Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets offer homeowners an affordable way to update their kitchens or bathrooms. RTA cabinets come in a flat-pack and require some assembly. For many DIYers, assembling RTA cabinets is an intimidating task, but with the right preparation and tools, the process can go smoothly. This extensive guide covers tips, techniques, tools, and advice for assembling RTA cabinets based on first-hand experience and discussions in forums dedicated to RTA cabinet assembly.

Hardware Needed

Before starting the assembly process, make sure you have all the necessary hardware. RTA cabinets typically come with the following hardware:

  • Cam locks and corner braces: Cam locks, also called cam bolts, are used to join cabinet parts together. The male and female parts fit together and tighten to hold sections together firmly. Corner braces provide extra strength and stability in the corners once installed.
  • Shelf pins: Shelf pins insert into pre-drilled holes to support cabinet shelves. Make sure you have the correct amount for your cabinet layout.
  • Hinges: Concealed European-style hinges are common. Make sure the hinge type matches the cabinet doors.
  • Pulls or knobs: Hardware for opening doors and drawers. Verify all pulls and knobs are included.
  • Screws: An assortment of wood screws will be needed for assembling cabinet frames, attaching doors and drawer fronts, installing shelf pins, etc. Confirm sizes and quantities.
  • Thick wood glue: Essential for securing joints during assembly. Water-resistant polyurethane wood glue is recommended.

Before starting, carefully review all hardware and thoroughly read the instruction manual. Being familiar with the components and assembly process will make the installation smoother.

Tools Needed

Having the right tools for assembling RTA cabinets makes the process easier and ensures a quality finished product:

  • Cordless drill/driver and bits: A must-have for driving screws to join cabinet parts. Bring charged batteries!
  • Hammer: Sometimes necessary for gently tapping components into place. Use a rubber mallet if possible to avoid damage.
  • Phillips head screwdriver: For driving screws into place and securing hardware.
  • Shelf pin jig: Essential for accurately marking and drilling shelf pin holes.
  • Level: Critical for ensuring cabinets and countertops are level during install. A laser level is very useful.
  • Carpenter’s square: Helps achieve perpendicular joints and square assemblies.
  • Clamps: Help hold components in place during assembly.
  • Safety gear: Gloves, eye protection, etc. Important when handling power tools.

Avoid using power tools not specifically designed for finesse work. The torque can split wood and damage cabinet parts. Investing in quality tools makes cabinet installation much easier.

Preparing the Workspace

Before starting assembly, prep the workspace:

  • Clear out space and secure a large, flat area for layout. Cover with cardboard or plywood to avoid damaging flooring.
  • Unpack all cabinet boxes/parts and accessories. Organize hardware bags by cabinet frame.
  • Carefully inspect materials. Report any missing or damaged pieces immediately.
  • Read instruction manual thoroughly. Make notes, sketches, identify parts, etc. Watch accompanying video guides if available.
  • Have snacks, water and caffeine handy for energy and hydration!

Preparing the space, unpacking methodically and familiarizing yourself with all components will set you up for assembly success.

Cabinet Assembly Basics

Follow these general guidelines when putting cabinets together:

  • Practice dry fitting. Connect joints loosely first to ensure proper fit before final assembly.
  • Only screw holes pre-drilled. Never drill your own holes or risk splitting wood.
  • Do not over tighten screws or stripping is possible. Tighten only until snug.
  • Check for square as you go. Measure diagonals to ensure 90 degree angles.
  • Work in order. Follow instructions manual order of operations closely.
  • Use glue! Spread plentiful wood glue on all joining surfaces for super strong bonds. Wipe away excess squeezed out glue immediately using damp rag.
  • Get help. For large cabinets and overhead installing, assistance makes assembly much easier.

Remember, take your time and follow all instructions closely. Rushing leads to mistakes difficult to rectify later. Relax and enjoy the assembly process!

