Painted vs. Stained Kitchen Cabinets: Which is Better?

If you’re like most homeowners, the cabinets in your kitchen are one of its main focal points. So when it’s time to update them, you’ll want to choose a style that not only looks great but will also stand the test of time. Painted cabinets and stained cabinets are two popular choices, but which is right for your home? In this guide, we’ll compare the pros and cons of each option so you can make an informed decision about which is best for you.

Why is It Important to Make a Choice Between Painted vs Stained Kitchen Cabinets?

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where we cook, eat, entertain, and gather as a family. And the cabinets are the star of the show. They set the tone for the entire space. So when it comes time to remodel or build a new kitchen, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is whether to go with painted or stained cabinets.

Why is It Important to Make a Choice Between Painted vs Stained Kitchen Cabinets

There are pros and cons to each option, and ultimately it boils down to personal preference. But there are a few things you should keep in mind when making your decision. We will first explain what painted and stained cabinets are and then give you a few tips to help you make the best decision for your kitchen.

What are Painted Kitchen Cabinets

Painted cabinets are exactly what they sound like. They’re made of wood that has been primed and then painted with a semi-gloss or high-gloss paint. The type of paint you choose will depend on the look you’re going for.

The paint provides color to the cabinets and also offers some protection against wear and tear. Painted cabinets can be made from any type of wood, including MDF or particle board, and they can be laminate too.

Painted cabinets have a smooth finish that can be easily wiped clean. And if you choose a high-quality paint, the color will last for years with minimal chipping or fading. [1], [2]

What are Stained Kitchen Cabinets

Stained cabinets are also made of wood, but they’re finished with a stain instead of paint and then sealed. The type of stain you choose will again depend on your desired choice. You can go with a light, natural stain or a dark, rich stain. The stain penetrates the wood, providing color and protection. Stained cabinets are typically made from hardwoods like maple, cherry, or oak. And they can be stained in a variety of colors, from light to dark. Stained cabinets have a more natural look and feel than painted cabinets. They also show off the grain of the wood, which some people prefer. [1]

Main Differences Between Painted and Stained Kitchen Cabinets

Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty and compare painted vs stained cabinets. In this section, we’ll discuss the main differences between these two types of cabinets.

Main Differences Between Painted and Stained Kitchen Cabinets


Painted cabinets can provide a clean, sleek look to your kitchen that stained cabinets cannot. Painted cabinets also allow you to more easily change the color of your kitchen if you ever get tired of the current shade. If you want to achieve a certain look for your kitchen, such as a country or cottage feel, then painted cabinets may be the way to go. You can either paint them yourself or hire a professional to do it for you.

If you want a more natural feel however, painted cabinets are not for you. You won’t see any of the natural wood grain through a coat of paint like you would with stained cabinets.

Stained cabinets, on the other hand, can give your kitchen a warm and inviting feel. If you want your kitchen to have a more rustic or traditional look, then stained cabinets might be right for you.

It is important to note that the staining process is much more involved than painting them. You will need to carefully select the right type of stain and take extra care in ensuring that it is applied evenly. Hiring a professional to do this for you is always an option, but it will likely be more expensive than painting your cabinets. [1], [3]


The first difference between these two types of cabinets is the materials. Painted cabinets are typically made from MDF, while stained cabinets are usually made of solid wood.

MDF is an engineered wood product that’s made by breaking down hardwood or softwood into fibers and then combining those fibers with resin to create a panel. MDF is more stable than plywood and doesn’t expand or contract as much with changes in humidity. It’s also less expensive than solid wood.

Stained cabinets must be made from hardwoods like maple, cherry, or oak so that their natural qualities would be pronounced and preserved better. These woods are also more expensive than MDF, however as we just mentioned it requires more maintenance. [1], [4]

Finish options

One of the most significant differences between painted and stained cabinets is the finish options. When it comes to painting, there are literally endless color options to choose from. But, different types of paint have different qualities. The most common paint options are latex, oil-based, low-VOC.

Latex paint is the most user-friendly and has very little odor. It’s also easy to clean up with just soap and water. The downside of latex paint is that it’s not as durable as oil-based paint and can chip more easily.

Oil-based paint is more durable than latex but can be difficult to work with because it has a strong odor and requires mineral spirits for cleanup. Low-VOC options are similar to latex in terms of being user-friendly, but they don’t have the same durability.

Now, let’s take a look at the finishes for stained cabinets. A stain is a type of pigmented finish that soaks into the grain of the wood, resulting in a color change. Some stains are designed to highlight the natural grain pattern of the wood, while others will obscure it.

