Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets offer a convenient and budget-friendly way to remodel your kitchen. However, one common concern is whether RTA cabinet depths can be customized. With some advanced planning and DIY skills, altering the depth of RTA cabinets is certainly possible. Here’s an in-depth look at how to change the depth of RTA cabinets to better suit your space and storage needs.

What Are RTA Cabinets?

RTA or ready-to-assemble cabinets come flat-packed with all the pieces and hardware needed for assembly. They typically consist of cabinet boxes made from materials like particleboard, doors, drawers, and accessories. Compared to custom cabinetry, RTA cabinets are far more affordable and can be conveniently assembled on your own timeline.

The standard kitchen cabinet depth is 25 inches deep. However, RTA cabinets are available in various sizes from 12 to 36 inches deep. 24 inches is another popular depth. Choosing the right depth is important to maximize storage and fit the layout of your kitchen.

While custom cabinets can be built to any measurements, off-the-shelf RTA cabinets are mass-produced in standard sizes. Altering the depth involves some DIY modifications covered in this article.

Can You Increase Depth of RTA Cabinets?

Yes, it’s possible to increase the depth of ready-to-assemble cabinets up to several inches. This allows you to gain more interior storage space if you have an especially deep kitchen space.

Some ways to increase RTA cabinet depth include:

Attaching Wood Filler Strips

Adding wood filler strips to the back of the cabinet box is the easiest way to increase depth. Plywood, hardwood, or MDF can be cut to size and screwed into place along the top, bottom, and sides on the cabinet’s backside. A filler strip depth of 1⁄2 to 3 inches is common.

Replacing Back Panel with Thicker Material

The back panel of RTA cabinets is typically 1⁄4 inch thick. Replacing it with a thicker plywood panel such as 1⁄2 inch is another option to gain depth. The side panels may also need to be replaced if changing the back panel thickness.

Expanding the Cabinet Box

For a more involved modification, the cabinet box itself can be expanded. This may involve replacing the side, top and bottom panels completely with larger cut pieces. Additional joinery and reinforcements are required to maintain sturdiness when expanding the cabinet box.

Adding Corbels or Columns

Rather than modifying the cabinet itself, you can increase depth by adding decorative corbels or columns on the front face. 3-5 inch corbels can be installed below wall cabinets or at the countertop to provide a deeper look. This also creates an ornamental style.

Using Filler Panels

Thicker filler panels can be installed between cabinets and the wall to add depth. MDF or decorative panels like beadboard or tile can add up to several inches of space while also creating a more finished look compared to drywall. The plumbing wall is often a good spot for filler panels.

How to Decrease Depth of RTA Cabinets

For small or galley style kitchens, shallower cabinet depths may be needed. Here are some methods to decrease RTA cabinet depth:

Trim Filler Strips

Just like adding filler strips, cutting the depth of existing filler strips with a table saw is an easy fix. Trimming to 1⁄2, 1 inch, or more depth is possible. You may also need to modify the face frame for a smooth finish after trimming filler strips.

Cut Down Side Panels

Carefully cutting down the side panels of the cabinet box is another direct way to reduce depth. A jigsaw or circular saw can be used to make straight cuts. Sanding will be required to smooth cut edges. The cabinet may also need reinforcements.

Adjust Interior Shelves and Components

Rather than altering the cabinet box, simply adjusting the placement of interior shelves, drawers, and other components can effectively decrease usable depth. You can gain a few extra inches this way without major modifications.

Use Wall Filler Strips

Thin filler strips can be installed on the wall behind shallow cabinets. This creates a built-out look for shallower cabinets to match other depths in your kitchen. The filler strips become part of the wall itself.

Add False Fronts

For base cabinets, installing a false front is a cosmetic way to reduce the visual depth. The false front creates the illusion of a shallower cabinet, while interior space remains unchanged. Door hinges will need adjustment.

Steps for Altering RTA Cabinet Depths

If you’ve decided to modify your ready-to-assemble cabinets, follow these general steps:

1. Determine Desired Depth

Finalize the new depth you need your RTA cabinets to be. Measure the space carefully to find the ideal size. Allow for countertop overhangs as well. Standard depth changes are often 1-4 inches.

