The $5K Kitchen at HomeFest

Articles & Interest

By Frank Cohn of Cohn Construction LTD.

At the recent HomeFest at the International Centre, RenoMark hosted an interactive booth by installing a 10’X10′ kitchen with a $5,000 budget. We started the process with a 30-minute meeting with our renovator to discuss what we wanted and one week later he installed the kitchen for us. We didn’t have any follow-up meetings, drawings, contracts, or any additional communication. The result was a kitchen with over 50 different problems and most notable, we didn’t get what we asked for. 

I spent the weekend showing people what not to do when renovating. I heard from many people about how they have renovated without proper drawings or a signed contract. The fact is that without a proper contract, things will inevitably go wrong and cost you more money. This is a large problem in the industry when you don’t use a professional renovator and why it is important to work with a professional renovator. A professional will walk you through the design and provide you with a proper contract to make sure you get exactly what you want. 

Most people visiting the kitchen could see the most obvious mistakes, like wrong door handles, or faucet type. However, one mistake was the result of the renovator not listening to us. The renovator did not take notes at our meeting and that resulted in the wrong colour of the cabinets and counter-top. This was an honest mistake, but definitely highlighted how details can be easily missed. 

The Design

Some of the other mistakes were a result of cost-cutting by the contractor because of the restrictive $5,000 budget. As for other hidden items, such as, quiet close hinges or drawers and the installation of screw caps should have been listed in the contract, but were not. Another important early step to renovating is to walk through the space and go over all the work that will be done, this will help catch potential problems before they arise. For example, the detail of how the existing flooring will tie into the new flooring could cost $500 to $1,000 depending on the conditions, so make sure you know what is going to happen and that it is noted in your contract. 

What was installed

As part of the interactive booth, we challenged homeowners to find seven problems with the $5K kitchen for a chance to win a $500 gift card. As you can see in the image above, each post-it marks an error. We identified over 120 unique problems that were not agreed to or that was installed incorrectly. 

We congratulate Mike Gregorio of Mississauga whose ballot was selected at random. While we had him on the phone we asked him a couple questions about the experience. This is what he had to say.
“We are currently looking to renovate our kitchen and this was very helpful. I learned the importance to make sure that the kitchen is installed properly and that it’s our job as the homeowner to communicate the quality of work that we want. I also learned about the importance of drawings and how we should use them to review the design and identify any conflicts in space and layout before the kitchen is installed.”

Understanding the Costs

Lastly, we took the same kitchen design to 40 renovation contractors and got proper quotes. Their costs varied from $22,000 to $88,000, this demonstrates the importance of meeting with a renovator in your home, so they can understand the quality finishes you expect. 


As you can see in the cost break down there is a large difference in the general costs, appliances, and other categories. These differences highlight the quality of products and the type of clients to be involved. I asked the high price contractor about why he was so high and he told me that his clients often make changes after work has been completed, so to accommodate that without surprising his clients with extra costs he allows for a higher than normal contingency which he only uses when there are changes. 

Other things to consider when your home is in the downtown area would be parking for construction vehicles and allowing for the cost of parking tickets, the space for garbage bins on your property and if you need to get a street permit, and the removal of hazardous materials like asbestos or mold. 

If this column has generated any thoughts or questions regarding a past or future renovation please send your questions to and look for our answers to your questions in the next Ask a RenoMark Renovator.

Frank Cohn is a two-time Renovator-of-the-Year award recipient with the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). Frank is well-connected in the renovation community in the GTA. You can listen to his Home Improvement Show Saturday mornings from 9am to 10am on NEWSTALK 1010.