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How to Decide Between Painted vs. Stained Cabinets

There are a lot of questions that you’ll ask yourself when planning out a kitchen remodel. What layout works best for your lifestyle? What are the ideal countertop, flooring, and backsplash materials for your home? What colors will blend with the aesthetic of the rest of the house? While these are all important, there is one question that you may have overlooked—are painted or stained cabinets the right choice for your kitchen?

Whether you are purchasing brand-new kitchen cabinets and trying to make a decision on natural woodgrain or painted styles or you are considering giving your current cabinets a facelift, the answer to this question depends on your goals, budget, and the look you are going for in the room. Both painted cabinets and stained cabinets can deliver stunning visual appeal and a warm, welcoming atmosphere—as long as you know what you are getting into by taking the leap in replacing your kitchen cabinets.

Painted cabinets are the perfect solution for homeowners that like bold, crisp colors or have a home with a modern, minimalist design. One of the biggest bonuses to choosing painted cabinets is the vast array of kitchen cabinet colors to choose from—all of which can put a unique spin on the overall look, feel, and functionality of your kitchen.

If you are considering purchasing painted cabinets or repainting outdated cabinets in your home, the advantages to this style include:

  • Clean Aesthetic: From classic all-white kitchens to contemporary grays and muted blues, painted cabinets give your kitchen a clean, flawless finish that goes well with modern home designs.
  • Easier Application: For homes with MDF cabinets, it is wise to consider painting over staining. Paint adheres better to MDF construction than stain and can mask the fact that your cabinets aren’t real wood.
  • Bursts of Color: The sky is the limit when you are painting your cabinets or buying newly painted cabinets! From brilliant teals and yellows to deep, dramatic reds, you can customize the look of your kitchen easily with painted cabinetry.

While painted cabinets definitely have a long list of benefits, there are still a few drawbacks to choosing this style over a more traditional, stained cabinet design. You’ll want to keep the following in the mind when weighing the pros and cons of painted cabinets:

  • The innate thickness of paint means that the fine details, including wood grain, knots, and other character features, will be more hidden with painted cabinets.
  • Painting your cabinets isn’t the most budget-friendly way to give your kitchen a makeover. Typically, new painted cabinets cost about 10-15% more than purchasing stained cabinets.
  • Touch-ups are a reality with painted cabinets, and if you purchased your cabinets already painted, it can be a challenge to find a matching color to repair the damage.

When you think of traditional, timeless kitchen cabinets, stained cabinets are what likely comes to mind—and for good reason! Stained cabinets showcase the intrinsic beauty of natural wood grain and can blend well with other bold features of a kitchen space. Advantages of choosing stained cabinets over painted options include:

  • Stain is ideal for highlighting the character of the wood, which is a major bonus for many homeowners. With a thinner consistency, stain allows the wood’s natural beauty to shine through.
  • Touching-up your cabinets is much easier when they are stained! Stain blends well when reapplying to areas of damage and finding an exact match isn’t as big of a concern.
  • When you want to save money on your kitchen remodel, stained cabinets are the way to go. While costs vary widely in cabinet purchasing, stained cabinets tend to cost less than painted cabinets.

Like painted cabinets, there are also drawbacks to having stained cabinetry in a home kitchen:

  • Stain isn’t ideal for MDF cabinets, as this material doesn’t take stain well.
  • If you have major damage or blemishes, stain will highlight—not hide—them.
  • Dark stains have a tendency to show dust and dirt, requiring more cleaning and upkeep.

Whether you choose painted cabinets or classic stained cabinetry, the look that is right for you depends on what you want to get out of your remodel. Consider your cabinet material, the kitchen layout, and the overall features and color scheme of the space to decide whether stained cabinets are the perfect addition—or if painted cabinets are your ticket to seeing a beautiful before and after in your home kitchen remodel.