Painted vs Stained Cabinets: Which is Better?

painted vs stained cabinets

When you have to renovate kitchen cabinets or upgrade them, one of the significant decisions you need to make is choosing painted vs stained cabinets.

The two are the ways on how to make old wood cabinets look new. While either of the two will give your kitchen a great look, they also differ in some ways, and there are things that you might need to consider when deciding if wood stain vs paint them.

If you are having a hard time deciding whether to stain or paint your cabinets, this article will help you weigh the pros and cons and get you to choose.

stained cabinets kitchen furnitures

Aesthetics Gives a modern look, smooth and glossy finish Provides you with a traditional and natural look
Available Options Latex, oil-based, and low-VOC Dark, light, and bold stain
Cost High cost due to upcharge for a sleek, smooth finish Less expensive materials
Durability 10 years estimated life Last for 20-30 years
Appliance Finish Match well with white and Stainless steel Dark and stainless steel finished appliances look good with stained cabinets
Maintenance Can wipe with a soft cloth to clean Can use a soft cloth or use soap and water to clean
Application Different surfaces need different brushes. Wide surfaces may need rollers You can use either medium-wide brushes or soft cloth

painted cabinets in kitchen


A painted cabinet can give your kitchen a modern look because of its smooth and glossy finish.

In addition, you can choose from different shades available to match the theme or color of your walls and ceilings. You can get the plain color, or you can get more colorful.

The stained cabinet is more of a traditional appearance. It gives your kitchen a natural look. It never goes out of date. It can even fit into a modern designed kitchen. However, the choice of colors is limited: dark, light, bold stain.

Options in Style

When it comes to options on the type of paints, you can have latex, oil-based paints, and low-VOC, while with stain, you can have water-based stain, oil-based, dye, gel, and pigmented.

There are endless color choices for paints to apply to cabinets, but white is the most popular. However, some homeowners also opt for a modern look created by green, blue, grays, and black.


In general, stained cabinets are more affordable than painted ones. A painted cabinet costs 15% more than stained alternatives. There is an upcharge for the sleek, smooth, and clean look of the paint. If you are on a tight budget, you may consider getting the stained ones.

The cost may depend on the materials you choose for staining. For example, if you are making a cabinet from inexpensive wood, painting it would look better. Thus, it can be less expensive than usual. On the other hand, the stained cabinet can also be more costly if you choose high-quality materials.

Finish of the Appliance

There are different appliance finishes. The most common are black, white, and stainless. If you are particular with matching cabinets and appliance finish, then the choice for painted vs stained cabinets would matter a lot.

If your appliances have a white finish, they will go well with white cabinets. Stainless steel cabinets can match any color. It can even look great with stained cabinets. The black-colored appliance can blend with dark finish painted cabinets or dark stained cabinets.

Durability and Length of Life

On average, the paint lasts for ten years while the stain lasts for 20 to 30 years. So, if you are looking for long-lasting cabinets, then the stained alternative is the better choice. But, painted wood can also crack after a few years and could peel. It will not also move with the wood, so it is more likely to crack or split.

On the other hand, the stain absorbs in the wood longer than paint, so it tends to hold up better. It also moves with the wood, so there will be no cracking and splitting.


Painted and stained cabinets are easy to clean. You can wipe the dust and dirt off with a soft cloth. You can also use a mild wood cleaner to remove stubborn stains on the surface.

When cleaning stained cabinets, you can use soap and water, but you can’t do the same to painted cabinets as water could damage the finish unless you use washable paints.


When it comes to applying paints to the cabinets, you would need more than one brush. For example, you may need a small brush for the edges and a big brush for wide surfaces. Also, before painting, you may need a primer for a better finish.

When it comes to staining, the fundamental question would be “how to stain cabinets?” or how to stain kitchen cabinets? Application may not be as complicated as painting. You will need either a soft cloth or a medium-sized paintbrush. The only thing you need to bear in mind is to make sure that you cover the wood pores for a better outcome.


Choosing from painted vs stained cabinets may not be easy, especially if you are particular with how your kitchen should look. The cost and durability are also the major factors when deciding which among the two you should pick.

Additionally, if you are deciding whether to paint or stain, the next step would be the application. It probably would be easy if you knew how to stain wood cabinets or how to paint them. But if you don’t have enough knowledge on painting or staining wood, it will be challenging to produce a good result. So, it would be ideal to have someone do it for you.

professionally painted cabinets

The El Gato Painting and Restoration can do both painting and staining wood cabinets. Our professionals know how to refinish cabinets with stains. We can also explain the advantages and disadvantages of the two and help you decide which one to take. Moreover, they have a 21-step preparation to follow to make sure the result is outstanding.

If you need either painting or staining jobs, call El Gato Painting Services.

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