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POLL: Woodwork - Paint it or Stain it?

Emily H
April 30, 2015

Do you prefer the natural look of wood with a stain to protect it or do you prefer to paint it?

VOTE and tell us about it in the comments!

Apartment Renovation in NYC Landmark · More Info

Stain Only
Paint it!
Other - Tell us below!

Comments (134)

  • bungalowmo

    My old place has shellac. I chose "other"!

  • glow91

    I agree with others who say it depends on architecture, wood quality and detail of the work. I would never in a million years paint the gorgeous door and window frames shown in the images for this feature.

  • glow91

    On the other hand, having just said I'd never paint the old carved wood, I do like the wood-trimmed room features at the top of the post.

  • trove

    Trying to decide myself as building a home in n Carolina. Use to traditional white but I think with craftsman mountain home will be better stained woodwork. Samples please!

  • mixbee

    Unless the woodwork is of high quality as in the picture, I think it should be painted.

  • contractadmin

    In general, I agree if the wood is good quality wood, it should be treated with oil rather than painted. It creates warmth in a home, and once painted, it can't be un-done.

  • Andrea Helton
    I have a room in my house that is all stained wood and it is my favorite room in the whole house!
  • lorelait

    It all depends upon the space. If it is a historical space, I would say stain.

  • Rosa Da Rosa Hutchings

    It depends if it's a historical home and what they are doing with the rest of the trim on the house

  • mtttws
    It most definitely depends on the wood and its quality as mentioned.
  • julie1401

    Painting may become a disaster if not done with the right steps and product... I've had issues with certain brands staying sticky! Besides that I like both.

  • lsmo64081

    Depends on the quality of the wood and how much expensive "detail" for stained wood. I grew up with stained and honestly, I prefer painted because it looks cleaner and fresher. However, a library looks awesome stained.

  • Bruce Crawford
    I love natural. If it's hardwood indoors, stain it so you can see rich grain. When we bought our house (we're 3rd owners), I replaced all painted softwood baseboard & door casings w/ red oak stained gunstock. In fall of '13, I redid mantel, which was stained fir w/ stained pine shelves above. New mantel (attached) is also red oak in gunstock. New K cabs are maple stained Cordovan (reddish-brown). Outside all should be painted. When our house was built early '70s, stained exterior was fad. Stain not only doesn't hold up to weather, termites love it. Same to them as raw wood. I stripped eaves & siding that wasn't stucco, primed & painted. Lotta work, but worth it. Termites head to my neighbors' houses now.
  • PRO
    River Valley Cabinet Works

    As a rule, I prefer stained wood, but most of the trim in my house is painted.

  • amma963

    Stained wood can look rich and expensive if it is done correctly on good stain grade wood in a large room with plenty of daylight. But, in my opinion, it makes average to small rooms feel more like a cave. Painted woodwork is much easier to refresh when needed and using white or a light color makes smaller rooms feel larger. I prefer the trim painted white and the walls a light color, too.

  • mozzie73
    I prefer to use oils that preserve and protect the timber, but don't change the colour of the natural grain
  • justgotabme

    I'm with sjhall88, all the way. I'd probably have a chapped chin from all the drooling I'd do while looking at all the woodwork in the home with the kind of woodwork in the original post. Gosh that is so beautiful!
    I live in a Queen Anne Victorian Revival home built by hubby and myself over a decade ago. We are still working on the wood work in our home, which is all wide and stained. Our grandson's friend was here a couple days ago and told our grandson he lived in a cowboy house. I asked him what he meant by that and he replied it was so fancy. LOL Ah, the minds of a seven year old boys. I'm sure it was the wide woodwork that made him think of homes he'd seen in cowboy movies.

  • Bruce Crawford

    Another factor in the paint vs. stain debate -- labor. To stain properly requires more work than painting. I've done lots of both. How much work staining requires is also dependent upon the finish you want, matte or glossy. Glossy takes even more work if you want top-notch results. When doing the varnish, you need to use rottenstone between coats to get that high sheen. Re painting, rather re-painting, one also has to know if old paint is oil-based. Almost all new paint is water-based and won't adhere to oil-based w/o proper prep work. I know, I learned the hard way on my front doors.

