Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets have become increasingly popular in recent years as an affordable and convenient alternative to custom cabinetry. However, some critics argue that RTA cabinets are lower quality and won’t stand the test of time. So are RTA cabinets really junk, or are they a smart option for certain budgets and projects? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.
What are RTA Cabinets?
RTA cabinets, sometimes known as flat pack or kit cabinets, are sold unassembled in a flat box. The cabinets typically come with all the parts and hardware needed for assembly. RTA cabinets can be made from materials like particleboard, MDF, plywood, melamine, and solid wood.
The convenience of RTA comes from being able to transport the cabinets easily and put them together yourself or with a helper rather than paying for professional installation. However, this same convenience is also one of the biggest drawbacks for some consumers.
Pros of RTA Cabinets
Price: The main appeal of RTA cabinets is their affordable price point. Pre-assembled custom cabinetry can cost 5-10x more than RTA options. If you’re on a tight budget, RTA cabinets make renovations possible.
Customization: Many RTA cabinet brands allow you to customize the cabinet sizes, materials, finishes, and features. This allows you to get semi-custom cabinets without the custom price tag.
Convenience: RTA cabinets are designed for convenient transport and DIY assembly. No need to coordinate professional installation or maneuver bulky pre-assembled cabinets into place.
Quick Renovations: Because you can install RTA cabinets yourself in most cases, you can complete cabinet renovations much quicker than with custom cabinetry that requires professional installation.
Resale Value: While not equal in value to custom cabinets, RTA cabinets can still recoup a decent percentage of their cost in home resale. They offer an affordable renovation option that adds value.
Cons of RTA Cabinets
Materials: RTA cabinets typically utilize cheaper materials like particleboard instead of plywood or solid wood. There are some durable options, but many RTA cabinets sacrifice quality for price.
DIY Installation: While convenient, DIY installation also opens the door for incorrect or poor quality installation if you don’t have the necessary skills. This can lead to issues down the road.
Durability Issues: With cheaper materials and amateur installation, RTA cabinets are generally not as durable as custom cabinets and may show wear and tear sooner.
Can’t View Before Buying: Since RTA cabinets ship flat-packed, you can’t see the finished product or inspect quality before purchase like you can with pre-assembled cabinets.
No Professional Touches: RTA cabinets lack those perfect finishing touches that come with professional installation. The end result may look more obviously DIY.
Are RTA Cabinets Junk?
So are RTA cabinets junk and not worth purchasing? Not necessarily. RTA cabinets can be a smart choice for tight budgets, DIYers, and quick renovations. The trade-off comes in terms of long-term durability and fit/finish results vs. custom cabinetry.
RTA cabinets are best suited to:
- Rental properties and flips where maximizing profit is key
- Budget kitchen and bathroom renovations
- DIYers who are comfortable with installation
- Homeowners who want to save on installation costs
Those looking for highest quality materials, professional installation, and lifetime durability would do better investing in custom cabinetry.
Tips for Choosing Quality RTA Cabinets
Focus on these factors if choosing RTA cabinets:
- Solid wood doors and drawers: Avoid cheap particleboard doors which can warp. Opt for plywood or solid wood.
- Plywood boxes: Particleboard boxes are prone to swelling and sagging. Choose plywood construction.
- Soft-close hardware: Look for soft-close slides and hinges for smoother operation.
- Durable finishes: Opt for thermally fused laminate or wood veneers rather than basic melamine.
- Quality materials: Look at the materials used throughout like drawer glides and shelf supports.
While RTA cabinets are often inexpensive, you get what you pay for in terms of materials, construction, and installation. For some homeowners, the trade-offs are well worth the budget price. For others seeking maximum quality and durability, custom cabinetry is the better choice. Consider your budget, timeline, and project goals when deciding what’s right for you. With realistic expectations of the pros and cons, RTA cabinets can be a satisfactory and budget-friendly choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are RTA cabinets low quality?
RTA cabinets are often made with cheaper materials like particleboard, so they generally don’t match the quality of real wood custom cabinets. But there are durable RTA options available, like those using plywood construction and solid wood doors.
How long do RTA cabinets last?
With proper care and gentle use, RTA cabinets can last 10-15 years. Opting for more durable materials and installing correctly helps extend the lifespan. They generally won’t last as long as custom cabinets.
Should I get RTA or custom cabinets?
Custom cabinets are better for those prioritizing quality and lifetime use. RTA makes sense for rentals, flipping houses, budget renovations, and DIY installs. Consider your budget, skills, and project goals.
Can RTA cabinets look high end?
While RTA cabinets won’t match the fit and finish of expert custom cabinetry, certain upgrades can help them look more high-end. Opt for solid wood doors, durable finishes, and decorative hardware. Good installation also helps.
Are RTA cabinets worth it?
For the right situations, yes. The convenience and affordability make RTA cabinets worth it for many homeowners doing renovations on a budget. Just don’t expect designer-level quality. Manage expectations, focus on durability, and install properly.
RTA cabinets offer an affordable DIY solution that makes kitchen and bath renovations possible for many homeowners. While they are often made with less expensive materials and lack professional installation, RTA cabinets can still be a functional and cost-effective option when chosen carefully and properly installed. Focus on durable construction and materials to maximize quality and longevity within the limitations of factory-direct cabinetry. With realistic expectations, RTA cabinets can be an ideal and budget-friendly choice for the right homeowner.