What Does Paint Grade Mean?

Tiffany Nichols
by Tiffany Nichols

You want your house to look beautiful. And you want your work to last for a long time. So, you must learn what paint grade means. Then, you have to choose the best materials and products for each project.

What does paint grade mean? It defines the type of millwork on your building materials. Some materials look great with a specific paint grade. That’s because of wood grain and other features that can affect the surface. But stain grade is something else. And it’s more expensive because it looks best with a clear finish.

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What Paint Grade Means

Paint grade means the material is ready for paint. The wood also features a smooth surface, with all knots and heavy grain patterns removed. You can find paint-grade building materials at most major retailers. However, the prices may vary depending on several factors.

Most manufacturers produce paint-grade products from specific materials. They construct cabinets, countertops, flooring, doors, and other home features using graded wood. So, expect to see poplar, birch, maple, pine, and alder as your primary resources.

NOTE: Some hardware stores sell paint-grade plywood for custom projects. But you have to ask an associate for help.

What Is the Difference Between Paint Grade and Stain Grade?

Paint grade materials and stain grade materials aren’t the same things. But you can find them both in the same stores. That’s because they offer different finishes and fade at different speeds. So, homeowners get to decide which products and grades they prefer.

Stain grade materials are typically higher quality than paint grade cabinets and doors. Paint grade means the wood looks best after being coated with color. You don’t always have to prime it, either. However, homeowners must touch up their pigments often because lacquer peels over time. So, some people finish with a polyurethane.

Complete projects faster and create a modern look with paint-grade wood. But show off nature’s beauty with stain-grade products. And remember that stain grade holds color for longer. Therefore, the first few coats might take a while, but the upkeep is easier.

Is It Better to Paint or Stain Cabinets?

You should consider durability when weighing your options. Countertops and cabinets can take a beating in high-traffic areas. And that means your chosen finish can fade or scratch over time.

If you want to paint cabinets in your kitchen or bathroom, think about the pros and cons. Remember that your color can crack, chip, and peel if you don’t maintain it. Plus, you must repaint the surface every few years to keep it looking fresh.

Meanwhile, staining cabinets and doors helps you enjoy a beautiful home for longer. Stain-grade materials are already more durable in most cases. And thick, epoxy-based stains can make them even more robust. So, play with the options. Then choose the one that suits your lifestyle best.

DID YOU KNOW: You can buy paint-grade MDF or stain-grade MDF to make custom cabinet doors cheaper.

What Does Paint Grade MDF Mean?

If paint grade defines the readiness of materials, then what does paint grade MDF mean? MDF is an acronym that stands for “medium density fiberboard.” So, it includes building materials such as plywood and veneer. Thus, paint grade MDF is non-wood material ready for layers of paint. Plus, you usually don’t have to prime the surface because it’s already smooth.

Paint grade MDF is a highly durable composite textile that helps painters produce a grain-free finish. This type of material is perfect for hiding the details of natural wood or creating the illusion of plastic or stone. However, you have to choose between three distinct varieties:

  • Lightweight
  • Standard Grade
  • High Density

Lightweight MDF offers thin dimensions with less durability. And standard MDF uses wood fibers and synthetic resin to make particles adhere. But high-density MDF provides the most dependability despite being the heaviest.

What Is the Best Paint for MDF?

Try to use the best colors when painting MDF. The material is already less durable than most natural woods. And whatever you apply to the surface will affect the finish. So, read labels carefully and ask an associate for some help.

Look for oil-based paints to begin. You can find them in various quantities at your local hardware store. But be sure to pick a compatible primer for underneath. Or buy a paint and primer duo to save some time.

NOTE: You might need some paint thinner when using oil-based lacquer on paint grade MDF.

Are Paint Grade Cabinets Cheaper?

Save even more money with stained cabinets and doors. You can keep nearly 15% of your cash if you choose stain grade over paint grade. That’s because painted cabinetry offers a sleeker finish that most modern homeowners love. And stained cabinets are slowly going out of style. But pick your favorite finish based on your tastes instead of trends. Then, you’ll love your house no matter what the budget says.

Can Paint Grade Maple Be Stained?

Maple cabinetry can be gorgeous. However, you have to finish the surface with the best paints and stains to make it last. Meanwhile, maple is stable enough for both options. And that gives you the freedom to choose different colors and sheens for your cabinets and doors. But many homeowners pick paint for maple wood because it looks better than stain.

Can You Paint Stain Grade?

You can paint stain-grade materials, but you have to use best practices. That means you must strip any existing finish from the surface first. Then, wash it and let it dry before applying primer or color.

Next, paint stain-grade wood with high-quality lacquer to prevent cracking and peeling. Or hire experts to finish the work so you can focus on other things. Either way, always test a section of your building materials to determine it looks under paint vs. stain.

TIP: Try several different colors and finishes to find the one that looks best in your home.

What Does Unfinished Paint Grade Mean?

What does it mean when a material is labeled unfinished paint grade? It means the wood is without primer or preparation from the manufacturer. You can buy this material cheaper than finished paint grade or stain grade lumber. But you’ll have to do more work to get it ready for projects. The reason is that paint-grade lumber doesn’t feature a factory finish. So, the surface isn’t as smooth and requires sanding.

Is Pine Stain a Grade?

Pine stain is in a different class. You might hear some homeowners call it “knotty pine” because of the prevalence of knots in the grain. It usually has several character defects. But those defects can look good with specific design elements.

People don’t use knotty pine as much anymore. Yet, it still offers the long-lasting beauty it always has. Thus, pine stain is a unique grade that helps enhance the wood’s natural appearance. And in most cases, you can buy large sheets of finishing or unfinished knotty pine at your local hardware store. Plus, it’s cheaper than many other building materials.

TIP: Compare the prices at your favorite retailers to find the best deal. Then, try to buy in bulk to save more money.

Related Questions

Does Painting Cabinets Decrease the Value?

Feel free to paint your kitchen and bathroom cabinets any color. But remember that some home buyers might not like an unnatural look. Painted cabinets can either make or break your sale. So, understand the real estate market before refinishing surfaces in your home.Interestingly, pale or warm yellow paints perform well in commercial houses. That’s because pastel paint helps brighten the space to make it look bigger. And when paired with an open concept layout, you can create the illusion of a large room. Thus, you should compare different designs to determine the most valuable option.

Is It Cheaper to Paint, Stain, or Replace the Wood Trim in My Home?

There is much to consider when deciding whether to paint, stain, or replace the trim in your home. For one, replacing it can cost more money. And you’ll still have to paint or stain it before installation. Meanwhile, staining wood trim can look great. But you must remove old lacquer by sanding the surface. Plus, you have to use stain-grade materials, or the finish will suffer.Painting trim is usually the most innovative approach. If you choose paint grade trim, you can apply one or two coats of color for a professional look. But test a small section first. Then, compare the finishes to determine which option works best.

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Paint Wood Like a Pro

Paint grade means the wood is ready for primer and color. But stain grade means it will look better with a native tint. Both options depend on the material type and finish. So, choose your approach carefully by looking at the wood grain first. Then, determine the best paint for plywood and other forms of MDF next. And if you need more help, consult someone at the nearest lumberyard.

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Tiffany Nichols
Tiffany Nichols

Tiffany Nichols specializes in aesthetics, design, marketing, and manufacturing. She's a copywriter and editor for several home renovation companies in the U.S. and works alongside some of the biggest names in the industry. Her hobbies include architecture, art, mental health, and fashion.

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