Assembling ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets can seem daunting, but with the right tools, patience, and step-by-step approach, it is very doable as a DIY project. Here is a comprehensive guide on how hard it is to assemble RTA cabinets and tips to make the process smooth and successful.

What are RTA Cabinets?

RTA cabinets, also known as flat pack or knockdown cabinets, come unassembled in a flat box from the manufacturer. They typically include all the cabinet parts – sides, floors, fronts, backs, and shelves along with hardware and detailed instructions for assembling them. The benefits of RTA cabinets include:

  • Cost savings – RTA cabinets are up to 50% cheaper than preassembled cabinets.
  • Convenience – Packed flat so easy to transport and fit through tight spaces.
  • Customization – Ability to choose cabinet sizes as per your exact layout.

Difficulty Level of Assembling RTA Cabinets

The assembly process of RTA cabinets ranges from beginner to moderate level DIY task, depending on the quality and design. Here are some factors that affect the difficulty:

Number of Cabinets

Assembling just a few RTA cabinets is fairly straightforward. But installing an entire kitchen set of 10-20 cabinets can be more challenging and time-consuming. Having someone to help speed up the process makes a big difference.

Cabinet Construction

Better quality plywood and strong joining mechanisms like dowels, DADO joints, etc. make the cabinets more rigid and easier to assemble compared to cheaper particle board and stapled joints.

Design Complexity

Cabinets with more drawers, pullouts, dividers, and accessories take longer to assemble than simple box cabinets. Specialized storage solutions like blind corner cabinets also add to the complexity.

How Long Does it Take to Assemble RTA Cabinets?

With practice, an experienced DIYer can assemble a standard base or wall cabinet in 15-20 minutes. For a full kitchen installation, plan on:

  • 10 linear ft simple cabinets – 6-8 hours with 1-2 people.
  • 10-15 linear ft standard cabinets – 10-15 hours over 2-3 days with 2 people.
  • 20+ linear ft complex cabinets – 15-25 hours over 3-5 days with 2+ people.

Ensure you have enough time set aside before starting the project. Having an extra set of hands speeds up the process and makes it less frustrating.

Tips for Smooth and Successful Assembly

Assembly of RTA cabinets is quite manageable with preparation and by following instructions carefully. Here are some useful tips:

  • Clear out installation area and unpack all parts to do an inventory. Order any missing or damaged pieces beforehand.
  • Read installation guide from start to finish before beginning. Also, watch manufacturer’s video tutorials for useful tips.
  • Use power tools like an electric drill for driving screws to speed up installation. A level, rubber mallet, clamps, and stud finder also help.
  • Start with wall cabinets and work from top to bottom. Install one cabinet at a time, completing it before moving to the next.
  • Check each cabinet is level and plumb before securing in place. Use shims if necessary to adjust.
  • Follow the sequence in the instructions carefully. Improper assembly can lead to instability and misalignment.
  • Take your time and don’t force pieces that don’t fit. Recheck measurements or drill new holes.
  • Use a helper for large and heavy cabinets. Make safety a priority and take breaks to avoid exhaustion.


Assembling RTA cabinets is a manageable task for DIYers with basic skills and tools, though it requires time and patience. Setting realistic expectations on the project duration and getting help goes a long way. Investing in high-quality cabinets makes the assembly easier. Following a systematic approach with proper preparations leads to a successful installation you can feel proud of.

Frequently Asked Questions About Assembling RTA Cabinets

Can I assemble RTA cabinets alone?

It is possible to assemble RTA cabinets alone if you pace yourself and work on one cabinet at a time. However, having at least one helper speeds up the process significantly and makes it much easier to manage large and heavy cabinets.

What tools do I need to assemble RTA cabinets?

Essential tools include an electric drill, drill bits, drivers, hammer, level, tape measure, stud finder, clamps, shims, mallet, and pry bar. Safety glasses and gloves are also recommended.

How tight should the screws be when assembling cabinets?

Screws should be tight enough to keep joints secure but not over-tightened. Tighten just enough so joint parts come together. Overtightening can strip screw holes.

Should I fully assemble cabinets before installing?

It’s generally easier to fully assemble the cabinets and then mount them. However, base cabinets can be partially assembled and completed after, for easier handling. Wall cabinets are lighter so fully assemble first.

Should I get help with the installation?

Yes, having an extra pair of hands makes a big difference for assembly and installing, especially for lifting heavy base cabinets and ensuring proper alignment. Even one helper speeds up the process substantially.

How much adjustment is possible if cabinets are slightly misaligned?

Small gaps under 1/8″ can be concealed with trim pieces or filler. For larger gaps, you may need to detach and re-mount the cabinets aligned. Shims can help adjust cabinets that are slightly out of plumb or level.


Assembling RTA cabinets brings great satisfaction and cost savings. With proper planning, tools, help, and by taking it slow with a systematic approach, the process can be quite smooth and successful as a DIY project. The key is having realistic time expectations, checking alignments as you go, and not rushing the process or taking shortcuts. The result will be a custom kitchen you can be proud of for years to come.