Ready-to-assemble (RTA) kitchen cabinets have become an increasingly popular option for homeowners looking to remodel their kitchens on a budget. RTA cabinets come flat-packed and require assembly before installation. This allows manufacturers to reduce costs by streamlining shipping and passing the savings onto the consumer. But are RTA cabinets a good choice for your kitchen remodel? Here is a detailed look at the pros and cons of RTA cabinets to help you decide.

What are RTA Cabinets?

RTA cabinets, also known as flat-pack or knockdown cabinets, come disassembled in a flat box. The cabinets require assembly before installation using tools like screwdrivers, wrenches and drills. Most RTA cabinets include all the hardware and instructions needed for assembly. As the name suggests, they are ready to assemble right out of the box.

The convenience of RTA comes from condensed shipping which allows online retailers and home improvement stores to offer these cabinets at more affordable prices than traditional pre-assembled cabinetry. This makes RTA cabinets a popular choice for budget-conscious homeowners. While it requires hands-on work to put them together, many find the cost-savings worth the effort.

Pros of RTA Cabinets

Cost Savings

The number one pro of RTA cabinets is the cost. RTA cabinets are up to 50% cheaper than pre-assembled cabinets. This is because the manufacturer saves on shipping costs and passes the savings to the consumer. The DIY assembly also contributes to lower prices. RTA allows homeowners to modernize their kitchen on a reasonable budget.


Having cabinets delivered flat-packed makes it easier to transport the cabinets and get them into the home. The boxes fit through standard doorways and can be moved around with just a hand truck. There’s no need to maneuver bulky, pre-hung cabinet boxes or remove doors and drawers for installation.


One of the best perks of RTA cabinets is the ability to fully customize. RTA manufacturers offer a wide range of sizes, finishes and accessories. Mixing and matching allows homeowners to design a custom kitchen layout within budget. Customized organizational inserts, roll-out trays, lazy susans and more can be incorporated.

Quick Installation

With RTA cabinets, the bulk of the work happens before installation day. Since the cabinets are already assembled, the installation process goes quicker. This causes less disruption to the home. All that’s left is hanging the cabinets on the wall, leveling and making final adjustments.

Wide Selection

There are many reputable RTA cabinet brands available online and in home improvement stores. Brands like Hampton Bay, ClosetMaid and QuickKit offer lots of choices from standard to premium styles and finishes. The wide availability makes it easy to find RTA cabinets to suit your specific tastes and kitchen design.

Easy to Replace Pieces

With RTA cabinets, it’s easy to replace damaged doors and drawer fronts. Since the cabinets are purchased à la carte, homeowners can conveniently order replacement parts should anything get scratched or broken down the road. There’s no need to have entire pre-assembled cabinet boxes shipped.

Cons of RTA Cabinets

Self-Assembly Required

The trade-off for lower cost is the investment of time and elbow grease for assembly. Those who are less handy may struggle to assemble cabinets properly. Per the instructions exactly. Hiring a carpenter adds to labor costs, defeating part of the RTA value. Poor assembly can also lead to issues down the road if cabinets are not squared properly.

Potential for Damage

Compared to solid hardwood, particle board used in RTA cabinets is more prone to showing dings, scratches and water damage if not cared for. Homeowners need to be cautious of letting sinks overflow or placing hot pans from the oven directly on RTA cabinet surfaces. The shelves, doors and drawer fronts require extra care and maintenance.

Quality Concerns

There is debate regarding whether the materials and manufacturing used for RTA cabinets are subpar to that of pre-assembled cabinets. While there are budget and premium options, some feel that RTA uses lower-end plywood, thinner surfaces and less durable finishes. These factors lead to questions of longevity.

Not for Extensive Customization

Though RTA allows for some customization, these systems do not offer the full custom capabilities of semi-custom or full-custom cabinetry. For homeowners wanting unique built-ins, ornate trim work or sizing beyond the pre-set RTA options, this could present limitations. RTA works best for overall kitchen layouts made up of mostly standard cabinet sizing.

