Assembling ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets can be a satisfying DIY project that allows you to upgrade your kitchen or bathroom on a budget. However, it does require time and patience to properly assemble cabinets and get them installed. So how long does it actually take to put together RTA cabinets?

What are RTA Cabinets?

RTA cabinets, also known as ready-to-assemble cabinets, are a budget-friendly option for renovating your kitchen or bathroom. RTA cabinets come packed in a flat box with all the pieces and hardware needed to assemble them.

The cabinets are typically made from materials like particle board, MDF, or plywood. The parts are pre-cut and pre-drilled, so all you need to do is join the pieces together using screws, cams, and dowels. The hardware like hinges, drawer glides, and door catches are also included.

Once assembled, RTA cabinets are indistinguishable from custom cabinetry built on site. The main advantage of choosing RTA cabinets is that they are significantly cheaper than custom cabinets. You save on installer fees by putting them together yourself.

RTA cabinets are available from home improvement stores, online retailers, and direct from manufacturers. When shopping, look for cabinets constructed using quality materials and hardware. Be sure to order matching cabinet fronts to achieve a unified look.

Factors That Determine Assembly Time

Constructing ready-to-assemble cabinets is not overly complex, but it does require time and attention to detail. Several key factors impact how long it will take to assemble RTA cabinets:

Number of Cabinets

The more cabinets you are installing, the longer the total assembly time. Even a small kitchen might have 10 or more cabinets while a larger kitchen could have 25 cabinets or more. Bathrooms usually have just a vanity cabinet and linen cabinet or two. The number of cabinets play a significant role in total assembly and installation time.

Cabinet Size

Larger cabinets like full-height pantry cabinets or wide sink base cabinets take much longer to assemble than standard 30-inch wall cabinets. The number of pieces, hardware, and shelf pins increases for larger units. Complex cabinets with roll-outs, dividers, and other storage features also add time.

Skill Level

Beginners with no prior experience assembling cabinets should expect the process to take significantly longer than skilled DIYers. A first-timer may need an hour per cabinet, while someone who has put together cabinets before could cut that time in half. Patience and taking the time to get each step right is key for beginners.


Having an open, organized workspace speeds up cabinet assembly. You need room to spread out all the cabinet parts and hardware. Ample table space makes assembly easier than trying to construct cabinets on the floor. Good lighting and tools also help streamline the process.

Hardware and Tools

Using cordless drills and drivers that are charged and having the right drill and driver bits on hand can shave time off cabinet assembly. Gathering all the required tools like hammers, pry bars, fasteners, wood glue, and safety equipment before starting cuts down on delays once you begin assembly.

Help and Supervision

Having a second person helps with cabinet assembly, especially lifting and installing them. However, too many cooks in the kitchen can also slow you down. Ideally, one skilled person can assemble while another assists as needed. Completing all your safety checks and cleaning before starting also saves time.

How Long to Assemble Kitchen Cabinets

For a complete kitchen remodel using RTA cabinets, a good rule of thumb is to estimate one hour per cabinet for assembly. So a kitchen with 20 cabinets could take approximately 20 hours to assemble. Here is a more detailed estimate based on common kitchen cabinet configurations:

  • 10 Upper Wall Cabinets – 5 to 10 hours
  • 5 Base Cabinets – 5 to 10 hours
  • 4 Drawer Cabinets – 4 to 8 hours
  • 1 Sink Base – 1 to 2 hours
  • Total Time: 15 to 30 hours

Of course, every kitchen is different. If your cabinets have more complex storage features, glass fronts, or multi-step installation processes, add more time. Having an extra set of hands can also cut down on the total assembly and installation time.

How Long to Assemble Bathroom Cabinets

Bathroom vanity and linen cabinets are generally faster and easier to assemble than larger kitchen cabinets. A typical bathroom using RTA cabinets might include:

  • 1 Vanity Cabinet – 2 to 3 hours
  • 1 Linen Cabinet – 1 to 2 hours
  • Total Time: 3 to 5 hours

Larger bathrooms could include a medicine cabinet or additional storage unit that would add to the total assembly time. But most bathroom cabinet assembly jobs can be accomplished in a weekend or less.

