Stain or Paint Cabinets? Choose the Right Finish

Selecting the appropriate cabinet stain or paint finish for your newly constructed custom cabinetry is essential to complete the design of the room. Before making the final decision, consider the advantages of both stained, painted and unfinished cabinets.

How to Choose Cabinet Stain

Staining your cabinets has many benefits. Custom-built cabinets made of oak, cherry, hickory, or birch have eye-catching wood grain that can add an authentic feel to your home. Typically, cabinets constructed out of stain-ready wood do not require hours of preparation work and multiple coats of primer. Sometimes, the stain can be applied directly to the completed cabinet. Stain will wear over time and require reapplication, but it will not chip and flake like paint.

When selecting a specific stain, pay attention to the type of finish. Most commonly, homeowners can choose between a glossy, semi-gloss or matte finish. A rich, absorbent matte stain is a better choice for homeowners with young children whose cabinets may experience more wear and tear. Glossy stains show dings and dents, but are desirable for consumers who want attention-grabbing cabinets.

How to Choose Cabinet Paint

Painting cabinets gives homeowners the freedom to have them match any color scheme. Normally, cabinets intended for painting are constructed from poplar, birch, pine, alder or hard maple. Before applying paint, the surface must be thoroughly sanded and coated with an oil-based primer. The type of paint chosen will impact the durability of the cabinet finish. When dry, oil-based paints are harder than latex-based paints, and therefore less susceptible to cracking and flaking. Latex-based paints carry less odor and are easier to apply and clean up afterward. Both paint types require at least two coats, possibly three. Latex-based paint has the best, longest-lasting shine when an additional coat of polyurethane is added.

In the case of painted cabinets, a glossier finish is more desirable. Glossy finishes make it easier to clean up grease and food stains. Application technique matters. Obtain a professional look by applying the paint through a spray-on system. The downside to this approach is future touch-ups — applying paint with a brush to a sprayed-on finish will only make the finish look patchy.

Benefits of Unfinished Wood

Who says homeowners must stain or paint their cabinets? Unfinished cabinets can help you save on your remodeling budget. This cost-effective choice gives homeowners more freedom to decorate without clashing with the cabinet stain or paint color. If tastes change over time, stain and paint can always be added later. And instead of depending on a supplier’s product line, homeowners can mix and match their own combination of stain or paint to achieve the one-of-a-kind shade they desire. Unfinished wood cabinets are smoothly sanded and fit any remodel or design, though natural color considerations of the selected wood choice should still be taken into account to avoid clashing with wood floors and countertop color. Homeowners can also customize the hardware choices with attractive steel or metal cabinet handles or knobs for a unique touch.

Research the cabinet stain, paint and unfinished options available through a custom cabinet maker in your area when planning your new build or home remodeling project to decide which direction your design should take.