Paint or Stain Kitchen Cabinets... with Pics

DG_TXDecember 9, 2012

I want to change the color of my kitchen cabinets. However, I'm unsure of whether or not I'd like to paint or stain them. I would prefer a darker color.
From what reading I've done on the subject, it seems that if the wood is of good quality, staining seems to be preferred. I'm not sure what type of wood the cabinets are made of. Can anyone enlighten me as to whether or not the wood in my kitchen is worth staining or would it be better to paint?


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While I can't tell you about your wood, I can tell you that chose staining because I liked seeing the grain of the wood. I preferred having some depth to the cabinets as opposed to a flat paint.

Of course, there's another option. Talk to some cabinet makers and have them come over and take measurements to give you some new wood. It would be a lot easier to stain, too, since you wouldn't have to do any stripping.

As I mentioned, I stained my cabinets using Old Masters Gel Stain. I'll never use anything else now. NO drips. My big regret was that I wanted to do a gray stain and I got sidetracked and forgot that when I went to the paint store. Of course, they didn't have any gray stain... and definitely not any gray Gel Stain. So, I picked the only color they had many containers of... walnut. Totally different direction now. But, not bad. Just had to take a breath and l like it now.

If you change out the cabinet doors then you get an option of changing the design of the cabinet fronts. So, keep that in mind, too.

Good luck. This is one of the hardest things I've ever done... having to make so many selections + doing the staining myself and then topped it with polyurethane. I guess it depends upon whether you have more time than money.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 1:58PM
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I'm willing to bet those doors are a veneer, but I could very easily be wrong.

I like the grain. I'd stain first, because although it's more work later, you can always paint.

You have the option to kind of play around a bit . Are the boxes in good condition? Only then would I consider down the line replacing the doors -- maybe. You might enjoy them so much stained or painted you won't want to!

I am making an assumption here, and that is that you'd like to update your kitchen's look a bit? If that is the case, I would suggest addressing your countertops and lighting before you dive into the cabinets. The cabinets are the most immediate impact, but if you go on later to change out the other two items, you might end up doing your cabs all over again.

Nice, though. Pretty grain.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 2:42PM
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Did you see the photo that I thought I had attached? I wasn't sure if it went through. Sorry I wasn't clear. My cabinets are new and good wood. So, staining was the best way to go. The cabinet builders thought I had intended to go with a grain stain than walnut. Wish I had now, but sometimes those decisions are made on the fly.

Yes, about the countertops and overhead lighting. They are on the list to be done and coming up next.

My guess is that your doors are a veneer, too.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 4:40PM
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It looks like you have a plywood door that could potentially be birch. To see if it is plywood check the edges and see if you see what looks like stripes.

Staining can be a lot of work, but so can paint and keeping it up too. Celticmoon has some good instructions for gel staining. For good paint advice in painting cabinets you could check the young house love blog. It can be hard to paint with a no brush stroke fininsh so if you go that route I'd practice first on the back of a door. Spraying can give nice results, but also takes practice.

One other thing to consider no matter what is if a build up of a finish will cause your doors to not close properly. Ie do you have a lip on the inside of the doors that make them fit in the opening with some overlay. Sometimes adding to the thickness of the current finish can cause this to not lay as flat as before.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 8:59PM
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I think gel staining is a lot more forgiving than painting. Do you have a door that you could test on? I used General Finishes gel stain in Java, and it worked great.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 10:34PM
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I agree with nosoccermom, gel staining is much easier than painting, and I think your cabinets would look great in java with chrome hardware.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 11:41PM
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