Cabinet Painting v. Cabinet Staining: Perks & Drawbacks

The appearance of kitchen cabinets can make or break the look of the entire space. If, however, new cabinets aren’t in your budget, you don’t want to take on a huge renovation, or you like the overall style of the ones you already have, painting or staining your existing cabinets may be a great option for you. How, though, do you decide between these two options?

As with anything, there are perks and drawbacks to both cabinet painting and cabinet staining. In this guide, you’ll discover the basics of both kitchen remodeling techniques. By the time you’re done reading, you should have a better idea of whether painting or staining is the best choice for your kitchen renovation. 


Generally, cabinets that are painted with cabinet enamel can be expected to last for about 10 years. Depending on how hard your family is on cabinets, they may need to be touched-up in the interim. In contrast, stained wood cabinets generally last for 20-30 years prior to needing to be redone. 


Painted cabinets have a smoother, sleeker finish that tends to be better for contemporary Carolina residences. If, however, the style in your home is more traditional, stained wood cabinets are likely to be the best choice for you. 

There are instances in which paint can work in traditional Carolina houses, particularly if the enamel color is chosen from a paint line that takes its inspiration from hues famously found in historic homes. 

Difficulty level

If you’re an experienced do-it-yourselfer, you should have no trouble painting your cabinets. If, however, you have limited (or no) experience tackling projects around the house, staining might be a better choice for you. Cabinet enamel can be a fickle medium, while stain is significantly more forgiving. 


In most cases, painting kitchen cabinets is a more costly endeavor than staining them. This is partial because painting requires more supplies than staining. Furthermore, a small can of wood stain tends to go much further than even a gallon of paint. This reduces the overall cost of staining kitchen cabinetry.


All-in-all, cabinets that have a stain finish are the most durable. Over time, cabinet enamel can crack, particularly if it is subjected to water damage of any kind. Stain, however, tends to stay in pristine condition longer. If longevity and durability are your main priorities, wood stain is likely the best choice for your remodeling project. 

It is important to note that both staining cabinets and painting cabinets requires some prep work. If, for instance, your existing cabinetry has a finish, such as a polyurethane veneer, you will need to sand it off prior to starting your project in order for the new paint or stain to adhere. 

Furthermore, you will need to prep your workspace in both cases. Tarps will need to be laid to protect your flooring and countertops, brushes and other tools will need to be gathered, and you will have to purchase any necessary supplies. 

Refinishing your kitchen cabinets is a great way to drastically improve the appearance of your home without spending a fortune. Best of luck as you get started!

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