Cabinets are a significant part of a room and you’ll want to make sure the finishing you select for your door styles and wood species match your design and style. Not sure which finishes you like? Below is a quick overview of the different finish options available and why manufactured cabinet finishes are better than job site finishes.
Stains are applied with the purpose of enhancing the natural wood, while adding color. Cabinet stains can range from super dark to really light.
Showcases wood features. Stain doesn’t steal the spotlight from your wood’s natural character. Since it’s thinner than paint, it seeps into the surface, which can enhance the natural tones of the wood.
Easy to touch up. Touch-up markets are easy to fine and finding the right color to match your stain is likely. Touch-ups can blend on stained cabinets, especially ones with a lot of grain.
Budget-Friendly. Cost hinges on several factors but stain tends to keep costs on the lower side. Keep in mind customized options will cost you more.
Does not apply well to MDF. Medium-density fiberboard or MDF can offer a huge savings on cabinets, however it doesn’t take stain well. Since the wood isn’t authentic the stain wont properly highlight the texture.
Nearly all blemishes are shown. Some homeowners see this as a good thing, while others don’t. Many homeowners don’t want to see wood’s imperfections, such as uneven grain distributions and color inconsistencies.
Dark stains show dust. While light cabinets can chip and stain more easily, they do a good job at hiding dust. Darker stains allow dust particles to stand out more, which can require more upkeep.
Painted cabinets are perfect for a home designer who has a color scheme or style picked out because you can match, accent and customize your cabinets in almost any way you desire.
You can get a clean aesthetic. Painted cabinets are perfect for the homeowners who aren’t a fan of the character marks common to stained or glazed cabinets. You can achieve a smooth, flawless finish when you paint.
More color options. Paint sticks to the surface of wood, so it doesn’t get lost in the mix of grains and knots the way a stain would. As a result, paint gives you more opportunities to customize the look of your kitchen.
Paint applies well to MDF. If you are trying to cut on costs choosing a medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is an option and when this material is painted it’s hard to tell the difference between real wood and MDF.
Paint hides character marks. Paint is much thicker than stain so it doesn’t get absorbed by the wood. When using a paint, you will not see the grains and knots in plain sight.
Painted cabinets aren’t budget-friendly. When compared to stained cabinets, you’ll find that painted cabinets often carry a steeper price tag. How much higher ultimately depends on the manufacturer of the cabinets, but typically they cost about 10-15% more.
Hard to touch up. If you have a brushed finish it is easier to touch-up with a kit but if your finish was applied with a spraying method, replicating that smooth look is hard with a touch-up kit. Paint touch-ups can also be tricky when it comes to matching the color exactly.
Once you have decided if you want to paint or stain your cabinets you can then decide if you would like to add a glaze or any unique finishing enhancements.
Glaze is a transparent or semi-transparent coating that can be applied to painted or stained cabinets. It highlights the different edges, moldings and accent pieces on cabinetry, giving you a different feel from ordinary painted or stained cabinets. Glazing your cabinets can give a darker, vintage look, which will nicely add accent to a room. We see glazing done mostly on country cabinets or cabinetry with white painted finishes.
Finishing enhancement techniques are a great way to give your cabinets a unique appearance. Techniques like sanding edges, distressing the finish, or adding dents and gouges to cabinets, can create a worn-in and aged look.
Manufactured Finish vs. Job Built Finish
When it comes to applying these different finishes on your cabinets we will always recommend you go with a cabinet that is Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) certified. Cabinets with this certification are put through rigorous tests simulating years of typical household use so you know they’re quality products. The finish on manufactured cabinets is applied in a controlled environment and the top coat is baked on. With job built cabinets the paint is normally applied in the same environment where they are sanded and prepped for painting. Because of this it’s nearly impossible to get a clean dry finish, outside particles can easily attach themselves and dry into the paint. Also, job sites are not able to bake on a protective top coat, most manufactured cabinets have an oven-cured top coat to their cabinets that helps keep them looking their best 5, 10, 15 years down the road. With job site cabinets after 5 years, you might notice the most used areas start to rub off and need retouching. The majority of the manufactured cabinets also have life time warranties where job built cabinets, your warranty is only as long as your builder warranty which are typically 5 years.