Cabinet Finishes: Stained vs Painted

When you work with an experienced kitchen remodeling company, there’s almost no end to the number of unique cabinet styles you can create for your WV home. Solid wood cabinets are extremely popular because of their natural beauty and enduring quality. Wood cabinets are a wise choice for your kitchen cabinets because they add long-term value.

If you choose wood cabinets, you’ll quickly be faced with another major decision: stain vs paint for your new kitchen cabinets. Whichever you chose, staining or painting, your quality wood cabinetry can be sanded, treated, varnished, and/or painted again, should future generations want to change the look. Here we’ll discuss the results you can expect if you select stained cabinets or painted cabinets for your WV kitchen.

Choosing Wood for Kitchen Cabinets: Properties of Wood 

At Miller’s Residential Creations, we offer many options for wood cabinetry, and we can advise you as to which type fits your goals for performance, appearance and budget. Here are some of the many variables involved in selecting wood for your kitchen cabinets. Starting with the most obvious property of wood–its color and appearance, there is a huge range of natural wood colors to choose from. Some species of wood have a darker, richer brown shade, others a lighter, brighter tone, and still others contain a reddish cast. The richness of wood’s appearance is emphasized by its grain, which can be fine, tight or pronounced, and may also include complex natural features like swirled areas, knots, burls and more.

Beyond wood’s appearance, different varieties of hardwood can also be categorized according to texture, luster, shine, shrinkage, density, micro and macrostructure, and even thermal conductivity. Other characteristics of each wood species include: stiffness, hardness, strength, weight and more. These details affect the look, and especially the performance, of your wood cabinets. Taken together, all these wood properties add up to make certain types of wood a great cabinet material, and others less than ideal–depending upon your goals. Once we’ve learned your wishes for your kitchen and new cabinets, we can recommend the best wood options.

Staining Kitchen Cabinets

Staining your kitchen cabinets allows some of the characteristic wood details to shine through, yet still shields the wood from moist kitchen air and other environmental challenges. With stain, you can enhance the look of your natural wood with a semi-transparent color cast (perhaps green, gray, blue or even dark red stain). You can use stain to slightly darken wood (to give light birch wood a darker, golden maple cast, for example). You can also opt to leave the wood’s natural color and pattern in its original state, protected with a transparent stain, in glossy or satin/matte finish. Stained cabinetry lends a subtler appearance than creamier, solid paint colors, which completely cover the character of the wood.

Ash, oak and pine absorb stain quite evenly. Birch and maple require proper preparation before staining to avoid blotchiness. Cherry is known for its warm, rich, reddish-brown color, and is often stained with a transparent product. (Unprotected cherry can darken with age.) Stain is often thought of as a casual kitchen option or a warmer and more rustic look, but that is not always the case. Consider your backsplash, flooring and countertop textures and colors when you choose your cabinet color, and when you opt to stain vs. paint.

Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Painting kitchen cabinets typically covers the original wood’s appearance completely, and protects the wood from the elements in your kitchen environment, such as moisture, oils, heat and more. Painted cabinets are typically easier to clean and keep clean, since they can generally by wiped with a soft cloth. (Wood can be strengthened and protected in other ways as well, including pressure treating.) Painting allows you to change the wood’s appearance completely to match your kitchen’s color scheme. Even when painted in the opaque color of your choice, the beauty and quality of wood cabinets endures and always shines through.

Tight-grained maple and poplar wood cabinets take paint well to create a smooth finish, however, most wooden cabinets can be painted beautifully with proper prep work. While stain may be classified as a more subtle look for cabinets, paint allows you to make a strong statement with a rich, complexly muted cabinet color (in a gray-blue, for example) or opt for a super bright modern kitchen, perhaps with yellow cabinets. Flat gray is becoming a classic option for painted cabinets, along with bright white, cream, navy or black.

There are lots more details involved with wooden cabinets, including type of hardware, inset vs. overlay, cabinet door design and edge profiles, and much more. Contact Miller’s Residential Creations and we can walk you through your options for wood cabinets with a painted or stained finish.

Brian Miller is the owner of Miller's Residential Creations, a custom home builder and remodeling company servicing Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan Counties of West Virginia since 2004.
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