Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets provide a cost-effective way to get beautiful, customizable cabinetry installed in your home. With some basic tools and a bit of elbow grease, you can transform a pile of flat-packed boxes into a gorgeous, functional kitchen storage solution. Follow this step-by-step guide to properly build and install RTA cabinets.

Choosing Your RTA Cabinets

When selecting RTA cabinets, you’ll first want to measure your space carefully to determine what size cabinets you need. Think about how you want to configure your kitchen—how many base cabinets, uppers, pantry units, etc. Then pick a door style and finish that matches your kitchen decor. Oak, maple, thermofoil, and polyurethane options are common. Buy all cabinets from the same manufacturer and product line for consistency.

Prepare the Installation Space

Installing RTA cabinets starts with preparing the space:

  • Remove existing cabinets if needed using a pry bar.
  • Take out old countertops and sinks.
  • Knock down high spots on walls and fill low spots for a smooth surface.
  • Clean and vacuum the floor so it’s clear of debris.

Check walls for plumb and floors for level. Shim as needed to create a flat, even base.

Assemble the Cabinet Boxes

RTA cabinets come with all wood parts included and hardware like cam locks and screws for assembly. Here are the steps to assemble the boxes:

  1. Lay out all the cabinet parts and hardware. Read instructions carefully!
  2. Attach the back panel of the cabinet first, securing with cam locks.
  3. Attach sides, then top and bottom panels. Lock cam posts into receiving holes.
  4. Drill pilot holes for screws and drive into dowels for extra strength.
  5. Attach drawer guides and shelves at desired locations.
  6. Repeat assembly for all cabinet boxes.

Install the Assembled Cabinets

With the boxes assembled, you’re ready to hang them on the wall:

  • Mark stud locations for every 16 inches where cabinets will go.
  • Use a level and measure for consistent height across base cabinets.
  • Attach mounting rails or ledger boards to the wall first.
  • Mount assembled cabinets on the rails, screwing into studs or using toggles.
  • Use shims under the cabinets to level and plumb each one.
  • Secure cabinets together with screws through side panels.

For corner units, install the corner cabinet first. For uppers, install over fully secured base cabinets.

Add Doors, Drawers, and Finishing Touches

The finishing touches complete your DIY RTA cabinet installation:

  • Attach all doors and drawers, adjusting as needed for proper fit.
  • Install drawer glides and rollers on drawer boxes.
  • Add knobs, pulls, or handles to doors and drawers.
  • