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Stain or Paint?

If you are looking to redo your kitchen cabinet surfaces or are looking to purchase cabinets for the first time, you might want to consider how you want them to look. You can either paint or stain your cabinets. However, each one gives off a different look or character to the cabinets in your kitchen and here are some things to consider.


Using paint or purchasing painted cabinets gives you a variety of options for colors in your kitchen. Generally, paint is not the cheapest option and there are many things to consider when covering your cabinets doors in your favorite color. The type of paint chosen will influence the look, longevity, chipping, water resistance, and even off gassing. Water and oil-based paints make a difference as well. However, if paint is the direction you want to go but you’re unsure if it’s the right direction, then take a look at the pros and cons below.

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  • The aesthetic is clean and smooth –  Paint covers the wood, hiding the grains, colors, and characters of the wood, which can be a good thing if that is the look you desire.
  • Expanse options for colors – Since the paint doesn’t soak into the wood, this opens many options for colors to help your kitchen cabinets pop be it a sunny yellow or a muted plum.
  • Works better on MDF – MDF stands for medium-density fiberboard, which is the particle or furniture board, that helps reduce the cost for cabinets. Once the cabinets are painted, it’s difficult to tell which cabinet is made of real wood and which is MDF.


  • It covers the character of the wood – When the paint dries, it covers all of the grains, color, flaws, and knots of the wood are covered and do not show through.
  • Paint costs more – As strange as it sounds, paint actually costs more than staining, depending on where and who makes them as well as the number of cabinets in your kitchen.
  • It’s difficult to touch up – This is due to the difficulty in matching the paint colors as well as how the cabinets were painted. Some cabinets are spray painted, giving them a smooth surface and others are brushed. However, the brush-painted cabinets are easier to touch up.
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Stains bring out the natural grains, marks, patterns, and characters of the wood. This can be a wonderful way to make your kitchen feel rich. Depending on the choice of color, your wood cabinets can either bring out the natural color of the wood or create a new hue to add to the flair of the room. If you’re not sure if a stain is the right course for your kitchen, check out the pros and cons below.


  • Shows the natural wood – Unlike paints, stains soak into the wood to enhance the color. This allows the wood’s natural beauty to shine through, leaving every knot, grain, and blemish exposed.
  • Touch ups are easier – Touch up markers and stains blend much easier into the wood, even though the colors may or may not match entirely.
  • Typically costs are lower – The cost of stains or stained cabinets are typically lower than paints, but it depends on many factors such as the number of cabinets in your kitchen, the type of stain, the type of wood-grain, and the manufacturer.


  • Doesn’t look very well on MDF – Unfortunately, since the stain soaks into the wood, staining MDF cabinets causes them to look different in color than if used on real wood.
  • Shows all of the wood’s flaws – Stains don’t cover color inconsistencies or uneven grains or blemishes in the wood.
  • Dust is visible on dark stains and paints – Dust tends to stand out more on darker stains than lighter ones, which will require more work to keep them cleaned off.