Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets have become an increasingly popular option for homeowners looking to renovate their kitchens on a budget. RTA cabinets come flat-packed and require some assembly before installation. While the DIY nature of RTA cabinets appeals to many homeowners’ desires to save money, some wonder whether the quality and durability ultimately make RTA cabinets worth the investment. In this article, we’ll examine the pros and cons of RTA cabinets to help you decide if they are the right choice for your next kitchen remodel.

The Pros of RTA Cabinets

RTA cabinets offer several advantages that make them an attractive choice for many homeowners:

Lower Cost

The most significant advantage of RTA cabinets is their lower price point compared to custom or semi-custom cabinetry. Because RTA cabinets ship flat and require assembly, manufacturers are able to save on shipping and labor costs. These savings get passed on to the consumer, with RTA cabinets typically costing 25-50% less than other cabinet options. If you’re looking to remodel on a tight budget, RTA cabinets can help you actualize your dream kitchen without breaking the bank.


In addition to being more affordable, RTA cabinets are also convenient. Instead of having to coordinate professional installation, RTA cabinets ship directly to your door. Many homeowners actually enjoy the process of assembling their own cabinets. The assembly instructions are generally straightforward, using simple tools like screwdrivers and drills. Choosing RTA cabinets means you can remodel your kitchen on your own timeline instead of having to wait weeks or months for custom cabinet orders and professional installation.


Another advantage of RTA cabinets is the ability to customize your order. Many RTA manufacturers offer a range of in-stock cabinet sizes, finishes, and accessories. While you won’t have the full customization abilities you’d find with made-to-order cabinets, you can still select cabinet configurations, hardware, and finishes to suit your unique style. Being able to customize RTA cabinets means you don’t have to settle for an out-of-the-box design.

Quality Materials

Gone are the days when RTA meant low quality. Today’s RTA cabinets are made from durable materials like plywood boxes, soft-close hinges and drawers, and solid wood doors and frames. Many use the same high-quality materials found in more expensive cabinetry. Opting for RTA doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality craftsmanship.

The Cons of RTA Cabinets

However, RTA cabinets do come with some downsides to consider before making your purchase:


Putting cabinets together on your own could lead to installation challenges or mistakes. If cabinets aren’t properly aligned or secured, it could impact your entire kitchen layout. Without professional help, ensuring your RTA cabinets are level and plumb can be tricky. Unless you’re very handy, you may end up calling in a carpenter anyway to adjust or reinforce your DIY efforts.

Potential for Damage

Because RTA cabinets ship flat-packed, there’s an increased risk of arriving damaged, whether from the manufacturer or in transit. Receiving damaged cabinets could set your renovation timeline back weeks while replacement parts arrive. Inspecting RTA cabinets thoroughly before acceptance is crucial.

Limited Sizes and Configurations

The customization options with RTA cabinets only go so far. If you have an unusually shaped kitchen or very specific size requirements, RTA cabinets likely won’t be able to accommodate your needs. The majority of RTA manufacturers offer set cabinet sizes and limited modifications. Unique kitchen layouts may call for the true customization abilities of a cabinetmaker.

Shorter Lifespan

While RTA cabinets offer plenty of quality features, most manufacturers estimate their lifespan to be about 10-15 years. Comparatively, custom-made cabinets often last 20 years or longer. The expected lifespan of RTA cabinets is likely shorter due to materials susceptible to swelling and warping after repeated assemble/disassemble. Handle them carefully during assembly and installation to maximize their longevity.

Are RTA Cabinets Worth the Investment?

Whether RTA cabinets are “worth it” depends on your specific kitchen remodel goals and budget. If you’re looking for significant cost savings and don’t mind a DIY cabinet assembly, RTA cabinets present an attractive option. However, if customization is important or you have any concerns about achieving a quality finished product, then RTA cabinets may not be the best choice.

When deciding, consider these factors:

  • Budget – What is your overall remodel budget? RTA cabinets can stretch your dollars further.
  • Timeline – How soon do you hope to complete the remodel? RTA cabinets ship quickly.
  • Kitchen layout – Do you have any unique size or configuration needs? RTA cabinets offer less customization.
  • Skill level – How comfortable are you assembling cabinets on your own? DIY-installation is required with RTA.
  • Quality concerns – Are you willing to risk potential damage or defects? Inspect RTA cabinets carefully pre-assembly.
  • Expected longevity – Do you plan to be in the home long-term? RTA cabinets may have a slightly shorter lifespan.

Carefully weighing these factors will determine if cheaper, convenient RTA cabinets are a smart investment for your kitchen remodel or if you’re better served spending more on custom cabinetry. Either option can give you a beautiful, functional kitchen when properly installed. Selecting the right cabinetry for your budget and lifestyle is key.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do RTA cabinets last?

Most RTA cabinets come with a 10-15 year manufacturer’s warranty. With proper care and maintenance, you can expect your RTA cabinets to last for at least that long, if not longer. The expected lifespan is slightly less than custom cabinetry.

Are RTA cabinets lower quality?

RTA cabinets were associated with lower quality materials in the past, but today’s manufacturing standards have improved greatly. Reputable RTA brands use durable plywood boxes, solid wood doors and drawers, and soft-close hardware. Quality is very comparable to custom cabinetry.

Can I customize RTA cabinets?

Yes, many RTA manufacturers offer customization options for cabinet sizes, finishes, and storage configurations. The customization is more limited than working directly with a cabinetmaker, but you’ll still have flexibility to personalize your order.

How difficult is RTA cabinet assembly?

Assembling RTA cabinets is considered medium difficulty, using common tools and following step-by-step instructions. Some expertise with carpentry helps, as properly aligning and leveling cabinets during install is crucial. Professional assistance may be needed.

How do I choose good quality RTA cabinets?

Opt for plywood box construction, solid wood doors and drawers, soft-close hardware, and durable finishes. Look for reputable brands and read reviews carefully. Inspect cabinets upon arrival before accepting delivery. Quality materials and manufacturing make durable RTA cabinets.


RTA cabinets offer homeowners an affordable way to remodel their kitchens with contemporary styles and features. Thanks to quality materials and customization options, RTA cabinets are a viable alternative to more expensive cabinetry. However, some assembly and installation challenges remain. Assessing your budget, skills, and remodel goals will determine if lower-cost RTA cabinets are worth it for your situation. Careful selection and handling of RTA cabinets can deliver beautiful, functional results that stand the test of time.