Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets are a great option for budget-conscious homeowners looking to remodel their kitchens or bathrooms. Assembling RTA cabinets yourself can save you a lot of money compared to having them professionally installed. With some basic tools and a bit of patience, assembling RTA cabinets is an achievable DIY project for many homeowners. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the entire RTA cabinet assembly process from start to finish.

Getting Started with RTA Cabinet Assembly

Before beginning the assembly process, here are some tips to ensure a smooth and successful RTA cabinet installation:

  • Read the instructions thoroughly. RTA cabinets come with detailed assembly instructions that are critical to follow. Read through all of the steps and materials required before starting.
  • Organize hardware and tools. Separate and sort all of the RTA cabinet contents including doors, drawers, shelves, and hardware before assembly. Gather any necessary tools like a screwdriver, level, drill, hammer, etc.
  • Allot ample time. Set aside enough time in your schedule to assemble the cabinets without feeling rushed. RTA cabinet assembly can take several hours to multiple days depending on the size of your kitchen and complexity of the cabinets.
  • Assemble cabinets on a flat surface. Choose a large, clean workspace like a garage floor or basement where you can safely assemble the cabinets without obstruction. The flat surface makes assembly easier.
  • Follow safety precautions. Use safety goggles, heavy work gloves, a face mask, and any other needed safety gear when handling cabinet materials and tools.

Step 1: Assemble the Cabinet Boxes

The first step in RTA cabinet assembly is constructing the cabinet box or carcass for each base and wall cabinet. Here’s how to assemble cabinet boxes:

Gather Cabinet Parts, Hardware, and Tools

  • Cabinet box panels (sides, top, bottom, back, etc)
  • Cam locks, screws, corner braces
  • Screwdriver, drill

Attach the Sides to the Top and Bottom Panels

  • Lay cabinet panels flat with pre-drilled holes facing up. Lock cam posts into corresponding holes to attach sides to top and bottom.
  • Insert corner braces into interior cabinet corners. Secure with screws using a screwdriver. Braces reinforce joints.

Add the Back Panel

  • Fit back panel into grooves on cabinet sides and secure with cam locks and screws. Back panel encloses cabinet box.

Drill Shelf Pin Holes (If Applicable)

  • Use shelf pin drill bit to drill evenly spaced shelf pin holes inside cabinet sides. Holes allow shelf adjustment.

Repeat Assembly for All Cabinet Boxes

  • Follow steps above to assemble all the base and wall cabinet boxes before moving on.

Double check all cam locks and screws are tightened properly on the cabinet boxes. The sturdy boxes will support countertops and interior fittings.

Step 2: Install Drawers and Doors

After the cabinet boxes are complete, you can shift focus to adding functional and aesthetic elements like drawers and doors:

Assemble Drawers

  • Attach drawer sides to front and back panels with cam locks and screws.
  • Install drawer bottom into drawer box groove.
  • Insert drawer slides into cabinet box openings.
  • Mount corresponding slides onto assembled drawer boxes.

Attach Hinges and Mount Cabinet Doors

  • Use hinge screws to attach door hinges to cabinet door frames.
  • Mount hinged doors onto corresponding cabinet boxes with additional screws.
  • Make adjustments so doors align properly and open/close smoothly.

Adding drawers and doors make cabinets fully functional for storing kitchen or bathroom essentials. Continue assembling all drawers and doors before moving on.

Step 3: Install Shelves, Hardware, and Molding

The final RTA cabinet assembly steps involve adding interior fittings:

Install Cabinet Shelves

  • Insert shelf pins into pre-drilled holes at desired heights.
  • Set cabinet shelves onto pins and make adjustments.

Add Hardware

  • Attach handles/knobs onto doors and drawers using mounting bolts.
  • Install sliding basket organizers into cabinet interiors (if applicable).

Attach Molding and Trim

  • Measure and mark panels like toe kick boards and edge trim. Cut to fit cabinet dimensions.
  • Attach trim pieces with nails, screws, or glue. Fill holes with wood filler.

With shelves, hardware, and molding installed, the RTA cabinet unit is fully assembled and ready for installation!

RTA Cabinet Installation Tips

Once RTA cabinet assembly is complete, follow these tips for proper installation:

  • Recruit helpers. Have at least two strong people to help lift and install assembled cabinets.
  • Mark cabinet locations. Measure space and use painter’s tape to mark cabinet locations on walls and floor.
  • Level cabinets. Use a level to ensure each cabinet is plumb and level as its installed. Shim if necessary.
  • Attach cabinets together. Use screws/bolts to attach adjacent cabinet boxes together through interior walls.
  • Secure cabinets to wall. Anchor wall cabinets into wall studs with screws. Use braces or cleats to reinforce base cabinets.
  • Take your time during the installation process. Rushing increases the likelihood of expensive mistakes.

Top 10 RTA Cabinet Assembly Mistakes to Avoid

Assembling and installing RTA cabinets on your own comes with a learning curve. Follow this list of common mistakes to avoid to ensure cabinet assembly success:

  1. Forgetting to pre-drill holes before driving screws.
  2. Not reading instructions thoroughly beforehand.
  3. Rushing through assembly and making careless errors.
  4. Not assembling cabinets on a flat, spacious surface.
  5. Attempting to install too many cabinets by yourself.
  6. Not reinforcing joints with corner braces.
  7. Forgetting to use a level while installing cabinets.
  8. Not leaving room for countertops and appliances.
  9. Mounting cabinets unevenly on the wall.
  10. Overtightening screws and stripping cam lock holes.

FAQs About Assembling RTA Cabinets

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about assembling and installing ready-to-assemble cabinets:

Do I need special tools to assemble RTA cabinets?

Most RTA cabinets only require commonly available hardware like a screwdriver, drill, measuring tape, level, hammer, shims, etc. A shelf pin drill bit helps for installing adjustable shelves. Otherwise, no specialty tools are needed.

How long does RTA cabinet assembly take?

Assembly time varies based on cabinet quantity and complexity. Plan at least 1 hour per cabinet. Larger kitchen overhauls with multiple cabinets can take 20-40 hours total. Work with a helper to speed up the process.

Should I assemble cabinets before or after installation?

It’s generally easiest to assemble cabinets fully before installing them. This allows you to ensure proper assembly and make adjustments. Assembling cabinets while installed makes the process much more difficult.

What if my cabinets end up uneven or crooked?

Use shims when needed during installation to level cabinets and fill any gaps. For minor alignment issues after installation, loosen cabinet screws slightly to adjust position before re-tightening.

Are RTA cabinets low quality compared to custom cabinets?

Not necessarily. Many RTA cabinet lines meet or exceed the quality of custom cabinetry but at a fraction of the cost. Focus on finding durable RTA cabinets constructed with quality materials and hardware.

Can I change the cabinet layout from the instructions?

It’s best to assemble cabinets according to the provided instructions, especially for your first time. Once proficient, you can make minor modifications like adjusting shelf positions as needed. Changing entire cabinet configurations is not recommended.


Assembling ready-to-assemble cabinets is an attainable DIY project that can completely transform your kitchen or bathroom. While the process involves some investment of time and energy, completing the assembly on your own saves thousands over outsourcing cabinet installation. Follow the instructions closely, recruit helpers when possible, and refer back to these tips to avoid common pitfalls. With some perseverance, you can successfully assemble and install RTA cabinets to bring your interior space vision to life.