  • capricebarr

    With that beautiful, detailed woodwork, it would be such a shame to paint it. It gives the space such a classy feel.

  • justgotabme

    Bruce Crawford, brings up a good point two posts above this one, which is another reason stained quality wood looks richer than painted wood.

  • sherrihf

    Clearly it depends of the style of the house and the quality of the woodwork. That said there's nothing I love more than substantial woodwork painted a crisp white. (none of that cheap skimpy clamshell baseboard for me!)

  • sootmess
    Paint the bookcases if you just have to paint something. Don't paint the trim...too rare and beautiful!
  • seezarman
    Diversity room to room makes for an adventurous tour. I love stained wood with painted accents but keep in mind that preparation, colors, contrasts and finishes must be chosen with meticulous care and sampling.
  • PRO
  • lizak
    depends on the decor, style, quality
  • pamwessling

    Depends on the period of the house and the type of wordwork

  • Lee Weber
    It looks like your woodwork is already stained and may jus need a sealer coat of polyurethane.
  • Kelly Winkler
    Oh leave that alone it's beautiful just the way it is it's very charming
  • PRO
    JudyG Designs

    No, you're not getting it...Emily from houzz posted the picture. She is asking us opinions on painting or staining wood.

  • PRO
    Wallworks By Dorina

    Staining! A classic beauty on wood!

  • Deborah Strobel
    Stain comes in so many colours now, and it protects the wood, looks richer as well
  • Sally

    With the beautiful, intricate woodwork pictured, I would never paint it. I don't believe you can appreciate the charm and character of beautiful wood such as pictured after it's been painted. I admit I have a preference for stained woodwork in older homes. In addition, once painted removing the paint to return to natural wood is a pain. I recently bought a home built in 1906. It still retains most of the stained wood, but someone painted 2 doorways in the living room to minimize their impact. I'm in the process of restoring those doors to their natural stained state.

  • roxannevacek
    if this picture is of your woodwork and bookcase, keep the same stain color. just protect it.
  • Stacey Davis
    Beautiful wood is gift of the planet, and coupled with a craftsman to work such admiration into the final product is rarer still. Therefore, painting should be reserved for those woods that are machine fabricated, not ever meant to marry form with function. Preservation of the things that are rare and beautiful are more than our choice, they are our responsibility.
  • J K

    I can't say that my doors and trim are any great quality or style. If I were privileged to own the door shown, I couldn't paint it. It is beautiful. But what about our 90's fixer? I can't bring myself to paint the pine ceiling. But the rest of the stained trim is a bit much. We plan to paint the interior doors and trim and replace the cheap base trim. What should we do around the windows? We are considering replacing the window casing with a more contemporary style--the question is whether to paint or stain to match the windows. Floors will be Brazilian Walnut.

  • Bruce Crawford
    J K, I love wood. Re new window casings, I go w/ wood stained to match windows. We're finishing K reno. Last step will be to r/r aluminum cased windows w/ wooden ones stained to match new K cabs & crown. Previously r/r'd other windows w/ vinyl, but wanted to do nicer on front of house in LR & K. I love your design w/ vaulted ceiling & 2nd floor overlook. It looks to me big & open enough so wood casings won't make it look small & dark.
  • J K

    Thanks Bruce! What are your thoughts on painting the interior doors, casings and base trim? I feel like the existing interior door trim appears a bit choppy. We want to exterior window and view to be the focal point and the wood windows and doorways tie the pine ceiling to the rest. Would less be more by keeping all the window and door trim stained but painting the interior doors and trim, except the window/doorwall casing?

