Materials Used in RTA Cabinets

RTA cabinet companies use many of the same materials found in custom cabinetry. This includes:


Particleboard, MDF (medium density fiberboard), and plywood are common. Solid wood is sometimes used for doors and drawers. Oak, maple, and thermofoil laminate are popular RTA cabinet materials. Durability and stain acceptance vary.


Thermofoil, melamine, wood veneer, and painted finishes are available. High-gloss thermofoil is very durable. Wood veneer offers a traditional look. Melamine is prone to chipping. Painted finishes show wear over time.


Look for soft-close hinges and full extension drawers. Sturdy undermount metal drawer glides are preferable to plastic glides. Stainless steel or solid brass hardware is best.

Assembly Materials

Quality cam lock fasteners provide stability. Some brands use wood joinery techniques like dovetail drawers. Thicker face frames and cabinet sides add strength. Backed by strong warranties, high-end assembly materials ensure structural integrity over decades of use.

Construction and Build Quality

For RTA cabinets to withstand years of wear and tear, they must be engineered for durability. Here are key construction details to evaluate:

Frameless vs. Framed Cabinet Box

Frameless cabinets maximize interior space with thin sides and vertical fronts. Framed cabinets have wider face frames and set-back doors. Frameless is more contemporary; framed more traditional. Both can be high quality.


Look for dovetail joinery and reinforced bottoms. Check that drawers are aligned and open/close smoothly. Handex and Side Mount are quality drawer guide brands.


Check for consistently sized reveals and gap-free corners. Try opening/closing doors to ensure proper alignment. Quality doors should sit flush against frames.


Shelves should be thick and sturdily supported by clips or pins. They shouldn’t sag or bow when weighed down. Adjustable shelving allows customization.


Butcher block, granite, solid surface, and laminate countertops are commonly available. Match quality to cabinet durability so surfaces aren’t replacing lasting cabinet boxes.

Finished Ends

Finished cabinet ends improve aesthetics and moisture protection. Raw end cuts can swell and peel over time if not properly sealed.


Several organizations offer certification programs for structural integrity, quality assurance, and environmental standards:

  • KCMA: Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association testing evaluates structural tests, finish adherence, function, and more.
  • CARB: California Air Resources Board compliance indicates low formaldehyde emissions.
  • ANSI: American National Standards Institute approval is another mark of quality.

Comparison by Price Point

Higher price points often indicate thicker materials, more durable finishes and hardware, and sturdier assembly.

Budget (under $100 per cabinet)

Budget RTA lines typically feature laminates and lower grade plywood. Stock sizes and limited customization keep costs down. Budget hardware is serviceable but won’t last decades. Great option for a starter or rental kitchen.

Mid-Range ($100-$250 per cabinet)

Offering modest customization, mid-range RTA provides wood veneer and thermofoil finishes. Sturdier hardware and framing improve structural integrity. Provides quality at moderate cost for most homeowners’ needs.

Premium (over $250 per cabinet)

Premium RTA approaches semi-custom quality with solid wood doors, dovetail joinery, and high-end finishes. Maximum customization allows complex kitchen designs. Top-notch materials and hardware justify the splurge for luxury homes.

Pros and Cons of RTA Cabinets

RTA cabinets provide an affordable, customizable option between stock and custom cabinetry. But are they right for your project? Consider the pros and cons:


  • Cost savings of 20-50% over custom cabinetry
  • Convenience of home delivery with ready-to-assemble units
  • Flexible ordering of exact sizes and configurations needed
  • Quicker installation than custom cabinets


  • Need for DIY assembly and installation
  • Increased quality control issues compared to professional fabrication
  • Limited selection compared to fully custom cabinets
  • Durability concerns if lower grade materials are used

Tips for Maximizing RTA Cabinet Quality

Follow these tips to ensure your RTA cabinetry investment provides lasting performance:

  • Inspect cabinets upon delivery before installation. Confirm all pieces are there and undamaged.
  • Check cabinet interiors and backs for finish issues normally hidden from view. Catch any flaws upfront.
  • Carefully follow instructions for assembly. Use levels, clamps, and wood glue for stability.
  • Load cabinets properly by evenly filling shelves and drawers from bottom to top. Don’t overload top cabinets.
  • Maintain cabinet finishes according to manufacturer guidelines. Use recommended cleaners and polishes.
  • Periodically inspect and tighten hardware. Adjust doors/drawers as needed to maintain proper alignment.

Achieving Custom Looks with RTA Cabinets

One concern with RTA cabinets is achieving a high-end, customized look. With strategic design choices, RTA can emulate custom aesthetics:

  • Mix cabinet door styles like Shaker, inset, and slab within the same kitchen
  • Consider two-tone designs with different stains or paint colors
  • Incorporate architectural details like glass fronts, corbels, and decorative feet
  • Upgrade to premium hardware in finishes like matte black, brushed nickel, or unlacquered brass
  • Use trim molding for added shape and detail
  • Add specialty inserts like glass doors, wine racks, and open shelving

Final Thoughts on RTA Cabinet Quality

While buying any product sight unseen comes with some risk, reputable RTA cabinet brands combine quality materials, durable finishes, robust construction, and strong warranties to minimize the downsides of remote ordering.

By diligently vetting specifications, assessing reviews, confirming certifications, and validating warranties, homeowners can feel confident quality RTA cabinets will perform well for years. Careful assembly and maintenance will maximize their lifespan. RTA represents a proven product category that balances affordability, customization, and enduring quality.