Stained vs. Painted Kitchen Cabinets: Which One Is Right For You?

Stained vs. Painted Kitchen Cabinets

You’ve committed to a kitchen remodel, and one of the biggest decisions you have to make now is the appearance of your kitchen cabinets. Painted or stained is a question you will get from your kitchen renovation professional, but answering that question can be a little confusing if you don’t understand the differences between the two. Hopefully this information can help make your choice a little clearer.

The fact of the matter is there really isn’t a right or a wrong choice, just some things to consider. Both painted and stained cabinets are good options, and have durable topcoats that will keep your kitchen looking beautiful for years to come. It usually comes down to preference, budget and overall design of your kitchen. Here are a few pros and cons for determining the best option for your kitchen cabinets.

Stained

These cabinets are the most traditional in look and style. Most stains leave the natural wood beneath showing through, enhancing the overall look of your choice of wood species. This finish will add warmth and character to your home and comes in a range of colors from light Natural, Honey and Cinnamon colored stains to medium tones like Cocoa, Sable, or Kona. Rich, dark Java, Graphite and Espresso are especially popular.

Because stain is thinner than paint, it absorbs into the wood. Since wood is a natural product that expands and contracts slightly with changes in temperature and humidity, stain moves with the wood as those changes occur. This means the finish is much less likely to crack or chip.

With the visible variations in wood grains, dirt and smudges are much less noticeable on wood than on paint, which definitely comes in handy if you have kids. Stained cabinets are also more easily touched up if you have any nicks or scratches; can be more affordable (depending on the wood species chosen), and will typically look their best longer than painted cabinets.

Painted

Painted kitchen cabinets are currently a big trend in home design. With the proper color choices, your kitchen can look totally current while showing off your own personal style. Painted cabinets are typically wood or MDF, and will have a smooth and uniform finish with no variations in their appearance–only the color of the paint will be noticeable. (An exception is painted red oak, which shows some of the wood grain texture under the paint.)

While design trends come and go, painted cabinets for the kitchen–especially white–are a classic look. Not sure you want to fully commit to all white cabinets? Feel free to choose another color, or mix painted cabinets in with a stained wood island or base cabinets. Probably one of the biggest benefits of painted cabinets are the options–Canyon Creek can replicate a number of paint manufacturers’ colors, and the ability to do a custom color match gives you even more choices when designing your new kitchen.

To find your ideal color, check out Canyon Creek’s standard paint selection, which includes 24 paints that range from shades of white and grey to more saturated colors. To see and compare those colors on three of our most popular doors, visit the Color Visualizer.

Some of the cons of going with painted kitchen cabinets include: They can be more expensive than stained cabinets; they can be harder to touch up than stained cabinets due to the uniform look; and they will show smudges and fingerprints more easily. Also, keep in mind that paint lays on top of the wood, so that movement we mentioned earlier can create hairline cracks in the surface at joints and seams. As long as liquids are wiped off promptly, those tiny cracks won’t affect the durability of the finish. (See our cabinet care guidelines for more tips.)

Mix and Match

Love both styles? Well the latest kitchen design trends say you don’t have to choose. Gone are the days where your kitchen cabinets all have to match–today’s modern styles are all about mixing everything including color, wood types and even finishes. For example, while the appeal of an all-white kitchen is still a big deal when it comes to kitchen cabinet colors, homeowners are looking to tone that down a bit and add some contrast by using a bold color, pops of black, or natural woods. Mixing and matching your cabinets gives you the opportunity to create a unique look, while staying with something that you’ll still love for years to come. Many homeowners are mixing wood-base or laminate wood-look cabinets with upper cabinets that have a high-gloss acrylic paint or matte finish––achieving the best of both worlds.

Whether choosing a stain or a paint for your kitchen remodel, work with your professional and ask for samples. It’s important to preview the many different options offered, so be sure to order a physical sample of the door style, stain and type of wood you are considering.