Painted or stained cabinets

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Kitchen cabinets are largely about the finish and that stain and paint are two totally different finishes. Not sure which one you prefer?

Paint offers a clean aesthetic
The classic all-white kitchen, for example, wouldn’t be what it is without gleaming white cabinets. However, all paint colours – whites and creams to greys and blues – bring a sleek, clean finish to the table. Paint is perfect for homeowners who aren’t a fan of the character marks common to stained wood cabinets and instead prefer a smooth, flawless finish.

Paint allows you to get more colourful
If you’re thinking of tranquil teal, submarine yellow or lipstick red as cabinet colours, paint is your best bet. Paint sticks to the surface of wood, so it doesn’t get lost in the mix of grains and knots the way a stain does. As a result, paint showcases whichever hue you select and gives you more opportunity to customise the look of your kitchen.

Paint applies better to MDF
Choosing medium-density fibreboard (think particle or furniture board) is an effective way to cut cabinet costs. The material also takes paint well.

Paint hides character features
Paint is thicker than stain, so it doesn’t get absorbed by wood the way stain does. If you want to see grains and knots in plain sight, you probably shouldn’t go with painted cabinets. Though you’ll still see the grain imprints in woods like oak and hickory, they’ll mostly be hidden behind whichever coat of paint you choose.

Paint tends to cost more
Painted cabinets aren’t exactly budget-friendly. They can be, but if you’re comparing them with stained cabinets, you’ll find that they often carry a steeper price tag. How much higher? The answer ultimately depends on who’s making the cabinets and where you’re buying them from, but typically they cost about 10 to 15 per cent more.

Paint is harder to touch up
Paint touch-ups can be tricky. For one thing, you may not always know the exact colour of your cabinet. If you’re buying semi-custom or prefabricated cabinets, paint companies like Taubmans and Dulux may not have an exact match. Cabinetmakers and manufacturers may also apply paints by spraying, a method that looks smoother but is hard to replicate with a touch-up kit. Brushed finishes are better for hiding touch-ups.

Stain showcases more wood features
Stain strikes a good balance between colour and texture. Since it’s thinner than paint, it seeps into the surface, which can enhance the natural beauty of your wood. You’ll definitely be able to admire the wood’s distinctive features.

Stain is easier to touch up
Touch-up markers for stains are easier to find, and even if there isn’t an exact match, there’s likely a colour out there that closely resembles your stain. Touch-ups also tend to blend better on stained cabinets, especially ones with a lot of grain.

Stain usually costs less
Cost ultimately hinges on several factors, such as kitchen size, cabinet construction, manufacturer and so forth. But stain tends to keep costs on the lower side, a huge benefit if you’re flipping a house, renovating a rental unit or simply don’t want to spend a fortune on kitchen cabinets.

Stain doesn’t look as good on MDF
Medium-density fibreboard can offer huge savings on cabinets, but it simply doesn’t take stain as well as it takes paint. Whereas paint rarely looks different on MDF exteriors, stains do. It isn’t as authentic of a look as, say, oak cabinetry. You’ll have to seek other ways to lower your cabinet cost if you’re set on stained cabinetry.

Stain shows nearly all of wood’s blemishes
Some say blemishes; others say character. Again, some homeowners see this as nothing but a good thing. On the flip side, many don’t want to see wood’s imperfections, such as uneven grain distributions and colour inconsistencies.

Dark stains and paints don’t hide dust well
This is a negative for both dark stains and dark paints. While lighter cabinets can chip and stain more easily, they do a good job at hiding dust. Darker stains and paints, not so much. Dust particles stand out more on dark cabinet surfaces, which can require more upkeep.