is. If you want to see the knots and grains in your cabinets, you should generally avoid painted cabinets. Though the grain marks in woods such as hickory and oak will still be visible, they will be mainly buried under whichever layer of paint you pick. This feature may be appealing to certain homeowners. On the other hand, those who like the natural beauty of wood will see this as a disadvantage.

3. It Is Not Easy to Touch Up Paint

Paint touch-ups may be challenging. For starters, you won’t always know what color your cabinet is. Some paint providers may not offer a perfect match if you choose semi-custom or premade cabinets. Cabinet makers may use spray paints, which appear smoother but are difficult to imitate with a touch-up package. Brushed finishes are ideal for concealing touch-ups.

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Stained Cabinets

Stained cabinets provide a basic aesthetic that fits well with traditional cabinet designs. When stain soaks into the wood of the cabinet, it generates varied color tones, enabling the character of wood knots and grains to shine through. Stain is also soaked into the wood, enabling it to expand and shrink in response to changes in the interior environment, preventing cracking or chipping.

stained cabinets pros and cons

Pros of Stained Cabinets

1. Easier to Touch Up

Stain touch-up markers are easy to obtain, and even when there isn't a perfect match, there's probably a hue that roughly matches your stain out there. Touch-ups also blend effectively on stained cabinets.

2. Stain Highlights More Wood Characteristics

Stain achieves a wonderful mix of color and texture. This is a significant benefit for many households. Unlike paint, the stain does not take away from the original character of the wood. Because it is thinner than paint, it penetrates the surface and can accentuate the inherent beauty of the wood.

3. Budget-Friendly

Cost is ultimately determined by numerous aspects such as kitchen dimensions, cabinet construction, manufacturer, and so on. However, staining keeps expenses low, which is great if you're flipping a property, upgrading a rental unit, or just don't want to invest much in kitchen cabinets. Stained cabinets are normally less expensive than painted cabinets, while customized options could cost you a premium.

Cons of Stained Cabinets

1. Stain Highlights Wood's Flaws

Some call them flaws, while others call them characteristics. Again, some people see this as a plus. On the other hand, many people dislike seeing wood's flaws, such as color discrepancies and uneven grain distributions. Stains are secondary to the wood they are coating, allowing every distinguishing trait to shine through – whether it's good or bad.

2. Darker Stains and Paints Do Not Conceal Dust Effectively

This is a disadvantage that applies to both dark stains and paints. While lighter cabinets are more prone to chipping and staining, they do a fantastic job concealing dust. Not so with darker stains and paints. Dust particles appear more clearly on dark cabinetry surfaces, necessitating additional maintenance.

wooden cabinets in kitchen

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Painted vs. Stained Cabinets: Differences

1. Lifespan and Durability

Because the stain penetrates the wood, it is less susceptible to chipping, flaking and cracking when the wood cabinetry contracts and expands naturally with variations in humidity. Stained cabinets have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years.

On the other hand, because the paint does not move when the wood stretches and compresses, painted cabinetry is more prone to breaking. They often last for around 10 years.

2. Water-Resistance

Technically, stain is more moisture-resistant than paint in most circumstances. Since stain soaks into the timber, you may clean stained cabinets with water without worrying about removing or ruining the stain.

On the other hand, the water resistance of your painted cabinet varies from product to product. Water-resistant or waterproof paint, for instance, might be advantageous in areas where shower steam is prevalent, such as the bathroom.

3. DIY Ease

Eventually, you may want to refinish your cabinetry. Doing it yourself may save you hundreds of dollars. To achieve the greatest results with paint or stain material, prepare the wooden surfaces carefully and be patient during drying.

Paint is more complicated and time-consuming to do yourself than stain. Poor surface prep will be visible, and paint will accentuate even with minor application errors. It also frequently requires additional paint coats. Stain does not reveal faults as quickly as paint does, and it typically does not require as many applications, saving overall project time.

return on investment graphic

4. Return on Investment

Typically, homeowners replace cabinetry as part of a kitchen makeover, which provides an 81% ROI. That is, whether you opt for painted or stained cabinets, upgrading your cabinets is a terrific method to boost your home's market value and earn a nice ROI.

We suggest you choose a neutral hue for your kitchen cabinets that will attract a wide variety of purchasers. For the same reason, go for a classic, natural look if staining.

Painted vs. Stained Cabinets: Which Is Ideal for Your Room?

Which Is Ideal for Your Kitchen?

Because wholesale cabinets might become dirty from cooking, we recommend you choose a stained cabinet that is easier to clean. Because a new stain may mix with your current stain, it is easier to retouch in case of chipping, cracking or other sorts of damage. Stain often lasts twice as long as paint, so you won't have to reapply it regularly. If you opt for painted kitchen cabinets, go for a product that can withstand dirt and scuffing.

Which Is Ideal for Your Bathroom?

Paint works great for bathroom vanities, medicine cabinets or base cabinets. To withstand the high level of foot activity that most bathrooms endure, use water- or oil-based paint. We suggest you also use water-resistant paint so that shower steam does not cause peeling or chipping.

dark wood cabinets in kitchen

Which Is Ideal for Your Preferred Type of Wood?

The sort of timber used to create your cabinetry should also be considered when deciding on a finish. Some cabinets are composed of lower-quality paint-grade wood that is flat and smooth. Stain-grade wood is often of higher quality, having a rougher texture that holds stain more effectively.

Which Is Ideal for Your Lifestyle?

Assess how your lifestyle will affect the cabinet finish you choose. Children are a major part of this equation.

For younger families with kids still in the "tornado period," we recommend getting a stained finish. This is generally the best option since stained cabinets may withstand more abuse before showing indications of damage.

If you understand your tastes and the aesthetic you want to achieve, choosing between stained and painted cabinets doesn't have to be complicated. You will get the space you want if you base your selection on this info and your unique style.


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