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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

Kitchen Cabinets: To Paint or Stain?

One of the best ways to change the aesthetic in your kitchen is to refresh your cabinets. When deciding between paint or stain, it's important to look at factors such as appearance, durability, budget, and return on investment.

The first thing to consider is what you want your cabinets to look like. Do you want a smooth finish and a variety of color options, or do you prefer the natural look of wood grain? Paint will mask any imperfections, creating a sleek, modern appearance. Stain highlights texture, which can enhance wood's natural beauty but will also reveal any inconsistencies in the grain.

Next, consider how much water your cabinets will encounter, including splashes from the sink and moisture in the air. Paint is more resistant to water than stain; however, it's also more prone to chipping and peeling. Professionals often apply paint with a sprayer, which makes it hard to fix with a paintbrush. Touch-ups blend in better on stained cabinets and are easier to do yourself.

Your budget will always be a factor in making your final decision. Paint typically costs 10-15% more up front, according to It's also less forgiving than stain, which may result in higher labor costs or more of your time if extra coats are required. If you're installing new cabinets, however, you could drastically cut your expenses by using medium-density fiberboard (MDF) instead of real wood. It's hard to tell the difference between MDF and wood once cabinets are painted. Stain, on the other hand, does not take well to this lower-cost option.

When it comes time to sell your home, neutral paint colors are usually attractive to home buyers, whereas bold colors may be a turn-off. Stain's classic, natural appearance can also offer a high return on investment – just keep in mind that stain colors can run the risk of looking dated.

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