Stained Versus Painted Kitchen Cabinets

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Last updated: March 25, 2023

When you plan to remodel your kitchen, one of the biggest decisions you will face is choosing between a stained cabinet versus a painted kitchen cabinet since each provides a unique look and personal look. There is a cost difference since painting your cabinets is 15-20% more costly when compared to stained cabinets.

The natural beauty of the wood found in high-quality upper and lower cabinets can shine as stained wood cabinets, but a pop of color or lighter cabinets can also make things stand out in a new kitchen. There are many great options for cabinet colors to style the look of your kitchen. Kitchen home decor needs good balance to enhance natural features and achieve that timeless look.

American household trends indicate that painted cabinets are the way to go for a kitchen remodel. A lighter color for cabinet doors is a popular option for modern kitchens today. White is leading the way, according to this Statista study.

If you are having a hard time choosing between the two, this article will give you information that I hope will help you make an informed decision.

Kitchen cabinets are essential to give your kitchen that desired look and increase your home resale value. Kitchen remodels are at an all-time high and is the most expensive home renovation option. The finish that your cabinets will have will matter most. However, it is essential to understand that there is no right or wrong choice between stained vs. painted kitchen cabinets. Both are excellent options and will give you value for your money. It comes down to your personal preference.

If you plan to install new kitchen cabinets or new doors, you may wish to consider professional installers and painters since they offer many good options, such as:

  • Type of cabinets (new cabinets, older ones)
  • Different materials (the natural color of the wood, look of wood grain, a lot of grain, etc.)
  • Kitchen cabinet finishes
  • Stain options (real wood stain)
  • Paint options (coats of primer required, color of the paint, dark paints, quality of the paint)

Always ask for a free estimate since modern kitchen designs are trendy at this time. Seeking professional assistance is probably a better option than DIY (do it yourself) if this is your first time.

To guide this critical decision, I will highlight each style’s benefits and downsides before you decide on your new look.

Table of Contents

Painted Cabinets

Painted cabinets are trendy at the moment. The color of your cabinets allows you to add any color that is an exact match to your house décor and flooring. Although versatile, painted cabinets have a few notable disadvantages.



A wide range of colors for your cabinets are available to meet a certain aesthetic. For instance, a classic all-white kitchen paint color would benefit from gleaming white cabinets. Your cabinets will benefit from a sleek and smooth finish, from whites and creams to blues and grays.

Contemporary Style

Today’s modern kitchen look features painted cabinets. If you want clean lines and sleek surfaces, they will be better for you than having an all-white or a plain gray shade. You will have the opportunity to customize your kitchen look the way you want.

Opportunity for Huge Savings

Painted cabinets usually involve medium-density fiberboard (MDF). They are cost-effective compared to hardwood that stains a lot. MDF also has fine particles that hide noticeable grains but provides a smooth finish with cabinet costs at a sensible price.

Hidden Grain

Many people do not prefer the look of knots or natural wood grain. If you want to hide these elements, using a thick coat of paint will help.

There are so many design options to consider for the best results. A great way to evaluate your choices is by the type of wood, whether you like natural wood or MDF, and whether you seek a modern, clean finish. The size of your kitchen plays a vital role in the final cost of your cabinets. Remember that first time homeowners prefer a natural character to their kitchen, and you may also feel that the natural beauty of your wood is what matters most to your unique design tastes.

Whatever the final decision is, your best choice in home design today is the contemporary look.


Maintenance Issues

The appealing look of a freshly painted cabinet may not last for long. Even if you don’t use the cabinets for a long, they may begin to develop chips and scratches, which can be spotted quickly and annoying to fix and replicate using paint touch-ups.

Hidden Grain

You may prefer your cabinets to have a smooth look. This approach has disadvantages because the knots and other variations that add visual interest disappear when you paint them entirely. Your cabinet’s unique style will not show.

Higher Costs

Maintaining the look of the cabinets with paint may become more expensive than using comparable stains in the long run.

Color Replication

The unfortunate thing is when the color of paint used on your cabinets chips, there is the likelihood you will not find the exact color of your cabinet’s popular colors through a touch-up kit in those areas. This challenge is mainly for custom colors. You will end up paying more for painted cabinet replacement and swapping.

Stained Cabinets

Stained cabinets are not trendy compared to their painted counterparts, but they are still an excellent option for use in spaces that require a natural look. They are a perfect choice to use in places where paint use may not be necessary.