Stains come in both water-based and oil-based formulas, and each has its own set of pros and cons. Water-based stains dry quickly and don’t require any special ventilation, but they can be difficult to work with because they tend to raise the grain of the wood. Oil-based stains take longer to dry but are easier to control during application.

Dye is also an option for coloring wood, but it’s not commonly used on kitchen cabinets because it can be difficult to achieve an even coloration with this type of finish.

Pigmented stains are available in a wide range of colors, from light tints to dark hues. You can also find stains that contain metallic flakes or pigments that produce a glaze-like effect. However pigmented finish hides natural grain of the wood more than a clear stain does.

Gel stains are thicker than traditional liquid stains, so they’re less likely to drip or run during application. They’re ideal for use on vertical surfaces like kitchen cabinets because they don’t require as much prep work before application. [1]


When it comes to durability, there is a clear winner between painted and stained cabinets. Stained cabinets are much easier to touch-up and repair than painted cabinets. If you damage your stained cabinets, all you need to do is sand them down and restain them. With painted cabinets, however, any damage will require repainting the entire cabinet.


And here lies the problem, you can’t easily guess the exact paint color that was used for your cabinets, so it will be very difficult to make a seamless repair.

With painted cabinets, you will notice dust and dirt much more easily as paint is a smooth surface while those won’t be as noticeable on stained surfaces.

Painted cabinets are also more susceptible to chips and scratches than stained cabinets. Stained wood is more forgiving when it comes to minor imperfections because the stain can help to hide them. Over time, water and grease can seep into the wood, causing the pain to fade or even peel off. However, stained cabinets can be just as durable if they’re made from high-quality wood and properly painted. [1], [4]

Resale value

Non-surprisingly, either cabinet option can increase or decrease the resale value of your home depending on the trends at the time. If you want to increase the resale value, be sure to update the finish every few years to stay on trend. [1]

Moisture resistance

Generally, stained cabinets have an upper hand when it comes to moisture resistance. This is because the stain penetrates deep into the wood grain, creating a barrier that’s more resistant to water and other liquids.

Painted cabinets don’t fall too far behind as nowadays there’s a lot of water-resistant paint options available on the market. [1]


Painted cabinets need to be cleaned more often than stained cabinets. Stained cabinets can go longer without a cleaning because the wood grain is not as noticeable. However, both types of cabinets should be dusted regularly with a soft cloth.


It is important to keep in mind that both painted and stained kitchen cabinets require some level of maintenance. Painted cabinets will need to be repainted every few years to keep them looking their best, while stained cabinets will need to be refinished every few years to maintain their color. No matter which option you choose, make sure you are prepared to put in the work required to keep your kitchen looking its best. [1]


Cost is always an important factor when making any sort of home renovation. When it comes to kitchen cabinets, painted cabinets are typically more expensive than stained cabinets. This is because painting cabinets requires more labor and materials than staining them.
Staining on other hand is typically a quicker and easier process, which means it will cost less. However the price can fluctuate depending on the type of stain you choose. [1]

Painted vs. Stained Kitchen Cabinets: Making the Right Choice

Choosing between painted and stained kitchen cabinets is a significant decision that can impact the overall aesthetics and style of your kitchen. To help you make an informed choice, we’ve created a comprehensive comparison table with multiple columns to evaluate the key differences between painted and stained kitchen cabinets across various aspects.

Aspect Painted Cabinets Stained Cabinets
Appearance Offer a smooth, opaque finish that can be customized with various colors. Retain the natural wood grain, providing a warm and organic look.
Color Options Provide a wide range of color choices to match or contrast with your kitchen’s color scheme. Usually limited to the natural wood tones, although some stains offer a variety of shades.
Wood Grain Conceal the wood grain, giving a uniform and sleek appearance. Highlight and enhance the wood grain, adding texture and character to the cabinets.
Maintenance Generally easier to clean and maintain due to the sealed and smooth surface. May require more attention to prevent staining or fading of the stain color.
Durability Offer excellent durability and resistance to moisture, making them suitable for high-traffic kitchens. Can be durable but may require periodic re-staining or sealing to maintain their appearance.
Style Flexibility Provide flexibility to change the kitchen’s color scheme by repainting the cabinets. Offer a classic and timeless look that complements various kitchen styles.
Cabinet Age May show wear and tear differently, with painted cabinets potentially showing less wood aging. Allow the natural aging and patina of wood to enhance their character over time.
Cost Costs can vary widely based on the quality of materials and the number of coats required. Generally more budget-friendly due to the simpler finishing process.
Resale Value May appeal to a broader range of buyers and contribute to a higher resale value. Attract buyers who appreciate the warmth and authenticity of wood cabinets.
Customization Allow for easy customization in terms of color and style changes. Provide customization options through different wood species and stain colors.

