Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets have become increasingly popular in recent years for homeowners and contractors looking for an affordable and customizable kitchen cabinet option. RTA cabinets come in boxes as individual pieces that require assembly before installation. Here is a detailed overview of how RTA cabinets are shipped and what to expect when your order arrives.

What are RTA Cabinets?

RTA stands for “ready-to-assemble”. RTA cabinets come unassembled in flat boxes, with all the parts and hardware included for the owner or contractor to put together themselves. The cabinets are typically made from materials like particle board, plywood, or MDF, with a laminate or veneer finish.

The main benefits of choosing RTA cabinets include:

  • Lower Cost – Pre-assembled cabinets are more expensive since the manufacturer charges for the assembly labor. RTA cabinets save on this cost.
  • Customization – RTA cabinets can be modified and customized more easily compared to pre-assembled cabinets.
  • Convenience – The flat-packed cabinets are easier to transport and fit into tight spaces.

While assembly is required, RTA cabinets offer an affordable way to get high-quality cabinets with the exact size and features you want.

How Are RTA Cabinets Shipped?

RTA cabinet boxes, doors, drawers, and hardware are carefully packaged and shipped in several large cardboard boxes. Here is what you can expect when your order arrives:

Cabinet Boxes

The main cabinet components like sides, tops, bottoms and shelves are shipped flat-packed. These pieces are pre-cut from wood/MDF to the correct dimensions but require assembly. The cabinet parts are individually wrapped or packed together based on the cabinet design.

Doors and Drawers

Pre-assembled cabinet doors and drawers are packed in separate boxes with foam or cardboard between each piece to prevent scratching. The doors are hinged but detached from the cabinets. Drawers will be built but not mounted.


Screws, hinges, drawer slides and any cabinet accessories are packaged in labeled bags or small boxes so they don’t get lost. Any required tools like screwdrivers may also be included.


Clear instructions with diagrams and a hardware list will be provided to guide the assembly process. Some companies also include YouTube video links for visual guidance.

Depending on the size of the order, RTA cabinets can arrive in as little as 3 boxes for a small project or up to 15+ boxes for a whole kitchen. Always have an extra person available to help unload and inspect all the packages.

How Are RTA Cabinets Assembled?

Assembling RTA cabinets is a fairly straightforward process though some basic DIY skills are required. Here are the key steps:

1. Read Instructions

Thoroughly read and familiarize yourself with the assembly directions before beginning. Also watch any accompanying video tutorials.

2. Organize Hardware & Parts

Unpack all the boxes and organize hardware packs and cabinet parts. Confirm you have received everything on the hardware list.

3. Assemble Boxes

Start with assembling the cabinet box structures first. Identify and attach side panels, tops, bottoms and shelves using screws/cams included in the hardware packs.

4. Add Doors and Drawers

Once cabinet boxes are assembled, mount the doors and attach hinges. Insert the drawer slides and mount built drawers into the appropriate openings.

5. Adjust and Install

Make any final adjustments to doors/drawers to ensure proper alignment and function. Then the cabinets are ready for installation!

Tips for Smooth Assembly

  • Use power tools like an electric drill to save time and effort.
  • Work on a smooth, clean surface with room to spread out components.
  • Follow instructions carefully and organize hardware and parts.
  • Get help lifting and installing large cabinets.
  • Adjust doors/drawers carefully for proper clearance.

With some time and patience, assembling RTA cabinets is very manageable. The end result will be beautiful, customized cabinets at significant cost savings!

Frequently Asked Questions About RTA Cabinets

How long does it take to assemble RTA cabinets?

It usually takes 2-3 hours for an experienced DIYer to assemble a standard kitchen set of 10-15 cabinets. Larger orders may take 5-10 hours over several days. Hiring professional help expedites the process.

Can RTA cabinets be returned if damaged or defective?

Most companies allow returns within a specified window if cabinets arrive damaged or with defective components. Contact the company immediately if issues are noticed. Save all packaging materials.

Are RTA cabinets lower quality than pre-assembled cabinets?

Not inherently. RTA cabinets from reputable brands are constructed from the same materials like solid wood, plywood and MDF. The only difference is pre-assembly, not fundamental quality.

Can the assembly of RTA cabinets be outsourced?

Yes. Some cabinet suppliers offer assembly as an add-on service for an additional fee. Some independent contractors also specialize in RTA cabinet assembly.

Do all RTA cabinet hardware pieces come labeled?

Most manufacturers clearly label hardware packs and parts. However, carefully reading instructions to understand the labeling system is still important for proper assembly.


RTA or ready-to-assemble cabinets provide a versatile and budget-friendly solution for any kitchen or cabinetry project. The unpacking and assembly process is straightforward with adequate preparation and the right tools. Investing some sweat equity into assembly yields beautiful, high-quality cabinets tailored to your needs at a fraction of the cost of custom pre-assembled cabinetry. With the help of detailed instructions and perhaps some additional assistance for heavy lifting, RTA cabinets are an excellent choice for many homeowners and contractors alike.