Can’t View Product First

When purchasing cabinets online sight unseen, you rely on photos and descriptions to know what you’re getting. With RTA cabinets purchased online, you cannot evaluate things like the wood graining and finish quality until the products arrive. While returns are sometimes possible, it’s not ideal to have to ship back bulky cabinets.

Shorter Warranties

Similar to quality concerns, some feel that shorter warranty periods reflect lower standards. Many RTA cabinet brands offer just one to three-year warranties compared to limited lifetime warranties from pre-assembled cabinet manufacturers. However, added protection plans can sometimes extend coverage.

Are RTA Cabinets Right for You? Key Considerations

RTA cabinets offer value and customization opportunities. But are they the best match for your particular kitchen? Here are some important factors to weigh when deciding between RTA and pre-assembled cabinets:

What’s your budget?
For cost-conscious renovators, RTA makes sense. Those with more wiggle room may prefer the higher quality of traditional cabinetry. Evaluate whether the savings outweigh the cons.

What’s your timeline?
If completing the renovation quickly is a priority, factor in the time investment of assembling RTA cabinets yourself or hiring a carpenter. Pre-assembled cabinets simply need basic installation.

What’s your skill level?
Assessing your comfort with assembly work will help determine if RTA cabinets are feasible. Those lacking DIY skills may become frustrated. Carefully review instructions before purchasing.

What finish and features do you need?
If you want high-end touches like inset doors or soft-close hinges, customize RTA cabinets to get the desired look or opt for semi-custom cabinets. Know availability.

How long do you plan to stay?
If this is a forever home, longevity concerns may steer you towards wood species and finishes that are more durable rather than the value route.

What’s included in the warranty?
Review warranty terms like length, what’s covered and excluded. Also look into third party warranty providers. Ask brands about reliability and repair processes.

Are RTA Cabinets Good Quality? Tips for Buying

If opting for RTA cabinets, you can take steps to ensure better quality:

  • Stick to reputable national brands known for reliable products and warranties. Hampton Bay, Kraftmaid, Ready-to-Assemble Kitchens and Barker Cabinets are good options.
  • Pick a mid-priced line over the entry-level versions for thicker wood materials and more durable finishes.
  • Choose thermofoil or wood veneer doors over laminate for a more rich, authentic wood look that holds up better.
  • Opt for plywood construction at 3⁄4” thickness instead of particle board or MDF to reduce potential for sagging.
  • Don’t skimp on functional hardware like drawer glides. Upgrade to soft-close features to prevent slamming and damage.
  • Apply cabinet wax or linseed oil regularly per manufacturer instructions to protect the finish.
  • Handle cabinets with care during assembly, installation and use. Use finish touch up pens on nicks and scratches.

While no cabinetry is impervious to damage, focusing on better materials can help RTA cabinets maintain their structural integrity and appearance for longer.

RTA Cabinet Brand Comparison

Here is an overview of some of the most popular RTA cabinet brands along with a comparison of their key features:

Hampton Bay

  • Offered exclusively at The Home Depot
  • Lower to mid-price points
  • 5⁄8” plywood box construction
  • Vinyl-wrapped or hardwood doors
  • Wood doors feature oak, maple or thermofoil finishes
  • Limited lifetime warranty


  • Sold at Home Depot and Lowe’s
  • Mid to higher price points
  • 3⁄4” plywood box construction
  • Wide range of door styles from slab to shaker
  • Durable wood and thermofoil finishes
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Allen + Roth

  • Lowe’s house brand
  • Lower to mid-price points
  • 5⁄8” plywood box construction
  • Slab, shaker and designer door offerings
  • Multiple finish options from melamine to stain-ready paint
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Ready-to-Assemble Kitchens

  • Direct online seller
  • Lower to mid-price points
  • 5⁄8” plywood box construction
  • Modern and traditional door profiles
  • Thermofoil and wood door finishes
  • 1 to 5 year warranties based on product line

Barker Cabinets

  • Online and specialty retailer
  • Mid to high price points
  • 3⁄4” plywood box construction
  • Full customization services for sizing and storage
  • Large selection of wood, laminate and thermofoil doors
  • Limited lifetime warranty

While price and warranties play a role, also consider door styles and finishes that align with your kitchen’s desired look and function. Carefully measuring your layout is key for ordering the right cabinet configurations.