2. Select Modification Method

Choose the best modification method for your skill level and how much depth change is needed. Attaching filler strips is the simplest solution for minor depth changes under 2 inches.

3. Gather Supplies

Pick up necessary supplies like lumber, plywood, hardware, wood glue, tools for cutting, and safety gear. For major modifications, have specialty tools ready for joinery, reinforcements, and sanding.

4. Disassemble Cabinets

To work on the cabinet boxes, doors, drawers, and face frames will need to be detached. Label pieces carefully during disassembly to simplify reinstallation.

5. Cut Pieces to Size

Using the cabinet’s current size and new depth measurements, carefully cut filler strips, new side panels, or other pieces needed to alter depth. A table saw ensures straight cuts, although a circular saw can also be used.

6. Install New Components

Attach any filler strips, new side panels, or other materials to modify cabinet depth. Use screws and wood glue for a durable bond.

7. Reassemble Cabinet Box

Once depth alterations are complete, reassemble the cabinet box, face frame, doors, shelves, and other original components. The modified cabinet can now be secured in your kitchen.

8. Add Trim and Fillers

Install any additional trim pieces, end panels, or filler strips needed for transitions between modified cabinets and existing areas. This provides a seamless look.

9. Adjust Doors and Drawers

Finally, adjust door hinges and drawer glides so that doors and drawers align cleanly with modified cabinet fronts. Test operation and make any final tweaks.

How Much Does It Cost to Modify Depth of RTA Cabinets?

The cost to change RTA cabinet depths ranges significantly based on extent of modifications:

  • Minor filler strips – $50-150 in supplies
  • New side panels – $150-300
  • Expanding cabinet box – $300+ and extensive labor
  • Adding corbels – $200-500
  • Thick filler panels – $100-300

Simple DIY modifications like adding thin filler strips only requires inexpensive materials and tools. But major overhauls of cabinet boxes can get expensive from sourcing thicker lumber and intensive labor.

Hiring a carpenter can cost $40-70 per hour for cabinet modifications. Complex structural changes are best left to professionals.

Tips for Altering Depth of RTA Cabinets

Keep these tips in mind for a successful project:

  • Review original cabinet construction to understand needed steps for disassembly and modifications.
  • Measure multiple times before cutting to avoid expensive mistakes.
  • Use lumber or plywood with thickness matching original cabinets for seamless results.
  • Prefinish filler strips, new panels, etc. before installing into cabinet boxes.
  • Allow ample time for adjustments to door hinges, drawer slides, and other hardware after modifying cabinet fronts.
  • Add reinforcements and wood glue to maintain structural integrity if expanding cabinet box depth.
  • Hire a carpenter for specialty skills like joinery, electrical adjustments, or major structural changes.

Desired Cabinet Depth Depends on Kitchen Size

The ideal cabinet depth for your kitchen depends on available space and layout. Here are typical recommended depths:

Small Kitchens

  • Standard Base Cabinets: 20-22 inches
  • Standard Wall Cabinets: 12 inches

Shallower cabinets maximize room in small kitchens. You can gain counter space by going down to 20 inch base cabinets. Limit upper cabinets to 12 inch depths.

Medium Kitchens

  • Standard Base Cabinets: 24 inches
  • Standard Wall Cabinets: 13 inches

The most common depth of 24 inches for base cabinets leaves ample room for storage. 13 inch upper cabinets provide sufficient space above counters.

Large Kitchens

  • Standard Base Cabinets: 27-36 inches
  • Standard Wall Cabinets: 15-18 inches

For spacious kitchens, deeper 27-30 inch cabinets store cookware with ease while larger wall cabinets become functional pantries. Extra depth adds a luxe, custom look.

Galley Kitchens

  • Base Cabinets: 18-21 inches
  • Wall Cabinets: 12 inches

Galley kitchens benefit from shallower cabinets overall. Limit upper wall cabinets to 12 inches depth. Use narrower 18-21 inch base cabinets to maximize the workspace.

