Some kitchen-renovation projects are best left to the professionals. We spoke with Jeremy Parcels, president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) and a designer at Christopher’s Kitchen & Bath, about when you should bring in the reinforcements (and who’s the best expert for the job).

Problem: “These stained laminate countertops are killing me.”
Solution: If you’re not willing or able to invest upwards of $5,000 to upgrade the material, consider an epoxy coating, Parcels says. For less than $500, enterprising DIY-ers can buy epoxy kits that will give existing surfaces a glossy, durable finish, but they can be tricky to work with, so consider bringing in professionals from a company like Denver Epoxy. Ready to spring for granite or quartz? Start with a stone fabricator and a plumber, and set aside some of your budget in case you need a carpenter to modify cabinetry or touch up finishes.

Photo courtesy of Maxwell Tielman for Design Sponge

Problem: “I wish my kitchen wasn’t so closed off from the rest of the house.”
Solution: Before you start swinging a sledgehammer, have a contractor or engineer determine if the wall you want to remove is load-bearing. (That evaluation can cost as little as $300, Parcels says.) If it’s not, an interior designer might be able to create a plan for whatever labor (plumbing, electrical, etc.) your project requires; if the wall is load-bearing, you’ll need to enlist an engineer or architect to add a support beam. You’ll definitely want to hire an architect for any additions or changes to the exterior of your home, and it can also be a smart move if you want to alter your home’s interior bones, like door openings or columns.

Problem: “Two words: pine cabinets.”
Solution: In about one week, and for about a third of what new ones might cost, a cabinet refinisher can stain, paint, or reface your existing cabinetry; larger companies often have designers on staff to help you with specific selections. But before you choose this route, Parcels says, consider your cabinets’ condition: How are the hinges functioning? Do the drawers glide smoothly? If your cabinets aren’t in great shape, you might be better off saving up to replace them—ideally by working with a custom cabinetmaker, whose designs will cost more than mass-produced units, but suit your space and needs perfectly.

Photo courtesy of Annie Schlechter for Country Living

Problem: “Who puts the sink this far from the range? And why is the island so close to the fridge?”
Solution: “Layout issues are where you need that professional opinion,” Parcels says, noting that homeowners can access industry safety standards and dimension recommendations via the NKBA’s Kitchen and Bathroom Planning Guidelines book available on Amazon. A design-build firm can be a good one-stop option for involved remodel projects, but be prepared for a serious investment (plans alone often start at $1,500) and life disruption, as you might be out of a kitchen for six to 10 weeks. Tip: Schedule the work during fair-weather months so you can cook on your grill.

Problem: “Everything is fine—but I’m bored.”
Solution: There are many things you can do to boost your kitchen’s visual appeal without spending a ton of money or tearing the place apart. Some of Parcels’ favorite upgrades include swapping incandescent bulbs in recessed can lights for LED versions with higher color rendering index values (which will more closely resemble natural light); changing the hardware on your cabinets (be sure the new pulls match the existing holes in your door and drawer panels); and hiring a tile installer to make an inexpensive backsplash look like a million bucks. And whether you opt for a traditional or online service, an interior designer can help you dial in your selections and create a cohesive look you’ll love for years to come.

It’s a Match!

Now that you know which pro can get the job done, how do you find the one? We asked Parcels for his top five tips for sorting through all those online profiles and deciding when to take the relationship to the next level.

  1. Narrow your search to professionals with interior remodeling certifications, through the NKBA or the American Society of Interior Designers. Also, make sure your contractor is licensed and insured.
  2. Look for a company that specializes in kitchen remodels and has a solid roster of past clients you can interview.
  3. Find someone you get along with! Remodels can take months or even years of planning, permitting, and execution; hiring someone whose personality aligns with yours will make things run much more smoothly.
  4. Ensure the company you choose carries products with a style and function that appeal to you and will work well with the rest of your home.
  5. Get into the nitty gritty when interviewing contractors and their clients. Are they punctual? Do they finish jobs on schedule? Do they keep jobsites as clean as possible? A high-quality contractor will prioritize those things to minimize disruptions to your life.