What Is The Difference Between Painting and Refinishing Cabinets?

What Is The Difference Between Painting and Refinishing Cabinets?

A very affordable remodel homeowners can make to their house to make it look brand new is refinishing their cabinets.

If you have been thinking about changing out your kitchen cabinets, perhaps you’ve stumbled across the idea of refinishing them instead of painting them over. Is there a big difference between the two? Which is better?

The main difference is in the intent.

Painting over something conceals previous layers. New layers don’t fix any damage; they hide it. Materials damaged by moisture still retain their defects, compromising their structural integrity. 

The intent of refinishing a cabinet is to restore it to its original strength and make it into something new. A proper refinishing will leave the cabinet strengthened to last another decade.

Process Comparisons: Refinishing vs. Painting

There is a difference between the process of refinishing a cabinet and repainting one. Refinishing a cabinet is often more involved than painting is. Painting is a cut-and-dry process that doesn’t usually require sanding, sealing, and staining, while refinishing cabinets typically requires just that.

Should I Remove My Cabinets Before Working on Them?

Painting over your cabinets is very easy. While removing cabinets from their hinges may make the painting a tad more convenient, painting is an improvement that you can do just as well without removing anything. 

If you simply tape up your hinges and are careful about your application, nothing will need removing, and you’ll avoid lots of hassle. You have another layer of paint on your cabinet that looks pristine.

When refinishing a cabinet, it is often much more convenient to remove the cabinet doors and drawers from their place in your kitchen for proper treatment. Refinishing requires sandpaper or chemical strippers to remove previous layers and coloring. 

The end goal is to be able to apply a brand new stain directly to or as close to the original wood layer as possible. 

While a door may be sanded down and stripped while still attached to the cabinet frame, the process will be much simpler with the door or drawer free floating from the cabinet’s frame. Separating the doors and drawers allows you to access the corners and edges that would otherwise be harder to reach if still attached to the frame.

Where Sanding and Sealing Outdoes Painting

The primary difference comes from how you will work your cabinet to get the new look. Refinishing involves stripping the cabinet of its paint either physically or chemically. Wearing down the surface like this exposes the defects the paint was hiding, allowing you to seal any cracks in the wood that may continue to cause problems.

Though chemical treatments exist that can help remove paint, sanding remains the easiest, safest, and most reliable way to expose the beautiful wood designs of your cabinet. You can sand your cabinets with a powerful hand tool or a simple strip of sandpaper that is worked repeatedly over the surface. There may be chemicals that can peel away the layers of paint, but sand is the most direct way to get the desired result. 

Years of wear on your cabinets may have cracked or scratched the surface of the wood. Deep gouges can be unsightly and difficult to hide with paint. The advantage to refinishing a cabinet instead of painting it is that cosmetic damage, such as a deep gouge or even a splinter, can be made less noticeable than simply adding paint can do.

You can fix scratched and splintered wood using wood glue or other sealants. You can sand down excess wood glue or sealers to the level of your wood for a close finish. Although these cracks would be starkly visible when left bare, a dark stain or even a thin layer of paint would be enough to keep them out of sight and out of mind. 

You can use wood glue to fix more severe damage too. Wood glue expands into the wood grain as it drys, creating a thick bond between the broken pieces of wood. There may be a dry bead or line of glue over the crack running along the injured portion of your wood. Just a few passes with some sandpaper can make the line barely discernible from the rest of the grain.

Painting over cracks and splinters won’t do anything to fix structural damage in the wood. If you don’t care to fix all the nicks and scratches in your cabinets, giving them a fresh layer of paint may be the better option.

Advantages of Staining or Painting Your Cabinets

Woodgrain is objectively beautiful. Leaving the grain of our wood exposed can add age and undisguised authenticity to your home decor. Even if your cabinets have gained some new scars over the years, the imperfections make a statement of ingenuity and resourcefulness, something a painted cabinet would hide.

Paint can mask damage much easier than staining can. If not fully sanded down or sealed, cracks and scratches will still be visible if you choose to stain instead of paint. If you want a change in pace, applying a layer of paint can add beauty and uniformity to your kitchen. 

Saving Money and Enjoying the Results

Regardless of what route you decide to take with your home renovations, great satisfaction comes from finishing a big project. Completing a home renovation like this can instill greater confidence to tackle the next big challenge in your home. 

Your Old Home and a New Twist with Allen Brothers Cabinet Painting

Maybe looking at the list of materials you need to purchase and the processes you need to follow for your cabinet refinishing project makes you more stressed than excited. That’s okay! Not everyone salivates at the thought of woodworking like we do!

If you are stressed, let us handle the rest. We are your end-all solution for making your old cabinets look brand new! Whether you want a solid, flushed, painted look or want to keep the grain but change the stain, we have the tools ad expertise.

Call us for a quote. We’re excited to make your dream kitchen a reality!