Ready to assemble (RTA) kitchen cabinets have become an increasingly popular option for homeowners looking to remodel or upgrade their kitchens on a budget. RTA cabinets provide a more affordable alternative to custom cabinetry, with the convenience of easy assembly. But how does the quality of RTA cabinets compare to custom cabinets or stock cabinets purchased through a home improvement store? There are several factors to consider when evaluating if RTA kitchen cabinets offer good quality and value.
What are Ready to Assemble Kitchen Cabinets?
RTA kitchen cabinets, sometimes referred to as flat pack cabinets, come packed in boxes with all the parts and hardware needed for assembly. The cabinets have pre-drilled holes and are constructed to be simple to put together, using either screws or Cam locks. RTA cabinets can be made from materials like particle board, plywood, or solid wood. Higher-end options may include solid wood doors and drawers with soft-closing hinges. The components are flat packed for efficient shipping and require final assembly.
RTA kitchen cabinets provide homeowners with an intermediate option between stock and custom cabinetry in terms of quality, price, and lead times. Custom cabinets allow for fully customized sizing, storage solutions, materials, and finishes but have long lead times and higher prices. Stock cabinets offer standardized sizing at lower costs but minimal customization. RTA cabinets offer more flexibility in terms of sizing, configuration, and some customization, with quicker lead times than custom at a more affordable price point than stock cabinetry.
Benefits of Choosing Ready to Assemble Cabinets
There are several potential benefits that make RTA kitchen cabinets an appealing choice:
More Affordable Price Point
One of the main advantages of RTA kitchen cabinets is the cost savings compared to custom cabinetry. Because RTA cabinets are mass-produced and shipped flat packed, the cabinets cost less than custom cabinetry, which is built to order. RTA cabinets provide a 20-50% cost savings on average compared to custom cabinets.
Faster Lead Times
Since RTA cabinets are pre-manufactured in standard sizes and configurations, the lead time is significantly shorter than custom cabinetry, which is built from scratch. RTA cabinets typically ship within 2-4 weeks, while custom cabinets can take 6-8 weeks or longer. This allows homeowners to complete their kitchen remodels faster.
Flexible Sizing and Layouts
While not as customizable as true custom cabinets, RTA cabinets offer some size and layout flexibility. Many RTA manufacturers offer the cabinets in multiple standard widths and heights that can be combined to achieve more customized fits. There are also a range of accessories for optimized storage solutions.
RTA cabinets are designed to be simple for homeowners to assemble and install. The cabinets have pre-drilled assembly holes and come with detailed instructions and labeled parts. For basic layouts, many homeowners can install their RTA cabinets. More complex installs may still require a contractor.
Wide Range of Selections
RTA cabinet brands offer a vast array of door styles, finishes, storage solutions, and accessories to choose from. From modern to traditional to rustic, there are diverse RTA cabinet lines to suit various design tastes and budgets.
Potential DIY Cost Savings
Because RTA cabinets are designed for easy assembly, homeowners have the option of installing the kitchen cabinets themselves as a DIY project, saving on installation labor costs. However, for more complex kitchens, hiring a contractor is still advisable.
What to Look for in Quality RTA Cabinets
RTA cabinets vary widely in terms of materials, construction quality, and features. Higher quality RTA cabinets will be made with durable materials, sturdy hardware, and quality finishes. Here are some key indicators of quality RTA kitchen cabinets:
Higher end RTA cabinets will use plywood or solid wood construction for the cabinet box rather than particle board or MDF. Plywood offers enhanced durability and resilience while solid wood can provide lasting beauty.
Cabinet Doors and Drawers
Doors and drawers constructed from solid wood provide better quality and durability over veneer or laminate. Look for doors that use tongue and groove joinery and kiln dried hardwood. Soft-close hinges also improve usability.
Hardware and Hinges
Sturdy hardware including soft-close hinges and full extension drawers glides allow the doors and drawers to operate smoothly. Concealed, adjustable hinges provide a clean look that holds up over time.
