Kitchen Cabinet Finishes: Paint or Stain? Kitchen Cabinet Finishes: Paint or Stain?

Both paint and stain are great finishes for kitchen cabinets, but certain circumstances can make one or the other more appealing. 

Color

Stain provides a form of transparent coloration allowing the wood grain to show through.  Transparency means stain has a limited number of colors and is usually not as vibrant as paint.  Paint is an opaque layer which stands out regardless of the wood's color.  If you have a beautiful piece of Oak or love the honey tones in a nice Pine, using a stain might be the best option.  On the other hand, woods like Poplar have a greenish tint and are best painted to keep the colors vibrantly true.

Cleaning and Protection

Paint coats the wood providing a barrier which stands up to harsher chemicals than stain.  For an area which is going to be receiving heavy use or will be needing heavy cleaning, paint has a durability to hold up to significant abuse.  However, once paint cracks, moisture and other organisms can get trapped, harming the interior wood.  Stain saturates the wood hindering the ability of other substances to permeate.  In this way, stain not only resists discoloration but also provides some protection from moisture and UV light. 

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