Island Cabinets

  • Island Base Cabinets: 24-36 inches

Island cabinets can be much deeper, including depths of 30 inches or more for substantial storage capacity. Deeper islands with eat-in seating area are popular.

How Depth Impacts Cabinet Functionality

The depth you choose impacts the usability and storage capacity of cabinets:

  • Shallow cabinets (12-18 inches) only fit smaller items and accessories. They maximize space in cramped kitchens.
  • Standard depth cabinets (24-26 inches) easily fit dinnerware plus pots and pans. They strike a balance for accessibility.
  • Deep cabinets (30+ inches) maximize storage for large platters, appliances, and pantry items. But deep cabinets can be hard to reach into.
  • Extra deep lower cabinets (36 inches) are ideal for specialty uses like pull-out trash/recycling bins or deep drawers for pots and pans storage.
  • Standard depth uppers (13-15 inches) provide usable space without becoming too deep for the average height person to comfortably reach into.

Consider what you need to store before choosing cabinet depths. Measure your current items to determine ideal dimensions.

How Far Should Cabinets Extend Past Counter?

Standard cabinet depth extends 1-2 inches past the kitchen counter overhang for proper spacing:

Base Cabinets

Base cabinets are typically 24-25 inches deep while standard countertop depth is 25 inches. This allows base cabinets to extend 1 inch past the counter overhang.

Wall Cabinets

For wall cabinets 12-15 inches deep installed over 25-inch countertops, the cabinet depth should be 1-2 inches shy of the countertop depth. This creates a little gap for decorating.

By matching cabinet and countertop depths, you can prevent issues like banged knees or wasted space. Allowing base cabinets to slightly extend past counters maximizes storage.

How Far Off the Wall Should Cabinets Be?

Proper standard spacing from the wall for common cabinet depths is:

  • 24 inch deep cabinets: 1 inch off the wall
  • 30 inch deep cabinets: 3 inches off the wall
  • 36 inch deep cabinets: 4 inches off the wall

This spacing prevents the cabinet doors and drawers from hitting walls while fully opening. Deeper cabinets require increasing wall space.

For corner cabinets, a minimum of 2 inches of spacing allows doors to open past each other properly. Wall filler strips can help fine tune spacing.

Standard Kitchen Cabinet Dimensions

While you can modify for your unique space, here are the standard dimensions for kitchen cabinet units:

Base Kitchen Cabinets

  • Width: 18-48 inches wide
  • Height: 34 1⁄2 inches tall
  • Depth: 20-25 inches deep
  • Toe kick height: 4 1⁄2 inches
  • Countertop height: 36 inches

Common base cabinet widths are 3 feet (36 inches) for sink bases and 1 foot 6 inches (18 inches) for filler cabinets. Drawer stacks come in 18, 24, and 30 inch widths.

Wall Kitchen Cabinets

  • Width: 12-48 inches wide
  • Height: 30-36 inches tall
  • Depth: 12-24 inches deep
  • Hanging height: 54-56 inches off the floor

Standard widths for wall cabinets are 30 or 36 inches. However, 12, 18, and 24 inch widths are used for filler cabinets, pantries, or on either side of chimneys or windows.

Tall Kitchen Cabinets

  • Width: 12-48 inches wide
  • Height: 84-96 inches tall
  • Depth: 24-26 inches deep

Tall cabinets offer storage from floor to ceiling. Widths match base cabinets while providing nearly triple the storage capacity. Popular for pantry cabinets and refrigerator/freezer units.

Minimum Cabinet Size for Usability

While you can customize sizes, these minimum recommended dimensions ensure cabinets remain functional:

Minimum Base Cabinet Size

  • Width – 15 inches wide
  • Depth – 20 inches deep

Base cabinets should be at least 15 inches wide for interior accessibility. Shallower than 20 inches limits storage capacity.

Minimum Wall Cabinet Size

  • Width – 12 inches wide
  • Depth – 12 inches deep
  • Height – 24 inches tall

A minimum of 12 inch width and depth is needed for wall cabinets. Smaller dimensions limits interior space. Minimum 24 inch height fits most dinnerware.

