Wood vs painted kitchen cabinets [2023]

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Are you constructing your dream kitchen but confused about the cabinet texture and look? Painting or staining your kitchen cabinets can be a hard decision to make as both of the options have their benefits.

wood vs painted kitchen cabinets

From the traditional and sultry stained looks to the new and modern painted ones, your kitchen cabinets will showcase your personal style. Therefore, it’s imperative to make the right decision when choosing one.

Here are the key points to help you decide which finish is best for your lifestyle and kitchen.

  1. Difference between wood and painted cabinets: painted cabinets are smooth and uniform, while wood cabinets have a textured and grainy appearance.
  2. Cost comparison: painted cabinets are 15% more expensive than stained ones on average, but the cost of touch-ups and repairs can add up over time.
  3. Stained cabinets: stained cabinets are popular for their contemporary look and the way they allow the wood grain to show through. However, they only work with natural wood.
  4. Painted cabinets: painted cabinets are popular because they provide customization options and a uniform look. White, beige, and gray are in style right now.
  5. Trend in kitchen cabinetry: both painted and stained cabinets are popular and trending, but the choice ultimately depends on your personal style, budget, and aesthetic.
  6. Best for your lifestyle: the interior design of your home and your lifestyle should be considered when choosing between painted or stained cabinets. If you lead a fast-paced lifestyle, painted cabinets might be more practical as they don’t show chips and marks as easily.

We’ll help you make a decision you won’t regret. So, put on your reading glasses and get ready to choose the best style for your cabinets.

What’s the Difference Between Wood and Painted Kitchen Cabinets?

The main difference between wood and painted cabinets is the furniture’s texture, look, and overall feel. A painted finish is smooth and more uniform, while wood looks textured and grainy.

wood vs painted kitchen cabinets feel

If you’re a fan of the flawless finish, then painting your cabinets will serve this purpose. On the other hand, though wood cabinets don’t have a uniform finish, they’re an excellent look for traditional and intimate homes.

Painted vs. Wood Cabinet Costs

When it comes to costs, on average you’ll have to pay around $2,000 to $5,000 to get your average-sized kitchen cabinets painted. While stain application may require $1,500 to $4,000. This is because painting is a labor-intensive job and staining requires les work.

Stained Cabinets

A stain will be an exciting option if you are more into a contemporary look for your kitchen cabinets. It is thinner than regular paint and allows the color to be absorbed by the wood. As a result, there’s a definite visible wood grain.

wood vs painted kitchen cabinets contemporary

The wood grain and other unique features make your cabinets look more natural, and the actual color and texture peek through. So, most stained cabinetry will require solid wood grain. Then, depending on your style, you can choose the color stain for your cabinet doors.

Remember, a dark color will create a more intimate look than lighter cabinets that look airy and fresh.

Are Stained Kitchen Cabinets a Popular Finish?

Stained cabinets are a popular option in regard to kitchen aesthetics and appearance. It allows the wood grain pattern to show through, thus creating a natural look. In addition, a stain is much thinner than paint and requires minimal touchups and repairs.

The cabinets look similar even if you’re unable to find a stain in an exact match. As a result, the color blends in with the wood flawlessly. But remember that you can only stain natural wood cabinets.

Why Would I Choose Painted Cabinets?

Painted cabinets have been around for years and are popular among homeowners. One of the biggest reasons is that they provide various customization options and a uniform and smooth look to the whole cabinets.

wood vs painted kitchen cabinets customization

Lighter-painted cabinets provide a modern feel, while dark ones look expensive and aesthetic. One can easily paint all kinds of woods without looking unnatural and fake. If you’re up for painted cabinets, white, beige, and grays are really in these days.

What’s the Trend in Kitchen Cabinetry: Painted vs. Stained Cabinets

If you’re looking forward to a kitchen remodel but confused about what’s trending, here’s your answer. Painted and stained cabinets are both trending and loved by homeowners.

But your perfect fit depends on your choices, budget, and aesthetic views. For example, stained cabinets look amazing but require natural wood to work. On the other hand, painted cabinets look modern and expensive, but the touch-ups and repainting can get costly.

In short, both stained and painted cabinets look fantastic and are popular among homeowners.

What is More Expensive: Painted or Stained Kitchen Cabinets?

Painted cabinets are, on average, 15% more expensive than stained ones. But if you’ve spent a lot of money on mahogany cabinets staining will be a better option as the paint will hide the expensive wood altogether.

Another reason painted cabinets are expensive is that paint chips need to be redone after some time. On the other hand, the stain is not only affordable but doesn’t require as many repairs, as the texture prevents marks and chips from coming to the forefront.

What’s Your Style?

Are you into contemporary style, or are you a fan of traditional looks? Depending on your preference, you can choose between painted or stained cabinets. Paint looks contemporary, especially if you add pastels and neutral tones to the cabinets.

Stain looks more traditional and intimate with the grain patterns showing. It will look best with dark and woody colors to enhance your kitchen cabinets.