Again, take your time to do the job right, Especially when installing bathroom sink base cabinets and connecting plumbing. Rushing generally leads to mistakes that end up taking more time to correct.

Tips for Speeding Up RTA Cabinet Assembly

Here are some tips to help reduce total assembly and installation time when working with ready-to-assemble cabinets:

  • Read the instructions thoroughly before starting – Understand each step before picking up a screwdriver. Being familiar with how the parts fit together saves time. Also check that you have all the required hardware and tools.
  • Organize hardware and parts as you unpack – Sort screws, cams, shelf pins, and components by cabinet. This prevents hunting for the right piece when needed.
  • Work in a logical order – Start with wall cabinets and work your way down. Complete one section at a time.
  • Pre-drill holes – Stop wood from splitting and screws from sticking by pre-drilling. Use a bit slightly smaller than the screw.
  • Secure cabinets to the wall – Properly securing RTA cabinets with nails, screws, or a ledger board prevents accidents or collapse. This step is mandatory.
  • Use power tools – Cordless drills/drivers make driving screws a breeze compared to manual tools. Investing in good power tools saves labor.
  • Get help for installation – Have a second set of hands ready when it’s time to mount the cabinets on the wall for a safer and easier process.
  • Take breaks – Assembly requires concentration and focus. Take short breaks to refresh and refocus. Your brain and body will thank you.

With some experience, practice, and the right techniques, you can reduce the average per cabinet assembly time and get your kitchen or bathroom RTA project completed more quickly.

Step-by-Step RTA Cabinet Assembly Process

To give you a better idea of the cabinet assembly process, here is an overview of the typical steps:

1. Unpack and Organize Parts

  • Carefully unpack all cabinet boxes and parts.
  • Verify you have all the needed hardware and components.
  • Organize and label parts for each cabinet to simplify assembly.

2. Attach Cabinet Backs

  • Lay cabinet box front-side down and position back panel.
  • Predrill holes for screws.
  • Secure back to cabinet box with screws.

3. Install Wall Strips

  • Measure and mark locations for wall strips on cabinet backs.
  • Predrill holes.
  • Attach strips with screws at top and bottom of cabinet.

4. Attach Face Frame

  • Predrill holes in face frame.
  • Align frame to cabinet front and attach with screws from inside cabinet.

5. Install Shelves and Interior Parts

  • Insert shelf pins at desired heights.
  • Install adjustable shelves and any other interior parts like drawers or dividers.

6. Attach Doors and Drawer Fronts

  • Use hinges, slides, and pulls provided to attach doors and drawer fronts.
  • Adjust fit and function as needed.

7. Install Decorative Hardware and Trim

  • Attach any additional hardware like knobs or pulls.
  • Install molding, trim, or crown molding using finish nails.

8. Install Cabinets

  • Lift into place and shim as needed to level.
  • Secure cabinets to wall studs or ledger board.

With attention to each step and proper safety precautions, RTA cabinet assembly can go smoothly. Working too fast often results in cabinets that don’t fit right or are unstable.

Can You Hire Someone to Assemble RTA Cabinets?

If you prefer not to tackle assembling ready-to-assemble cabinets on your own, you can certainly hire a carpenter, handyman, or even ask the company you purchased from if they offer assembly services for an additional fee.

Some things to keep in mind when paying someone else to assemble RTA cabinets:

  • Make sure they have experience assembling the brand of cabinets purchased. Construction can vary.
  • Confirm what tasks they will and will not complete like installation or adjustments.
  • Request references and licensing/insurance information.
  • Understand their rates for cabinet assembly and who will provide hardware, tools, adhesives etc.
  • Do they offer any warranty on their labor should issues arise down the road?
  • Will they dispose of packaging and cabinet cartons or is that your responsibility?

