Painted versus Stained Cabinets

One of the biggest decisions you will make when refinishing your cabinets is whether the cabinets should be painted or stained. Here are some guidelines for each.

There are two simple rules to follow when deciding on either to paint or stain. These include:

Rule #1: Once painted, Always painted.

Chocolate with Mushroom Center Island with Chocolate Glaze Cabinets - CopyClients often ask if they can take their painted cabinets back to a stain. We tell them that it’s very difficult to get all of the paint out from the wood grain once it’s painted. Sure the cabinet can be sanded down to bare wood however paint seeps deep into the wood grain. You may think it’s all out until you apply the stain and tiny white specs appear in your cabinet. This also includes cabinets that have been “White Washed”. This technique is taking diluted white paint and wiping it onto the cabinet. Again the paint penetrates deep into the wood grain making it extremely difficult to stain.

The good news is that painted cabinets continue to grow in popularity. The primary reason is that the vast number of colors in paints versus stains. Although white cabinets are the dominate color choice there are hundreds of different white colors.

Paint manufacturers are also making paints specially formulated for cabinets that are extremely durable with alkyd resins to help with curing and solid-body conversion varnishes to provide longevity. Chattanooga Cabinets continues to look for paints and finishes that improve quality and durability.

This classic kitchen below shows how painting the main cabinets a Canvas White with an all-over mocha glazing brings out the details in the cabinets. The Chocolate Center Island that is slightly distressed provides a focal point within the kitchen and coordinates with the entire kitchen décor.

Rule #2: You can only restain darker not lighter.

English Chestnut Stain with Onyx Glaze kitchen Black China CabinetMany times when we look at stained cabinets to refinish there always seems to be some issues with water damage and just wear. In order to repair the damage often times we need to sand down past the stain to the bare wood. Once the repairs are completed we then must get the stain color back close to the original in order to avoid color differences. Unless you have the stain used originally, getting an exact match is very time consuming and very costly. To avoid any mismatching of stain color, we let the client know that in order to provide consistency throughout we will need to stain the cabinets one or two shades darker. The final results are amazing and a like new condition. The new finish will also provide years of protection.

As with paint, the manufactures of stains are continuing to develop new products. We at Chattanooga Cabinets are also diligent in looking for new product and better products on the stain and finish side to provide our clients with the very best in refinishing.

The kitchen below was originally stained natural similar to the floor color. We advised the client to provide some contrast to the floor versus a monochromatic look throughout. We stained the cabinets an English Chestnut with Onyx glazing which gave the cabinet’s depth and distinction. The focal points in the room were the Center Island and China Cabinet which were painted Onyx and slightly distressed. Chattanooga Cabinets also built-out the breakfast bar with fluted post, new corbels and baseboard. The new look significantly increased the value of the home and provided a truly updated look and feel to the kitchen.


Selling a house is a major undertaking with a lot of moving parts. Here are two MUST DO items when putting your house on the market to sell.

First, establish a big-picture view of how to get your home in shape to sell quickly and at the best possible price. Sure de-cluttering is a must and the least costly. But those needed repairs and updating will bring the biggest bang and a quick sale.

Second, hire the pros. The pros you’ll hire to help prep your home for sale will depend on how much work your home needs and on how much work you plan to do yourself.

The real estate agent is the first pro you want to hire. The realtor should be able to give you an honest assessment of what your house needs to position it well on the market.