Cabinet Box Assembly

The cabinet box forms the storage structure of the unit. Proper box construction ensures square, structural integrity:

  • Build boxes one at a time to avoid mistakes. Keep hardware for each cabinet separate.
  • Pay attention to front/back and left/right orientation. The pre-drilled holes must align!
  • Dry fit back panel between sides first. Align edges flush.
  • Run wood glue along joining edges. Attach back panel using cam locks and screws. Wipe excess glue squeeze-out with a damp rag.
  • Attach pre-assembled cabinet bottom using glue and screws. Bottom panel has pre-attached stretchers for support.
  • Complete one box assembly fully before moving to the next cabinet build.

Taking it slow and double checking part orientation guarantees strong, square cabinet boxes. Allow glue to dry completely before adding doors, shelves, and hardware.

Hanging Cabinets Level

Once boxes are constructed, installing upper cabinets is next. Proper level and secure hanging is a must:

  • Determine desired cabinet location. Place a level on wall horizontally to find and mark stud locations.
  • Place cabinet on wall at desired height. Level and mark outline for reference. Remove cabinet.
  • Attach strong ledger board vertically to wall studs using 3″ screws. Use multiple studs if possible.
  • Lift and temporarily hang cabinet on ledger. Check level in all directions and shim accordingly.
  • Insert additional screws through inside cabinet back panel into wall studs. Secure tightly.
  • Use sturdy L-brackets under cabinet if studs are not available where needed.

Taking the time to hang upper cabinets perfectly level provides a solid base for the remaining installation. Don’t rush this important step!

Installing and Leveling Base Cabinets

With uppers installed, shift focus to the base cabinet installation:

  • Determine layout of base cabinets based on room dimensions. Mark locations lightly in pencil on flooring.
  • Start with corner cabinet if applicable. Level front to back and side to side using shims as needed under cabinet.
  • Attach adjacent cabinet by pre-drilling and driving screws through stiles. Attach corner braces. Pull cabinets together tightly.
  • Continue attaching additional cabinets one at a time following the same process.
  • Use straight 1 x 2 boards across cabinet fronts to verify level plane as you go. Make any necessary adjustments.
  • Secure entire run to wall studs through cabinet backs or use L-brackets if no studs available.

Take your time during base cabinet installation to ensure proper fit and square alignment. This creates a solid foundation for countertop installation later.

Shelf Pin Placement

Shelf pin placement determines interior cabinet storage options. Follow these guidelines for optimal shelf configurations:

  • Examine instruction manual to identify default shelf layouts by cabinet. Modify to your needs.
  • Determine desired shelf spacing. Standard spacing is 2″ intervals but can vary based on storage needs.
  • Using shelf pin jig, mark holes at same height in side panels at desired intervals.
  • Pre-drill marked holes using a 3/16″ drill bit, 1″ deep. Stop drill when reaching jig plate.
  • Insert shelf pins in any combination of holes to accommodate shelves as needed.
  • Install shelf standards if needed. Attach to cabinet backs using screws before adding shelves.

Taking the time to place shelf pin holes methodically provides maximum flexibility. Adjust pin positions until the storage options are optimized.

Hanging Doors and Drawers

Once cabinet boxes are assembled, adding doors, drawers and hardware completes the installation:

  • Review door/drawer layouts. Match to pre-drilled hinge and slide holes.
  • Attach hinges to doors, one at a time. Use scrap wood block to space door slightly from cabinet edge.
  • Position door with hinges attached over cabinet opening. Insert hinge screws into pre-drilled holes.
  • Adjust hinge plates as needed to achieve proper reveal and operation.
  • For drawers, attach slides into drawer box sides first, then into cabinet openings.
  • Test drawer slide function by extending and retracting several times. Adjust if needed.
  • Install pulls, knobs and other hardware as finishing touches.

Hanging doors and installing drawers may require some adjustment to achieve proper fit and smooth operation. Take your time to get it right.