Hiring a professional to assemble cabinets can take a huge time burden off your shoulders. Just be sure to do your research to find someone experienced and trustworthy. Rushing the assembly job could cause bigger issues down the road.

Maintaining Your Assembled RTA Cabinets

Once your ready-to-assemble cabinets are fully installed, a little regular maintenance and care will keep them looking like new for years. Be sure to:

  • Use cabinet organizers and shelf liners to protect interior surfaces and make cleaning easier.
  • Add rubber bumpers on doors and drawers to prevent banging that can loosen joints.
  • Tighten hinges, pulls, and latches periodically to prevent loosening over time.
  • Dust cabinet exteriors frequently and clean spills right away to prevent stains.
  • Consider applying a protective sealant to cabinet surfaces if not pre-treated.
  • Adjust doors/drawers as needed to maintaining proper alignment and function.

RTA cabinets may not be solid hardwood construction but with proper care and maintenance, they can last through years of heavy use. Taking time to assemble them correctly is the first step to longevity.

How Long to Assemble RTA Cabinets: Conclusion

Ready-to-assemble cabinets offer a budget-friendly way to get new custom cabinetry installed in your home. But proper assembly requires setting aside ample time.

For a full kitchen, plan on at least 15 – 30 hours for assembly, not including installation. Even small bathroom projects need 3 – 5 hours of focus and diligence. Complex cabinet designs take even longer.

Working methodically, using proper tools, and staying organized are key to efficient RTA cabinet assembly. Rushing through the job or taking shortcuts usually results in mistakes that take more time to correct in the long run. Investing the necessary time results in cabinets that will serve your home well for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions About Assembling RTA Cabinets

How long does it take to assemble IKEA kitchen cabinets?

For an average sized kitchen of about 20 cabinets, it typically takes between 20 – 40 hours to fully assemble IKEA SEKTION kitchen cabinets. Larger or more complex kitchens with specialty storage systems can take over 50 hours.

Can I assemble RTA cabinets alone?

It is possible to assemble RTA cabinets solo but having at least one other person helps. An extra pair of hands makes steps like lifting wall cabinets into place much safer and easier. Some additional help at specific points can make the project go faster.

What tools do I need to assemble RTA cabinets?

You’ll need basic hand tools like a hammer, pliers, measuring tape, and screwdrivers. Power drills and drivers make driving screws much easier. Other useful tools include levels, stud finders, pry bars, sawhorses, and safety gear like gloves and eye protection.

How do you ensure cabinets are secure after assembly?

Always secure cabinets firmly to wall studs using screws or nailers after assembly. Use shims to ensure cabinets are level. Connect base cabinets together with nails, screws, or joint fasteners. Check for any wobbling or instability.

Should I glue RTA cabinets together?

Gluing is not mandatory but can provide extra stability. Use wood glue on joints of cabinet boxes before screwing them together. Wipe away any excess squeeze-out glue immediately to avoid damage to surfaces. Let glue fully cure before stressing joints.

What mistakes should I avoid when assembling cabinets?

Don’t force pieces together or overtighten screws, which can split wood. Watch for misaligned pre-drilled holes. Make sure cabinets sit completely flush and level with each other for uniformity. Keep hardware organized by cabinet. Follow all safety advice from the manufacturer.

Final Thoughts on Assembling RTA Cabinets

  • Carefully plan your project considering number of cabinets and complexity.
  • Study instructions fully and have all tools ready before starting assembly.
  • Work methodically one cabinet section at a time. Don’t rush!
  • Pre-drill, use glue, and adequately secure all joints.
  • Get help for lifting and installing wall cabinets.
  • Take your time to get a perfect fit and finish.
  • Maintain your finished cabinets properly so they last for years to come.

With reasonable expectations, the right preparation, and following assembly directions, you can complete your RTA cabinet installation confidently. The time investment is well worth achieving a stunning new kitchen or bathroom on a budget.