Should you Paint or Stain your Wooden Kitchen Cabinetry?

The decision to use paint or wood stain on kitchen cabinets is one that causes some distress to many NoMa, Washington homeowners. On one hand, staining brings out the natural beauty and grain of the wood, while painting allows for a freedom of color and finish that staining simply does not. The good news is that neither decision is permanent and you can always change to the other later on if you have second thoughts. In this article, we’ll investigate both options, look into the pros and cons of each and provide some insight to make your decision a little easier.


Staining is the perfect way to enhance the natural color and texture of wood while protecting it from environmental damage. This makes staining ideal for high quality woods that deserve to be showcased. Many people would consider it sacrilegious to treat a high-quality wood such as cherry with anything other than a good wood stain.


Wood stain comes in a range of red, reddish brown, light and dark brown coloring and can give a kitchen the warm, cosy feel of authentic wood, or contribute to the character of a modern kitchen. Staining does require the cabinets to be sanded down before application so that a smooth, bare surface is presented. If the wood is deeply marked or flawed, this may still show through after treatment. Another downside to staining is that older cabinets with dents, chips or gouges will require filling. These patches where the wood has been repaired will also remain slightly visible once stained.



Painting your kitchen cabinets is a great option for homeowners looking to try on a bold new color scheme, or go with a clean, uniform look. The range of possible colors is endless and different paint finishes can be used to give your kitchen a unique look. An eggshell or satin finish can be used to give the surface of your cabinets an elegant look, or a high gloss to ensure easy to clean cabinet doors. Painting is ideal for bringing a fresh new look to older cabinets that are perhaps looking a little tired. Patching and filling can be done without it showing up once painted.

On the other hand, a coat of paint will not highlight the character of the wood beneath it, which is often seen as a drawback. Another drawback to painting is that while stained wood goes with practically any kitchen decor, the color paint that you select can substantially narrow down your decorating options. Although dependent on color and type of paint, painting can require more maintenance than stained wood, specifically light colors where stains show up easily.

Which one is right for your kitchen?

It’s definitely worth staining if you’re going for a textured look with the character of wood. Staining is also a great option if you’re looking for ways to add or keep visual warmth in your kitchen. If you’ve invested in expensive wooden cabinets, why not show these off with a complementary stain, rather than hide them beneath a coat of paint?

If freedom of color range is your thing, or if you want to create uniformity in your kitchen, paint is the way to go. You’ll also be better off painting to restore older cabinets, or wood that is marked, damaged, or not necessarily show-off-worthy.