Are RTA Cabinets Worth It?

At the end of the day, whether or not RTA cabinets are “worth it” comes down to your particular kitchen needs and preferences.

The upfront cost savings and customization abilities make RTA cabinets a smart choice for many homeowners. Investing time into proper assembly and care is rewarded with stylish, functional cabinets.

However, if your budget allows, pre-assembled cabinets may suit those desiring higher-end materials and construction with less hands-on work.

Analyze the pros, cons and comparisons. Look at RTA cabinet reviews and talk to retailers. Weigh your priorities like budget, features and installation considerations. At the end of your research, you’ll know if RTA cabinets are a good fit or if you’re better served with pre-assembled cabinetry. With realistic expectations of the trade-offs, RTA cabinets can be an affordable and satisfying option for achieving your dream kitchen design.

Are RTA Cabinets Good Compared to Prefab Cabinets?

Ready to assemble (RTA) and prefabricated (prefab) kitchen cabinets share similarities as more affordable alternatives to custom cabinetry. But there are differences between RTA vs prefab to consider.

What are Prefab Cabinets?

Prefabricated kitchen cabinets are factory-built in standard sizes just like RTA cabinets. However, prefab cabinets show up fully constructed, minus the doors and drawers. They only require installation versus assembly.

Prefab cabinet components like side walls, bases, tops and shelves are constructed using particle board, MDF or plywood. The materials are cut to size, assembled into a box and sprayed with a laminate or wood veneer finish.

Doors and drawers are sent separately to reduce the bulk of shipping pre-hung units. Homeowners or installers attach the matching doors and drawers to complete the full cabinets once positioned in place.

Main Differences Between Prefab and RTA Cabinets

While budget-friendly and sized universally, there are clear distinctions between prefab and RTA:

  • Construction: Prefab cabinets are pre-assembled boxes without fronts. RTA cabinets come packed flat in pieces needing assembly.
  • Materials: Prefab uses more solid wood or wood veneers. RTA relies on particle board or MDF substrate.
  • Hardware: Prefab cabinets include pre-installed shelves and glides. RTA requires installing your own hardware.
  • Lead time: Prefab cabinets are mass-produced for quicker delivery. RTA takes time to ship, assemble and install.
  • Customization: RTA offers more mix and match options for cabinet sizes and storage accessories. Prefab has set configurations.
  • Price: RTA cabinets are generally the more affordable choice over prefab. But quality comparisons should also be made.
  • Installation: Prefab installs faster as full units just needing doors attached. RTA requires assembly knowledge which can consume more time.

Pros and Cons of Prefab vs. RTA Cabinets

Here is a look at the main advantages and disadvantages of prefabricated and ready-to-assemble cabinets:

Prefab Cabinet Pros

  • Faster installation of pre-built boxes
  • Higher quality materials like solid wood
  • Factory-installed shelves and hardware
  • Optimum fit and finish when buying matching doors
  • Potentially longer warranties than RTA

Prefab Cabinet Cons

  • More limited cabinet size and layout options
  • Pricing can be higher than RTA options
  • Need accurate measurements for door/drawer fit
  • Scratches and damage easier to spot on real wood

RTA Cabinet Pros

  • Greater cost savings over prefab cabinets
  • Total customization of sizes and configurations
  • Easier shipping of flat boxes than bulky cabinets
  • Wider variety of budget-friendly door styles
  • Easy to replace individual damaged pieces

RTA Cabinet Cons

  • Assembly can be challenging and time-consuming
  • Particleboard prone to scratches and moisture damage
  • Improper assembly can lead to issues down the road
  • Shorter warranties due to cheaper materials
  • Cannot see finished product before purchase