  • Bruce Crawford
    J K, my interior doors are original builder's grade white, but I r/r'd baseboards & casings in hallway, LR, K & DR w/ red oak stained Min Wax gunstock. Mantel & shelf system (pic on May 6 post above) same, put pic redder than actual as original pic underexposed.
  • brendapaw
    Hi JK, your home is lovely and I would leave that beautiful pine ceiling alone. However, I would get rid of the brown stained trim around the windows. It is doing nothing for them! It detracts from the ceiling. It is like the woman who mistakenly draws heavy eyeliner all the way around her eyes. It makes her eyes look smaller and you look at the liner, not her eyes.
  • brendapaw
    Jk, when I say "get rid of" I mean paint it white or another pale neutral.
  • J K
    Thanks Bruce!

    Brendapaw, I agree, which is why we are painting the interior doors and trim white. I'm concerned, though, that white trim around the stained windows and doorwalls may look choppier or more distracting than leaving the window and doorwalls trim stained. So I may have heavy eyeliner only on the top lid?
  • PRO
    DaVill Blinds
    Stain! If you want to paint get a faux wood in my opinion.
  • gunner55

    Nothing is more beautiful, more captivating, than the natural beauty of wood, finished with a wax polish. Especially a home made wax polish scented with some essential oils. Re-applying the polish when needed isn't a chore, but a pleasurable past time.

  • PRO
    Billiard Factory

    Staining the woodwork allows you to give the space a fresh look without losing the character of the home!

  • PRO
    Fallon's Furniture

    Stain it! It keeps the original character of the woodwork and is much easier to maintain!

  • PRO
    RB Marketing LLC dba Gas Copper Lanterns

    It depends on too many factors to say yes or no. Average run of the mill woodwork usually looks better painted. It can also brighten up a dull space, one that is looking a bit dated or drab. Beautiful high quality wood might be better left alone unless a person is really trying to change the entire look and feel of the house. I am remodeling a Town House that had rather plain millwork, basically just 1x4 trim stained. We have painted most of it, adding a little detail moldng at the top and it really lightens up the space and looks great with the paint colors. We are also replacing all the plain natural doors with new painted 4 panel doors. The difference is amazing. We opted to leave a lovely framed opening, that was added at a later date to a sun room, natural because it is a beautiful old cypress wood. We then added an antique cypress fireplace mantel in the adjoining living room, so the two natural elements tie together nicely. This is going to work out great with a combination of natrula wood and painted furniture pieces. The combination of paint and this natural casing look great together in the area. Also considering what to do with the new mahogany & glass front door in the living room, paint or just seal it....I know we will paint the outside of the door because we have high humidity and stained exterior doors tend to mildew and are very hard to keep clean here. In either case the new frame and casing will be painted. I believe it all has to do with the look you are trying to create. From an historic standpoint, both paint and natural or stained can be correct. You should do whatever makes you smile. Keep in mnd, painting old stained woodwork is very labor intensive. Lots of sanding and lots of priming followed by several coats of paint!

  • jemini776

    How about less ornate wood? We have the original trim in our 1930's home but it is quite plain. We have been debating for two years whether to paint or stain. The photo is from the listing and not our furniture.

  • missybee13
    It depends. The beautiful old detailed door trim in the photo is gorgeous and best left as is. For most houses built today, I prefer white because it is less distracting than seeing a brown line running around the room and around every window. Distracting....
  • Lila
    Our house was built in 1903, and are very fortunate to have a picture of it along with the other two houses on our street at the time taken about a decade later. Although we don't know what the whether the interior woodwork was stained or painted or not, the exterior was painted white. Currently, we have a combination of both, but have kept the integrity of the exterior.
  • PRO
    Taber & Company

    Paint is best used on soft or engineered wood that is not unique in grain or character, usually used as crown molding or baseboard. Stained hardwoods that are hand carved and hand finished glow with patina, are timeless and require less maintaince then a painted finish. The door and window surrounds in the image are beautiful and look like they are made of solid hardwood, possibly original to the architecture. The scale and detail are marvelous and stand out against the painted moldings, the combination works. The simple wall cabinet might be better in a contrasting stain or paint. It doesn't look to be original so the matching wood stain color takes away from the dramatic surrounds.

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