Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets have become increasingly popular for homeowners and contractors looking for budget-friendly options. RTA cabinets come unassembled with all the necessary parts and hardware included. You assemble them yourself, allowing manufacturers to save on labor and shipping costs. This translates into significant savings for consumers.

If you’re interested in getting into the RTA cabinet business, you likely have questions about the manufacturing process. Below, we’ll explore how these cabinets are made so you can determine if starting your own RTA cabinet production is feasible.

How Are RTA Cabinets Manufactured?

The manufacturing of RTA cabinets involves several key steps:

1. Design and Prototyping

The process starts with designing cabinet styles and testing prototypes. Manufacturers develop plans for every cabinet component, including:

  • Doors
  • Drawers
  • Shelves
  • Sides
  • Tops
  • Bottoms
  • Back panels
  • Hardware

Prototypes are built and evaluated for durability, ease of assembly, and aesthetic appeal. Adjustments are made until the manufacturer lands on finalized designs.

2. Material Selection and Sourcing

RTA manufacturers choose wood materials like particle board, MDF, plywood, and solid wood. The type of material depends on the cabinet’s price point and quality level. Hardware and other components are also sourced from vendors.

To keep costs low, many manufacturers import materials from countries with cheaper labor and resources, such as China. Domestic sourcing is also an option, especially for higher-end cabinetry.

3. Cutting and Machining

Computer-guided machines cut wood sheets and parts to size based on the cabinet designs. This high level of automation increases cutting precision and optimizes the use of materials. Machines can cut multiple cabinet parts from the same sheet.

The necessary joints, grooves, holes, and edge profiles are also machined into the parts so they fit together seamlessly during assembly.

4. Sanding and Laminating

Edges of cabinet parts are sanded smooth. If the cabinets have laminate finishes, laminate sheets are pressed onto flat wood panels using industrial rollers. Doors, side panels, and tops often receive laminate finishes.

5. Assembly and Hardware Installation

Workers or automated systems assemble cabinet boxes, doors, and drawers. Hinges, drawer slides, shelf pins, and other hardware are installed using fasteners or presses.

6. Packaging

Finished cabinet components are protected with cardboard, foam, plastic film, and other packaging materials. They are boxed along with the hardware and comprehensive assembly instructions.

7. Shipping

Boxes are loaded onto pallets and shipped via road or rail to distributors, retailers, contractor yards, and directly to consumers.

Equipment Needed for RTA Cabinet Manufacturing

Producing RTA cabinets requires significant upfront investment in factory space and equipment. Here is some of the key machinery involved:

  • Saws – Table saws, panel saws, and chop saws for cutting boards, plywood, MDF, etc. Computer-controlled saws increase speed and accuracy.
  • Drill presses – For boring shelf pin holes and other hardware holes. CNC drill presses provide automation.
  • Edge banders – Applies edge banding tape to cabinet parts like door fronts. Automated edge banders increase throughput.
  • Borers – Bores holes for European hinges and hardware.
  • Laminating machines – Presses laminate onto panels using rollers.
  • CNC routers – For precision cutting, drilling, and milling cabinet parts.
  • Finishing equipment – Spray booths, sanders, staining machines if offering finished cabinetry.
  • Assembly tables – For putting together cabinet boxes, doors, and drawers.
  • Packaging equipment – Shrink wrap machines, pallet wrappers, etc.

Other important equipment includes forklifts, dust collection systems, jigs, and hand tools for assembly and quality control. The initial machinery investment for an RTA cabinet factory can easily exceed $500k.

Key Factors for Starting an RTA Cabinet Manufacturing Business

Launching an RTA cabinet production business involves evaluating many factors:

  • Startup costs – Require significant capital for factory space, equipment, materials, labor, shipping, etc. Financing options include loans, investors, crowdfunding.
  • Target market – Most manufacturers focus on contractors, builders, home improvement centers, kitchen and bath showrooms. Decide on your customers.
  • Production capacity – Consider starting small (5,000-10,000 cabinets per year) and expanding. Balance production costs, labor, and growth.
  • Product offering – Determine cabinet styles, materials, finishes, hardware levels, and price points. Start with core offerings.
  • Quality control – Rigorous quality control procedures are vital for success and reputation. Carefully inspect materials, processes, finished products.
  • Sourcing and suppliers – Establish reliable, cost-effective sources for materials, hardware, packaging, laminates, and outsourced services.
  • Assembly design – Design cabinets for efficient, frustration-free assembly. Create clear instructions with illustrations. Test assembly before finalizing.
  • Distribution channels – Decide on selling directly to customers, via wholesalers, through retailers, or some combination.

By evaluating these key factors, you can determine if starting an RTA cabinet manufacturing business aligns with your goals, risk tolerance, and available capital.

Frequently Asked Questions About RTA Cabinet Manufacturing

Below are some common questions people have about manufacturing ready-to-assemble cabinets:

How much does it cost to start an RTA cabinet manufacturing business?

The startup costs can range from $150,000 to over $1 million. Key costs include manufacturing equipment, factory leasing, materials and labor, product development, marketing. Significant capital or financing is usually required.

What kind of skills do I need to start an RTA cabinet factory?

Knowledge of cabinetry design, carpentry, furniture manufacturing, and engineering are very helpful. Business management skills are also important. Many entrepreneurs partner with experts in certain areas to complement their skills.

Can I manufacture RTA cabinets in a small shop?

It’s possible but challenging. Small manufacturing shops usually outsource certain processes like laminating. Limited space also makes inventory management and material handling less efficient. High-volume automated factories generally offer the lowest per-cabinet production costs.

What types of wood are used to make RTA cabinets?

Particleboard, MDF, plywood, and solid wood are common. Melamine-coated panels are also widely used for cabinet boxes. Solid wood is reserved for visible areas like doors, drawer fronts, and face frames. The materials used impact the quality, cost, and assembly process.

How much does it cost to ship RTA cabinets?

Shipping cost depends on weight, distance, and mode of transport. LTL (less than truckload) transport averages $2-$4 per mile for a few thousand pounds. Full truckloads are more efficient for longer distances. Overseas shipping in containers is another option but involves longer lead times.


Manufacturing ready-to-assemble cabinets is an attractive business but requires substantial startup capital and expertise. By understanding the equipment needs, startup costs, target markets, and other key factors, entrepreneurs can determine if starting an RTA cabinet production factory aligns with their goals and capabilities. With proper planning and execution, RTA cabinet manufacturing can provide a rewarding opportunity to meet demand in the home improvement market.