Finishes and Glazes
Quality finishes involve multiple coats of paint or stain and may include antique style glazes. Durable finishes prevent chipping and add vibrancy. Check reviews to evaluate how well the finish resists scratching, yellowing, and wear over time.
Better quality RTA cabinets use Cam lock fasteners or screws rather than just dowels. Cam lock provides a stronger, more rigid connection during assembly. Screws add more permanent fastening.
A longer warranty provides assurance of the level of confidence the manufacturer has in their RTA cabinet quality. Look for at least a 1 year warranty, with 5 years or lifetime warranties offered by high quality brands.
Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) certification indicates the cabinets meet or exceed ANSI standards for quality and durability. This involves testing of the materials, construction, and finishes.
Top Ready to Assemble Kitchen Cabinet Brands
To help narrow the options, here are some of the top rated and most recommended RTA kitchen cabinet brands:
- Highly rated for quality and value
- Offer painted and stained cabinets
- Plywood construction, soft-close doors
- Lifetime warranty on cabinets
- Good selection of styles and colors
- Solid wood doors and drawers
- Screw assembly with metal reinforcements
- 25 year warranty
- Upper tier of RTA cabinets
- Kiln dried wood construction
- Dovetail drawers, soft-close, full extension
- Lifetime warranty on cabinets
- Very budget friendly prices
- Streamlined contemporary styles
- Particle board construction
- Limited 25 year warranty
Ready To Assemble Kitchens
- Affordable prices with frequent sales
- Simple assembly with Cam lock fasteners
- Trendy painted finishes and door styles
- 30 day return policy
- Wide range of styles from modern to traditional
- Solid wood doors with plywood boxes
- Guaranteed lowest prices
- Double lifetime warranty
This covers some of the most popular and reputable RTA cabinet options that offer quality at different price points. Be sure to read reviews and evaluate the construction, hardware, warranties and specific kitchen cabinet line when selecting RTA cabinets.
Pros and Cons of RTA Kitchen Cabinets
RTA kitchen cabinets offer many benefits but also some potential drawbacks to weigh when deciding.
- More affordable cost
- Fast turnaround times
- Flexible sizing options
- Large style and finish selection
- Easy assembly and installation
- Can be a DIY project to save on labor
- Quality varies by manufacturer and specific cabinet line
- Limited customization compared to full custom cabinets
- Particle board less durable than plywood or solid wood
- DIY assembly and installation requires skill and tools
- Finishes may be lower quality than custom options
- Resale value unlikely to equal custom cabinetry
For many homeowners, the pros of the budget-friendly pricing and ease of installation outweigh the cons of limited customization. But it is important to select high quality components and finishes to get the most value from RTA kitchen cabinets.
Are RTA Cabinets Right for You? Key Questions to Ask
RTA cabinets can offer quality and value if chosen carefully, but they are not the right option for every homeowner. Ask yourself these questions to decide if RTA is the best cabinet choice for your kitchen:
- Is budget a major factor? RTA provides significant cost savings over custom.
- What is your timeline? RTA ships rapidly compared to custom lead times.
- What level of customization do you need? RTA limits size, storage and finish options versus custom.
- What installation help will you need? RTA is designed for DIY install but can be complex.
- What look are you going for? RTA offers wide range of door styles and finishes.
- How important is quality construction? Look for plywood boxes and solid wood doors.
- How long will you be in the home? Lifetime warranties offer assurance of long term quality.
Taking the time to consider your budget, timeline, customization needs, installation plan, design style, quality preferences, and length of time in the home will help you determine if RTA kitchen cabinets are the right choice for your project. Quality RTA cabinets can provide style and function at an accessible price point for the right homeowner.
Ready to Assemble Kitchen Cabinet Costs
One of the biggest appeals of RTA cabinets is the cost savings versus custom cabinetry. Here is an overview of typical price ranges:
- Entry-level: $75 – $150 per linear foot
- Mid-range: $150 – $350 per linear foot
- Premium: $350+ per linear foot
This compares to custom cabinetry which often starts at $200 per linear foot on the very low end and ranges from $350 – $1000+ per linear foot on average.