First Time Assembly Tips

For those new to assembling RTA cabinets, follow these additional tips to ensure success:

  • Watch online video tutorials to familiarize yourself with the process before starting.
  • Study instructions thoroughly. Make notes and lay out all parts before picking up tools.
  • Have a second set of hands available for installing large cabinets and countertops if possible.
  • Take breaks to avoid fatigue and frustration. Complex assemblies require concentration.
  • Use painter’s tape for delicate tasks like door hanging to avoid scratches.
  • Work methodically one cabinet section at a time. Don’t get ahead of yourself.
  • Invest in quality tools designed for fine carpentry work. Power tools must have adjustable torque.

Be patient and allow sufficient time for assembly. Avoid frustration by being organized and fully prepared before starting. Follow all instructions closely, and your finished cabinets will look factory installed!

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Learning from others’ mistakes makes your first RTA cabinet assembly project go smoother:

  • Rushing assembly and not carefully reading instructions
  • Forgetting to use wood glue on all joints
  • Not adequately checking for square during assembly
  • Using too much force and over tightening screws
  • Not fully securing cabinets to wall studs or floor
  • Not pre-drilling holes for shelf pins
  • Misaligning doors and drawers with pre-drilled holes
  • Not adjusting hinges and slides for proper alignment
  • Waiting too long between steps resulting in slipping bonds

By taking your time, using care when handling panels, double checking alignment, and methodically following all instructions, you can avoid these common pitfalls on your first RTA cabinet assembly.


Assembling RTA cabinets seems intimidating to many DIYers, but with proper planning, tools, and techniques, the process can go smoothly resulting in a quality finished product. Following the steps outlined for unpacking materials methodically, dry fitting first, using glue and clamps, installing cabinets level and square, and taking your time at each stage will lead to success. Remember to check forums if any questions arise regarding your particular RTA cabinet brand or model. Have fun putting together your cabinets, and take pride in a job well done!

How to Assemble RTA Cabinets Forum

Assembling ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets can be an intimidating task for DIYers taking on the project for the first time. Fortunately, there are great online resources available, including forums dedicated specifically to discussing RTA cabinet assembly. Connecting with fellow DIYers in these communities provides tips, advice, and support to help your RTA cabinet installation go as smoothly as possible. Here are some of the top forums to utilize when looking for guidance on assembling RTA cabinets.

Reddit r/woodworking

The woodworking sub on Reddit has over 3 million members and is a very active community. Search for past threads on RTA cabinet assembly which provide detailed tips from users’ experiences. Feel free to start your own thread with questions on an RTA cabinet brand or situation. Include photos if possible. Fellow Redditors will likely provide suggestions to help troubleshoot any issues.

DIY Chatroom

This forum has specific forums for kitchens and baths where much discussion focuses on RTA cabinet installation. Browse existing threads or register to start your own on topics like recommended tools, assembly experiences, how to level cabinets properly, etc. DIY Chatroom members share from their firsthand knowledge.

Bob Vila Forums

Home improvement guru Bob Vila’s website offers helpful forums where both professionals and DIYers provide advice. Check the Kitchen and Bath cabinetry forum for threads on RTA cabinet brands, tricky installations, and finishing. Search for key terms or ask targeted questions after registering.

Houzz Forums

Houzz features forums for all things home related. Their Cabinetry forum has threads on RTA cabinet assembly help, organization tips, adjustment issues, and more. The knowledgeable Houzz community asks and answers questions on brands like IKEA, CabinetDIY, Barker Cabinets, and others.

The Spruce Forums

While smaller than some home improvement forums, The Spruce forums provide detailed responses to questions posed on all DIY topics. Users discussing their RTA cabinet projects give specifics on assembly experiences, photos of installations, and advice on modifications.


In addition to forum support, an invaluable resource for installing RTA cabinets is YouTube installation videos. There are many detailed videos covering all cabinet brands that show the assembly process step-by-step. Watch several for the cabinet brand you purchased before starting your project.

Researching the many forum conversations and video tutorials will pay off with greater confidence and knowledge for your RTA cabinet installation project. Don’t hesitate to ask questions – forums are there to help!

