Should You Paint or Stain Kitchen Cabinets? Pros & Cons

Whether you’re buying new kitchen cabinets or refinishing existing ones, you will find yourself at some point having to choose between paint and stain. As you dig a little deeper, you will also notice that the two finishes are totally different, and each has its own pros and cons.

If you’re refinishing your kitchen cabinets for the first time, choosing between the two options might be a little confusing. In this article, we wanted to share the cons and pros of paint and stain, in order to help you choose the best option for your situation and preferences.

Painted Cabinets


Paint Offers More Color Options

If you’re considering experimenting with bold colors, then using a stain might limit you. Paint allows you to showcase different hues since it doesn’t seep in and get lost into the wood grains and knots like stain. You will be able to customize your cabinets to the maximum as far as color is concerned.

A Clean Aesthetic.

If you’re looking for a crisp kitchen design without wood character marks, then painting is your best bet. Using colors like white, cream and shades of blue offers a sleek, clean finish that you can’t simply pull off using the stain.

Paint Applies Better to MDF.

Most homeowners looking to cut cabinet costs tend to use medium-density fiberboards (MDF). While it’s well finished and can be left as-is, this material takes paint pretty well. Once it’s painted, it’s difficult to tell the difference between this material and real wood.


Paint Tends to Cost More.

Painting your kitchen cabinets is generally not very costly, however, if you’re comparing it to staining, you will notice it costs a bit more. The same difference reflects even when buying the cabinets –painted ones will always cost more. If you’re painting or installing cabinets in a particularly large kitchen, this difference in cost will be more amplified.

Paint Hides Wood Character

Unlike stain, paint doesn’t get absorbed into the wood, so it forms a thick film on the surface of your cabinet. This ultimately covers all the grains, knots and other wood’s character. If you don’t like seeing all these “blemishes,” then this might be a plus. But for homeowners who appreciate the value of wood’s natural beauty, this might go down as a con.

Harder to Touch Up.

Kitchen cabinet finishes wear out and deteriorate over time and will need a touch-up every now and then before the major repainting. If you bought your cabinets prefabricated, you might not be able to tell the exact paint color that was used. And even if you did, chances are it has faded over time and lost a bit of its luster. If the cabinets were initially spray-painted, it might even be harder to replicate the current finish during touch up.

Stained Cabinets


Stain is Easier to Touch Up.

Conversely, touch-up on stained cabinets is much easier and even fun. It’s easy to find touch-up markers for different stain hues. And even if you can’t find an exact match, there is always a stain out there that resembles your current finish. If your wood has lots of grains, touch-up will seamlessly blend in.

Stain Showcases the Wood Character

Stain is the best option if you’re looking to showcase the wood’s character. Since stain is thinner than paint, it seeps into the surface, which can enhance the natural beauty of your wood. To many homeowners, this is a plus.

Stain is Cheaper

The overall cost of staining or installing stained cabinets in your kitchen will depend on a number of factors such as kitchen size, manufacturer, cabinet construction, etc. But staining tends to be generally cheaper, and this can come in handy if you’re considering selling your house or just want to keep your remodeling costs low.


On the downside, stain doesn’t look good when applied to MDF, so if you’re considering installing MDF cabinets, you have to forego staining. In addition, if your wood has some undesirable blemishes, the stain will show it all. And this might not be a great option if you’re refinishing aged kitchen cabinets.

Bottom Line

There you have it. I hope the above pros and cons offer some insights on how to go about making the right choice between the two. If you need any professional help with cabinet or woodwork refinishing in Omaha, Nebraska, Brush & Roll Painting can help. Book a free estimate below or give us a call 402-932-9764 for more details.