With RTA cabinets, costs vary based on factors such as:
- Brand – Quality differences affect prices
- Materials – Wood species, plywood vs particle board
- Door styles – Slab, shaker, inset panels, etc.
- Features – Soft-close doors and drawers, roll outs
- Finish – Stained, painted, glazed or distressed
- Order size – Bulk orders over 8 cabinets qualify for discounts
It is important to get quotes from 2-3 manufacturers, as prices for similar quality and styles can vary. Be sure to factor in costs for delivery, assembling and installation as well.
While RTA provides cost savings, quality construction and materials are still the top priority. Avoid choosing cabinets solely based on the cheapest price, as compromising too much on quality can result in cabinets that warp, wear poorly or require early replacement. Investing in cabinets made from plywood or solid wood with hardy finishes will provide better long term value.
How to Ensure Quality Installation of RTA Cabinets
While RTA cabinets are designed to make assembly and installation user-friendly for DIYers, proper installation is still key to getting your investment to look good and function as expected. Here are tips to ensure your RTA kitchen cabinets are installed correctly:
Work From Detailed Plans
Compile the cabinet dimensions, layout, filler sizes, and construction details. Double check for accuracy before assembly.
Ensure walls are reinforced to properly bear the weight of cabinetry. Add support braces and blocks as needed.
Level and Square the Base
Use shims and/or install leveling legs to make base cabinets level and plumb.
Follow Instructions Closely
Don’t take shortcuts. Follow the assembly directions in the proper sequence for best results.
Allow Adequate Time
Rushing the assembly often leads to mistakes. Allow sufficient time for careful assembly.
Use Proper Fasteners
Use the recommended screws or Cam lock fittings. Don’t substitute inferior fasteners.
Check for Interference
Confirm cabinets and drawers open and close properly without rubbing before finalizing.
Secure Cabinets Together
Use screws or fasteners to attach adjacent cabinet together for optimal stability.
Adhere to Codes
Follow all clearance requirements and comply with applicable building codes.
Complete final trim, caulking, adjustments and touch up painting for a quality look.
Taking the time to correctly assemble and install RTA kitchen cabinets results in a finished product that looks and functions just as well as a custom cabinetry installation.
Maintaining Your RTA Kitchen Cabinets
The advantage of investing in quality materials and finishes for your RTA cabinets is that it makes maintaining them much simpler. Here are tips for properly caring for your cabinets:
- Use microfiber cloths to gently wipe down exterior surfaces as needed without harsh chemicals.
- Clean interiors periodically with a wood-safe cleaner and soft cloth, avoiding excessive moisture.
- Tighten hinges and hardware as needed to keep doors and drawers functioning properly.
- Consider adding touch up paint or stain periodically to refresh worn areas.
- Replace any damaged hardware, hinges, or other components as soon as feasible.
- Avoid putting excess strain on doors and drawers to prevent possible warping or cracks.
- Use cutting boards and coasters to protect from knife scratches, moisture damage or heat damage to cabinet surfaces.
- Adjust or tighten doors that become misaligned to keep cabinets looking straight and even.
- Apply paste wax 1-2 times per year to protect the wood finish and enhance luster.
With proper care, quality RTA cabinets can last for many years before needing refinishing or replacement.
Ready to Assemble Cabinets Offer Quality, Value and Convenience
When selected carefully and installed properly, ready to assemble kitchen cabinets can provide homeowners with an affordable, quality solution for kitchen upgrades and remodels. Taking the time to evaluate materials, construction features, warranties, and brand reputation allows you to determine which RTA product lines offer good long-term value. While custom cabinetry provides the utmost in quality and customization, quality RTA cabinets offer faster turnaround, easier installation, budget-friendly pricing, and more flexibility in style and configuration versus stock cabinets. For homeowners looking to balance quality, cost, and convenience, RTA cabinets often hit that sweet spot. With some smart shopping and strategic installation, RTA kitchen cabinets can deliver beautiful, functional results that stand the test of time and day-to-day use.