Stained vs. Painted Cabinets: The Cost

Staining is the perfect option to cut costs while coloring your kitchen cabinets. You can buy it cheaper than paint, requiring just one or two coats. Additionally, you won’t have to polish or prime the surface before applying stain.

Paint, on the other hand, is expensive to purchase. There are various steps involved in painting cabinets. First, you’ll have to do two coats of primer followed by two coats of paint. Lastly, a topcoat is required to seal the paint color.

Cabinet costs can go up as the paint chips and flakes. It is why cabinet companies keep spraying machines in their warehouses and invest in this equipment.

Which Cabinet Finish Will be Best for My Lifestyle?

The interior design of your home should be in sync with your lifestyle to ease the upkeep. For example, if you lead a fast-paced lifestyle where you don’t have time to keep up and care for your furniture, stained cabinets will be the best, as they require minimal care.

But, if you’re into modern homes and have plenty of time to care for and repair your furniture, painted cabinets will be your best bet. Unfortunately, painting cabinets requires strenuous labor. Therefore, the costs are higher and more care is needed.

Type and Style of Painted and Stained Cabinets

If you have natural wood cabinets, you can get them stained. Oak and walnut cabinets show a lot of grain, so they are a good option if you like stained cabinets. The stain will absorb the wood and allow the wood species to show.

wood vs painted kitchen cabinets walnut

On the other hand, paint works well on medium-density fiberboard (MDF). That is because it will stay on top of the wood, creating a layer of paint. The style of cabinets depends purely on the owner’s choice and the kitchen interior.

Caring for Cabinets Through Wear and Tear

Once you set up cabinets in your kitchen, caring for them is imperative. Through proper care and safe keep, your cabinets can last a lifetime. Here are some essential tips for managing your cabinets:

  1. Keep them clean and dust them often to remove buildup.
  2. Try to keep the paint/ stain scratch free and fill in any chips.
  3. Keep any heating equipment away from the cabinets.
  4. Reseal the surfaces often.
  5. Wipe the moisture immediately from surfaces.

Material and Installation Cost

It takes around $30 to $60 dollars per square foot to paint cabinets. It includes materials, supplies, and labor. Regarding the furniture, you can expect anywhere between $100 for each drawer and $175 for each cabinet door.


On the other hand, staining and refinishing cabinets can cost around $4 to $10 dollars per square foot. This includes labor and material also.

Regarding cabinet installation, you can expect to pay $130 to $200 per cabinet or $50 to $450 per square foot, depending on the size and weight.

Paint vs. Stain: Which Is Best for Your Wood Type?

Certain types of wood don’t go well with stain, and others don’t compliment paint. However, if your cabinets are made of natural blocks of wood, then a stained finish will look good.

On the other hand, a painted finish will complement the look if you’ve used MDF or non-textured wood. Also, paint is considered more durable and long-lasting as stains can get damaged from the kitchen’s heat.

Which Is Best for Hardwood Cabinets?

Staining can be a good option to show wooden texture and style. But it can get challenging to stain hardwood as the liquid will not get absorbed fully. In that case, painting the cabinets can be a good option. It will stay uniform and flawless on a hard surface.

Are White Cabinets More Expensive?

White cabinets can get expensive depending on your material and the type of paint you buy. If the wood is dark in color, it will require more coats to even it out. Therefore, painting a cabinet white can get expensive.

Can I Paint Over a Stained Cabinet?

Stained cabinets have a protective film on top that prevents the paint from forming a uniform layer. So, you’ll have to remove the top finish to paint over the cabinet door.

The Final Choice: Selecting Your Ideal Color and Texture

By now you have most likely finalized the type of color and texture you want to go for. Indeed it’s hard to choose one option when both offer unique perks and benefits. So, eventually, it all comes down to personal preference and style.

Ariel Path

With over three decades of experience in food manufacturing and kitchen design, I bring a wealth of knowledge to the table. My expertise spans across various aspects of the culinary world, from kitchen appliances to cooking techniques, food selection, and promoting a healthy lifestyle. My ultimate goal is to educate and inspire you in creating your dream kitchen, where functionality meets aesthetics. As a trusted source, I strive to provide valuable insights and guidance to make your kitchen remodel an enjoyable and successful experience. Together, let's transform your space into a culinary haven that reflects your unique style and meets your specific needs. See more details here.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Avatar photo
    Sarah Gonzalez

    I really appreciate the comprehensive comparison between painted and stained cabinets you’ve provided. One thing that stood out to me was the difference in the amount of maintenance required for each finish. As a busy person, the idea of minimal upkeep with stained cabinets is quite appealing.

    1. cropped ariel path
      Ariel Path

      Thank you for your comment! I’m glad you found the comparison helpful. It’s true that the maintenance requirements can be a significant factor in choosing between painted and stained cabinets. Since you have a busy lifestyle, stained cabinets would likely be a better fit for you. Another advantage of stained cabinets is that they can add a sense of warmth and depth to your kitchen due to the wood grain showing through. I hope this helps you make a confident decision for your dream kitchen!

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