How to Choose the Best RTA Cabinets

Purchasing ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets offers an affordable cabinetry solution for many homeowners. With so many RTA cabinet companies and options to choose from, selecting the best product for your needs requires careful evaluation. Follow this guide for choosing quality RTA cabinets tailored to your project.

Construction and Materials

A cabinet’s construction impacts both appearance and durability. Seek cabinets with:

  • Plywood box construction: More stable than particle board. Look for Baltic Birch plywood if possible.
  • Solid wood doors and drawer fronts: Avoid laminate or vinyl which can warp and peel over time.
  • Dovetail joinery: Dovetail joinery is more secure for drawer boxes than simple butt joints.
  • Soft-close hinges and slides: Closes doors/drawers slowly and quietly. Should be standard features.
  • 3⁄4” wall thickness: Thicker cabinet sides prevent sagging shelves and increase sturdiness.

High quality materials and joinery results in long-lasting cabinets built to endure years of use. Lifetime warranties on cabinet boxes also offer confidence.

Design Options

Evaluate available cabinet lines for options meeting your needs:

  • Door styles: Look for versatile shaker, traditional, or contemporary door designs.
  • Finish options: Match existing décor with stain, paint or polyurethane options.
  • Molding/trim: Choose built-up or plain designs based on kitchen style.
  • Storage accessories: Examine drawers, roll outs, lazy susans, etc.
  • Size range: Confirm cabinet line includes sizes needed for your layout.
  • Toekick options: Match existing kitchen height or go fully custom.

While cost is a consideration, having cabinetry that fits your aesthetic and storage needs is worth spending a bit more. Cheaper cabinets may require replacing sooner.

Brand Reputation

Research company reputation through reviews and testimonials:

  • Product quality: Look for consistent feedback praising construction, finish, and durability.
  • Ordering process: Seek descriptions of easy ordering, order accuracy, and good customer service.
  • Shipping: Shipping damages can occur. Look for indications careful shipping.
  • Value: Choose a brand known for providing quality commensurate with pricing.

Buying from a reputable company known for making the assembly and installation process smooth results in a satisfying purchase. Check Better Business Bureau ratings as well.

Delivery Method

RTA cabinet delivery methods vary. Understand how your purchase will arrive:

  • White glove: Delivery team brings cabinets inside and unpacks. Higher cost but very convenient.
  • Threshold: Cabinets shipped to door. You unload and unpack yourself.
  • Curbside: Cabinets arrive on truck. Driver may assist getting on curb.
  • Store pickup: Retailer accepts shipment. You must transport home.

The delivery method impacts time and assistance needed for unpacking. Factor any extra costs into your budget.

Doing thorough research helps identify the optimum RTA cabinets for your project goals, space, and budget. Carefully evaluating brands leads to long-lasting, quality cabinets and a smooth installation.

Tips for Modifying RTA Cabinets

While ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinetry offers lots of size and configuration options, the need for modifications can arise once installation begins. The lightweight construction of RTA cabinets allows making common customizations easily with minimal tools and expertise. Follow these tips for modifying and customizing RTA cabinets like a pro.

Cutting Cabinets Down to Size

Available kitchen dimensions may require trimming factory cabinet widths for proper fit:

  • Remove doors/drawers and hardware before cutting to access box easily.
  • Measure space and calculate amount to remove from side panel. Transfer marks to cabinet box.
  • Use a straightedge and circular saw to cut down side panel smoothly and squarely.
  • Sand cut edge thoroughly to remove splinters. Touch up with matching paint or stain.
  • Replace doors, shelves and hardware. Test fit in opening before securing permanently.

Trimming cabinet sides allows tailoring components precisely to your kitchen’s dimensions.

Drilling Extra Shelf Pin Holes

Standard shelf spacing may not work for special storage needs:

  • Determine desired shelf placement marking lightly in pencil on cabinet sides.
  • Set depth of shelf pin drill bit to avoid drilling through exterior side panel.
  • Clamp guide in position and drill holes using press drill or drill press if accessible.
  • Vacuum well to remove all wood shavings which can interfere with hardware.
  • Insert shelf pins in drilled holes and test fit shelves at