Key Takeaways – Prefab vs RTA Cabinets

  • For DIYers on a tight budget, RTA makes the most sense
  • Homeowners wanting faster installation and real wood may favor prefab
  • RTA allows customizing sizes; prefab has universal standard sizing
  • Prefab cabinetry generally comes with longer warranties than RTA versions
  • Evaluate quality of materials and hardware when comparing options
  • Consider skill level for assembly (RTA) versus precise measurement (prefab)
  • Both offer an affordable alternative to full custom cabinetry

In summary, RTA and prefab cabinets both offer streamlined production to meet demand for budget-friendly kitchen and bath cabinet options. RTA lets you tailor configurations with more convenience. Prefab promotes faster, higher quality installation. Determine which balances your skills, timeline, budget and design goals to make the best choice.

What are the Best Quality RTA Cabinets?

If opting for ready-to-assemble over prefabricated cabinets, you’ll want to choose a high-quality RTA cabinet brand and line. The best RTA cabinets balance affordability and durability. Here are some top options to consider:

Barker Cabinets

Barker ranks among the best RTA cabinet brands due to their made in the USA construction and materials. Their Signature line has solid wood doors and 3⁄4” plywood box construction with furniture board backs. Durable surfaces include wood veneers, thermofoil and Alder wood. Soft-close doors and drawers are standard. Barker Cabinets supplies direct and partners with Lowe’s for certain products. They offer a limited lifetime warranty.

KraftMaid Cabinetry

KraftMaid is a trusted brand sold through Home Depot and Lowe’s. Their RTA products include the Premium and Select lines. Both tout 3⁄4” thick plywood cabinet box construction with natural birch interior. The Select line includes KraftMaid’s exclusive Duracraft PureFinish which is an extremely durable low-VbC finish. KraftMaid warranties their RTA cabinets for life.

Hampton Bay

As Home Depot’s house brand, Hampton Bay covers the spectrum from value to quality RTA cabinets. Their Hampton Assemblies line hits a sweet spot with solid wood doors, plywood sides, and soft-close drawer glides. Thermofoil cabinet finishes offer scratch, moisture and UV resistance. Choose mid-grade over base models for thicker plywood construction. Lifetime warranties provide peace of mind.

Ready-to-Assemble Kitchens

This online retailer’s premium Aspen line makes the list for best RTA cabinets. With solid wood doors, 3⁄4” plywood boxes with wood veneer interiors, full extension soft-close drawer glides, and concealed cabinet hinges, Aspen delivers high-end features for 20-40% less. Their Lifetime Plus warranty covers defects, door warping, and replacement parts making them a sound long-term investment. Diamond Line

The Diamond line from provides a quality RTA option combining durability and affordability. Highlights include 1⁄2” pure bamboo sides, 3⁄4” furniture board tops and bottoms, soft-close mechanisms, and premium finishes. Matching butcher block and organizer accessories allow for customization.Their lifetime warranty on materials and craftsmanship adds value.


While affordable, IKEA’s SEKTION line makes strides in eco-friendly manufacturing and materials. Their substrate wood is FSC certified with 10% recycled content. Door fronts are solid wood or durable thermofoil with wood fibers. Soft-close dampers are standard. Thicker side panels reduce noise. Cabinets stay true and closed with BLUM hinges. This quality comes with IKEA’s limited 25 year warranty.

Key Takeaways

Focus on reputable brands known for quality engineering and construction. Look for 3⁄4” plywood boxes, furniture grade wood, soft-close hardware and durable finishes. The longer the warranty coverage the better, with lifetime warranties preferable for maximum protection. Taking time to assemble cabinets properly will help them last. Choosing one of the best RTA cabinet brands means your project starts and ends on a positive note.

Are RTA Cabinets Easy to Assemble?

Putting together ready-to-assemble cabinets requires some mechanical inclination and elbow grease, but the assembly process is quite straightforward. Here are some tips for easily assembling RTA cabinets like a pro:

Read Instructions Care