Minimum Drawer Size

  • Width – 12-15 inches
  • Depth – 20 inches deep

For usable drawer space, experts recommend at least 12-15 inches width and 20 inches depth. This accommodates most cutlery, utensils, tools, etc.

While technically possible, smaller cabinet dimensions severely limit storage capacity and the ability to easily access contents. Carefully consider minimum sizes that actually work in your kitchen.

Factors that Determine Cabinet Depth Needs

Choosing the optimal cabinet depths involves assessing:

  • Kitchen layout and measurements
  • Depth of wall framing and available space
  • Desired look and feel
  • Current storage needs and future plans
  • Accessibility requirements and ease of use
  • Options offered by RTA cabinet brand
  • Installation considerations like plumbing or wiring

Visually map out different depth options to determine which maximizes both form and function. Collaborate with any contractors to finalize ideal cabinet dimensions.

Alternatives to Adjusting Cabinet Depth

Beyond physically altering cabinet boxes, also consider these adaptations:

  • Use angled cabinets in corners and near walls to maximize space
  • Install storage racks, organizers, or drawers inside cabinets
  • Add roll-out trays or pull out shelves to access contents in deep cabinets
  • Use racks or drawer dividers to optimize interior storage
  • Take advantage of specialty pull-out cabinets for trash, mixing bowls, spices, etc.
  • Incorporate extra storage furniture like hutches, baker’s racks or microwave stands

With some clever solutions, you can work around existing cabinet depths rather than undertaking major modifications. Accessories customize your storage configuration.

Hiring a Carpenter for Difficult Depth Modifications

Serious DIYers can handle simpler cabinet alterations like adding filler strips. But for major structural changes, a professional carpenter is recommended.

Reasons to hire a carpenter include:

  • Expanded cabinet boxes require joinery skills, cutting large pieces of plywood, and adding structural reinforcements.
  • Electrical adjustments may be needed when moving uppers to accommodate greater lower cabinet depth.
  • Specialized tools like table saws, jointers, clamps, etc can undertake cabinet modifications that are difficult with basic tools.
  • Changing door height and width significantly alters the door frame and hinges, which carpenters can properly adjust.
  • They have expertise in shimming, sanding filler strips, adding trim, and other finish work for flawless results.
  • Professionals remain focused on safety precautions when handling power tools and heavy materials.

While pro help adds cost, carpenters prevent expensive mistakes and complete modifications much faster versus DIY.

Cabinet Depth Rules of Thumb

These cabinet depth guidelines maximize functionality:

  • Default to standard 24-25 inch depth for base cabinets unless your kitchen necessitates wider or narrower.
  • Use standard 12-15 inch depth for wall cabinets, only go deeper if there’s ample room between countertop and ceiling.
  • Allow a minimum of 1 inch spacing between cabinet and wall to prevent scraping. More for deeper cabinets.
  • Ensure base cabinets extend 1-2 inches past the countertop overhang for flush look.
  • Limit upper cabinet depth to 1-2 inches less than countertop depth to avoid hitting head or shelves.
  • Only make cabinets shallower or deeper as needed based on available space and storage needs.
  • For specialty pull-outs and organizational systems, deeper cabinet depths are better.

Key Takeaways

  • Ready-to-assemble or RTA cabinets offer an affordable way to remodel, though depths are limited to standard sizes.
  • Increasing cabinet depth is possible through filler strips, new side panels, or expanding the cabinet box. This allows customization to your space.
  • Decreasing depth can be done by trimming filler strips, adjusting interior components, false fronts, or using wall filler strips.
  • Take time to fully disassemble, modify, and reinstall cabinets when adjusting depth for best results.
  • Minor depth changes are reasonably DIY, but major overhauls often require professional carpenter skills.
  • Carefully measure existing storage needs and kitchen layout when deciding on ideal cabinet depths.
  • Standard guidelines help maximize functionality, but be willing to customize depths based on your unique kitchen.

So in summary, the depth of off-the-shelf RTA cabinets can be altered with some advanced planning and cabinetry skills. This lets you customize ready-to-assemble kitchen cabinets to best suit your available space and storage needs. With the right approach, you can modify RTA cabinet depths for the perfect fit.