Touch-Up Kit is an Easy Option

Touch-up markers are available everywhere. Even if you do not get the exact color you want, you will likely get one that resembles your stain.

Stain Cost is Lower

Generally, the cost of stain is affordable compared to paint. However, getting a customize option will be more expensive.

Showcasing the Hardwood Way Stain

Your cabinet style will depend on the type of hardwood you use. Your oak, pine, cherry, or walnut will look more natural with applying stain on them. Depending on which variety of hardwood you settle for, you will showcase it correctly with the assistance of the right stain.


At first glance, you may believe that painted cabinets are versatile because of the wide range of color spectrum available. However, when it comes to stained cabinets, you select different rustic, traditional, or natural styles. These looks are not easy to achieve using paint.

Minimum Long-Term Maintenance

Suppose you prefer to touch your cabinets regularly. It is essential to know that stain will maintain their gorgeous look at low costs for a very long time.

Less Expensive

Stained cabinets are more affordable compared to painted cabinets. Complete replacement can be done quickly over time because it is easier to replicate than many paint colors.


Fewer Color Options

You may get a variety of styles to choose from in stains hardwood, but you will be limited when it comes to color choices. Supposing you have a specific hue that you dream of for your cabinets, the paint will be the best option for you.

Reveals Wood Blemishes

While stains may showcase all the beautiful variations your cabinets have, they also draw attention by revealing all the flaws that are not covered up. Additionally, you are not going to achieve uniformity when you use opaque stains.

Stain is Limiting

Stains only work best with hardwood and may not be ideal for MDF materials.

Dark Stains Reveal Dust

Dark stains will never hide dust particles properly; lighter stains are better at hiding dust than them even if they chip faster.

Color-painted cabinets continue to dominate as a trend in the market. You will find in every four cabinets available for sale; three are of a painted variety. Out of those painted ones, most of them will be white or off-white. However, there is an emergence of gray cabinet options. But most people love an all-white kitchen look that is usually timeless and saves on cost and maintenance.

Stain Cabinets vs. Painted Kitchen Cabinet Costs

Most cabinets for kitchen space have a base wood species. Usually, they are maple or birch, with the choice of painting or staining available.

Maple and birch may show less grain compared to the oak or walnut cabinets. They look attractive when painted, which makes your kitchen cabinet more about paint than displaying the characteristics of the wood grain.

Painting your cabinets will need significant investment to get the necessary shop equipment such as spraying machines. How you will paint your cabinets will affect their pricing and the quality of paint used. The best way to paint your cabinet’s door and cases are to lay them flat, as this provides some protection from streaks.

A well-painted cabinet will have two coats of paint. When you stain your cabinets, they will also have two coats of stain and oil polyurethane finish.

What kitchen cabinet designs excite you?

Your Kitchen Style

You must pay attention to your desired kitchen’s overall appearance. Painted cabinets will give your kitchen a sleek, clean design that is smooth and with some flawless finish. Classic white cabinets are the popular color choice to select.

As you consider cabinets with a painted finish, know that you will get numerous color options compared to stained cabinets. Usually, paint sticks well on the surface of the cabinet, and it is thicker on the wood to cover grains and knots. This thickness helps put more focus on the color versus the cabinet’s texture.

On the other hand, stained cabinets are an excellent choice for homeowners who love to see the look of the wood grains and knots. Since stains are always thinner than paint, it will soak the cabinet surface, giving your cabinets some color and preserving the natural texture of the cabinet’s wood.

Another consideration for style is the type of flooring, backsplash, and countertops for your kitchen. Consider cabinet style that flows with your kitchen appearance as you make a selection.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it Better to Paint or Stain Your Kitchen Cabinets

If you want a clean, modern look cabinet, paint your cabinets. Painted cabinets will look very smooth and hide the grain of the wood. If you want a more natural classic look, then consider staining your cabinets. Staining your cabinets gives them that natural grain wood appearance and offers them an appealing traditional aesthetic.

Are Painted or Stained Cabinets More Expensive

Paints work well on kitchen cabinets made of wood or MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard). Painted cabinets are 15% more expensive in the market than stained cabinets, which comes as a price premium for the privilege of enjoying a clean, sleek look of paint.

Do Painted Kitchen Cabinets Decrease in Value

Neutral colors for painting your cabinets will have a significant impact on the resale value of your home. On average, you can use $250 or less to replace your hardwood and paint your cabinets for just $300. As such, you will enjoy a significant improvement in your return on investment.

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