Difference Between Painting and Staining Interior Doors

At Nick’s Building Supply, we often get questions from our customers about the advantages and disadvantages of paint or stain for any doors. Today, with improvements in the manufacturing of both paints and stains, a lot of the difference has to do with what you prefer to highlight with regards to your wood doors.

Choosing paint or stain for interior doors will create a different look in a home based on the color of the treatment and the look you wish to achieve. Aside from just the appearance of the door, there are also issues to consider with regards to maintenance requirements and overall care for the wood door.

Interaction with the Wood

While paint or stain are both applied the same to the wood doors, there is a difference in how the liquid interacts with the surface of the wood. Paint is much thicker and denser and sits on top of the wood, drying in a layer on the surface.

Stains, on the other hand, soak into the fiber of the wood and actually stain the wood itself. This is important because if you scratch the surface of a painted door the wood will be visible beneath, but a surface scratch on a stained door will not leave the same color difference.


Any interior doors treated with either paint or stain will need to be maintained and repainted, or stained over time. This will depend on the amount of use the door gets, any damage to the surface, and to a large part it is based on the quality of the paint or stain used.

Low-quality paints and stains will deteriorate faster and won’t stand up to washing and wear. Paint will typically peel and flake, while stain will just fade in color. Staining will simply require a sanding of the surface and another application of stain while painted surfaces require complete stripping, sanding, priming and then painting.

Color Choices

The purpose of stain is to allow the natural grain of the wood to show to some degree. Stains tend to be in natural colors of wood from virtually clear to very dark, but they do not completely cover the grain of the wood.

Paint will completely eliminate any signs of the grain of the wood for interior doors. There are more color choices for painted doors from dark to light, and the natural color of the wood will have no impact on the color you choose for paint, but it will have for stain.