Cabinet Paint Vs. Stain: What’s The Better Choice?

a brown kitchen cabinet is painted with white chalk paint

Cabinet paints are a better alternative as compared to cabinet stains. Painted cabinets appear smooth. Thus hiding the wood’s grain.

People often get confused between the two options as both have a set of predetermined qualities which set each other apart. The differences between the two will be elaborated below on the basis of cost, durability, appearance, and maintenance.

This article will provide a holistic view of all the factors that must be considered when deciding to paint or stain cabinets. We will also highlight the better choice between cabinet paints and cabinet stains.

The Differences Between Staining And Painting Cabinets

Listed down below are all the differentiating factors between staining and painting cabinets.


The best choice is cabinet paints if you prefer to cover the wooden grains.

However, you can opt for cabinet stains if you want to provide an aesthetic yet vintage look to your cabinet. This is because even though the stains add color to the wood, they do not cover the grains.

An edge that cabinet paints have over cabinet stains is that it provides users with a diverse range of color options. In the case of cabinet stains, the color palette is quite limited.


When choosing between two options, price plays a vital role in influencing decisions. This is a long-term investment because people rarely alter the color palettes of their cabinets.

Painting can require extensive labor, so the overall cost of cabinet painting is higher than staining them.

The price would vary depending on several factors. The kind of wood used to make the cabinets would play a role in determining the number of coats required to paint the cabinet.

Moreover, you may want to get the paint or stain customized depending on the color palette of the rest of the furniture. This would significantly increase or decrease the cost.

However, it would be fair to conclude that cabinet stains are cheaper than cabinet paints.


Durability is another crucial factor. This is because you want the paint or stain to be reliable and not wear off with time.

Even though the price point of cabinet paints is higher than that of cabinet stains, these tend to be more reliable and durable.

Paints are resistant to damage as they tend to form a protective layer on wooden cabinets. Any rust, dirt, or debris cannot make its way through that layer.

On the other hand, staining is less durable and reliable because the chances of wearing off with time are high. Cabinet stains tend to wear off a lot sooner than cabinet paints.

Cabinet stains are not resistant to damage either. This is one of the reasons why cabinet staining is less costly than painting.


Cabinet stains tend to take the lead in terms of maintenance. This is because cabinet paints require a lot of maintenance. Hence, people are pretty protective of them because of their high cost.

Suppose you have a pet or children at your home. In that case, cabinet stains are a better alternative, as scratches tend to show more easily on smooth surfaces.

Cabinet stains do not cover the wooden grains, due to which scratches and chips do not become that prominent.

As professional painters, we suggest maintaining the color but not covering the scratches. Maintenance of the color in the case of cabinet paints only happens sometimes.

Factors To Consider When Deciding Between Paint And Stain

Here are some factors that you need to consider when deciding between paint or stain:

Personal Taste and Style Preferences

Every user has a different personality and style. It’s always best to replicate your homes in a way that best depicts or aligns with your personality.

If you prefer the appearance of natural wood, then the stain is your pick. The grainy texture would reside and add to the overall beauty of the kitchen.

However, suppose you prefer everything to be tailored to your liking. Then, the color of the paint, smoothness, shine, etc., all of these things are important. You can get all this with cabinet paints because cabinet stains fail to deliver these features.

Cabinet paints look groovier and more modern compared to cabinet stains.


In today’s world, every individual is running on a budget. Especially in the case of interior designing, users most definitely tend to plan their cash outflows.

But you have to consider the amount of labor necessary in both cases. Cabinet paints require more labor than cabinet stains. The cost of materials is also higher in cabinet painting. So you need a higher budget if you want cabinet paints.

It also depends on the way you think. If you have a long-term approach for everything, then cabinet paints are a better alternative as they will save money. Refinishing would hardly be required.

However, if you have a short-term approach and tend to get bored with the color palettes, then cabinet stains are a better choice.

Lifestyle and Usage of the Kitchen

Some kitchens are used more often than others. Kitchens in most households are the busiest stations around the house.

Cabinet paints are more reliable and durable as they wear off at a slower rate as compared to cabinet stains. The protective layer it provides makes it a better choice for users, considering the high traffic and spillage.

Desired Level of Maintenance

This entirely depends on your routine. If you do not spend most of your time at home, then you don’t have to worry about cleaning and maintenance.

However, if you spend most of your time at home and utilize your cabinet shelves often, there will be wear and tear. And then you will need high levels of maintenance.

As professional painters, we want to inform you that painted cabinets need more touch-ups than stained ones. But on the other hand, staining would require refinishing more often than painting.

Tips For Choosing The Right Finish

Below are some tips to help you decide on the correct type of finishing.

Consider the Overall Design and Color Palette of the Kitchen

Analyze the overall interior of your house and kitchen. Opt for cabinet stains if you have a wooden touch in your furniture.

However, if the rest of the furniture does not have a natural look of wood, then cabinet paints would be a better alternative. The paints or stains must complement the overall interior of the house.

Consider the Type and Quality of the Cabinetry Material

In most cases, the type and quality of wood used to make the cabinets play a huge role in determining which option to choose.

The style and quality of wood need to be compatible with the paint or stain being used. Since cabinet paints are more reliable, these would align well with high-quality and expensive wood.

Consider the Desired Level of Customization

The level of customization provided by cabinet stains is inferior to that provided by cabinet paints.

Painting offers a wide variety in terms of color options. However, if you want to add to the overall beauty of natural wood, then cabinet stains should be your go-to option.

Consult with a Kitchen Designer or Professional Painter/Stainer

Making a sound and informed decision when choosing between the two alternatives is essential.

An expert kitchen designer would add to your knowledge and find the best fit for your kitchen cabinets. This would guarantee high-quality results.

Conclusion: Cabinet Paint Vs. Stain

You cannot make the decision between the two alternatives in isolation. You must consider all the factors, such as appearance, user’s personality, overall budget, and the extent of customization.

In some factors, one option would be superior to the other one. If cost is not a problem and a high level of customization, durability, and quality is desired, then cabinet paints are a better option.