An examination of your finishing options


You can do almost anything when choosing your cabinet door style. You can have them painted, stained or glazed. You can choose a flat neutral color or a wild finish that accentuates the natural wood grain. You can have charcoal-stained or black-glazed cabinets.

There is a look that will complement whatever concept your creative mind suggests. Let’s examine the different options, how each is made, and the many touches that may be implemented additionally.

Stained finishes provide a traditional look that has been cherished for years. There are a variety of ways to apply a stain to a cabinet. Primarily, spraying and hand wiping techniques are the most popular ones utilized. Each is responsible for uniquely different looks.

You’ll find that hand wiping the stain into the wood results in the color absorbing randomly into the wood door. It’s an effective and intentional variance.

Unique and appealing, it does receive criticism for the same reasons – the unusual and somewhat irregular look that sets it apart. It is earthy and rustic, a style that looks ‘antiqued’.

uneven stain

A manually sprayed-on stain is rapidly showered over the entire door, creating a consistency lost with the hand wipe technique. It is applied more uniformly. And the results are what you would expect – an even finish.

Of course you need to be aware that no matter what stain process you use the results will always vary depending on the different species, grain and cut of the wood. Because no matter what you are working with, no two pieces of wood will ever be alike. You need to expect these variations in the grain patterns.

And you need to understand that stains will exaggerate their presence, as well as make other random markings more prominent.

It may also be worth noting the aging process inherent to different hardwoods. They typically darken as a result to exposure to various forms of light over time. Also, color differences or wood changes can result from chemical exposure, high temperatures, moisture in the air, and other external influences.

Even smoke from tobacco products has been proven to cause discoloration after prolonged denudation. It becomes particularly visible on cabinets of a lighter finish.


Of course one would be amiss without talking about paint in a discussion about cabinets. Painted cabinets tend to be the most popular among those on the market. The common drawback is that they are prone to chipping, marks or even accumulation of residue and finger/handprints. They need attention beyond regular maintenance to prevent such incessant blemishing.

You probably know that depending on temperature and humidity extremes, wood expands and contracts. As a result, you may just see hairline cracks appear in the area around the joints.

But don’t fret – it is a very common and natural occurrence. You can prevent this by using MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) center panels in lieu of the solid wood ones. Better yet, you can find doors like ours that implements rubber strip technology that holds the doors together and prevents these hairline cracks.

Lastly the best option would be to have door faces which are constructed out of a single piece of solid wood and then routed out in the middle. Of course, as with all things, the benefits of these options have drawbacks that should be considered.

So now that you’ve chosen your finish – painted or stained – what further embellishments can be made?

Well, there are popular add-ons (for lack of better words) you can employ. Glazed finishes have been quite popular, they intensify the visual depth of both stained and painted doors. Or you may opt for a “distressed” or “antiqued” look, which gives the cabinets a hearty rustic feel.

Assuming you decide to have your cabinets glazed, much depends on the type of lacquer you choose. You’ll find that the finished look can range from relic chic to passive elegance. It’s a hand applied technique.

Glazing is successful for antiquing and creating dimension and character. Basically, it serves to highlight the details of contours on doors. The actual coverage of the glaze may also (intentionally) vary, based on the style chosen.


There are two common types of glaze most often used for cabinets – standard and brushed. A standard glaze is applied to the crevassed detail of the cabinet’s door using a small brush or pen (depending on what is most applicable).

Essentially it emphasizes the contours and edges of the door. Brushed glaze is put on with a large brush over the existing paint (or stain). This produces a dimensional effect and provides a nice brushed texture that brings out the highlights of the door.

You may decide to spring for an additional “distressed” look treatment. This process starts with manually removing the paint from only particular edges on the door, thereby creating a vintage, worn appearance. The paint is rubbed to the point of barely exposing the wood, making the entire cabinet appear old or antique. It is typically used only with American style cabinets and not European ones.


The reason there are so many options is partly due to the fact that the market has developed with the realization that not all homeowners want the same thing. Each kitchen reflects the personality of a unique individual. Now, by combining any number of finishes and add-ons they are able to create a kitchen not only unique to them but one that they can feel at home in.

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Jocelle S Senior Writer & Kitchen Renovation Specialist
Jocelle is a seasoned writer and kitchen renovation expert at Bestonlinecabinets. With a deep understanding of kitchen cabinets and the latest trends in home improvement, she crafts engaging and informative content to help homeowners achieve their dream kitchens.