Explanation of the Table:

  • Aspect: Lists different aspects to consider when comparing painted and stained kitchen cabinets.
  • Painted Cabinets: Provides information about painted cabinets in each aspect.
  • Stained Cabinets: Provides information about stained cabinets in each aspect.

By examining these aspects, you can make an informed decision about whether painted or stained kitchen cabinets are better suited for your kitchen’s style, maintenance preferences, and budget.


Which paint finish is the most durable?

The most durable paint finish for kitchen cabinets is an oil-based paint with a semi-gloss or high-gloss level of sheen. Eggshell and satin finishes are also fairly durable, but may require more frequent touch-ups in high traffic areas. These finishes are more resistant to staining and scratches than flat or eggshell finishes. If you have young children in your home, a high-gloss finish may be the best option for you.

Is it worth it to have kitchen cabinets painted?

Surely, a fresh coat of paint can breathe new life into tired cabinets and make them look good as new. But is it worth the investment?
On the one hand, painting your kitchen cabinets can be a quick and easy way to refresh your space without spending too much money. On the other hand, however, if not done properly, painted cabinets can start to chip and look worn down quickly.

How long will painted kitchen cabinets last?

Painted kitchen cabinets will last as long as you take care of them properly. The paint job will start to show wear and tear after roughly 10 years, but if you touch up the paint regularly, your cabinets can last for decades.

Stained kitchen cabinets are more durable than painted cabinets, but they can still be damaged by water and heat. If you take good care of your stained cabinets, they should last twice as their painted counterpart.

Which type of kitchen cabinets is more durable, painted or stained?

In terms of durability, painted kitchen cabinets tend to be more resistant to moisture, stains, and wear and tear. The paint creates a protective layer over the wood, making it less susceptible to damage. However, the longevity of both painted and stained cabinets depends on the quality of materials and craftsmanship, as well as proper care and maintenance.

Are there any considerations for choosing between painted and stained kitchen cabinets based on kitchen size or style?

The choice between painted and stained cabinets can be influenced by kitchen size and style. In smaller kitchens, lighter-colored painted cabinets can create a sense of openness, while darker stained cabinets may make a larger kitchen feel cozier. The overall style and color palette of your kitchen should guide your decision to ensure a cohesive look.

Which type of kitchen cabinets is easier to maintain in the long run?

Painted kitchen cabinets are generally easier to maintain in the long run. They are less likely to show stains and water damage and are easier to clean with a simple wipe-down. Stained cabinets, on the other hand, require periodic re-staining or resealing to maintain their appearance and protect the wood.

Can I change the finish of my kitchen cabinets from painted to stained or vice versa?

Changing the finish of your kitchen cabinets from painted to stained or vice versa can be a complex and costly process. It usually involves stripping the existing finish, sanding the wood, and applying the desired finish. It’s essential to consult with a professional cabinet refinisher or contractor to assess the feasibility and cost of such a transformation before proceeding.

What factors should I consider in terms of kitchen cabinet maintenance when making my decision?

When deciding between painted and stained kitchen cabinets, consider your willingness and ability to perform maintenance tasks. Painted cabinets may require less maintenance in terms of cleaning and touch-ups. Stained cabinets, however, will need periodic re-staining or sealing to protect the wood and maintain their appearance. Your lifestyle and preferences should guide your choice.

Useful Video: Let’s Talk! Stained cabinets vs. Painted cabinets

Final words

Everyone wants their kitchen to look its best. Because of this, choosing between painted and stained kitchen cabinets can be a tough decision. But it’s really not as hard as it may seem.

Painted cabinets offer a clean, fresh look that can be easily customized to match any decor while stained cabinets have a classic look that many homeowners prefer.

In the end, the choice between painted and stained kitchen cabinets is up to you. Consider your personal preference of finish , appearance, budget, and the maintenance required for each option before making a decision. Whichever option you choose, be sure to enjoy your new kitchen! This concludes our discussion on painted vs stained kitchen cabinets. We hope you found this information helpful in deciding which option is best for you. Thank you for reading! As always, if you have any questions feel free to leave us a comment below. Have a great day!


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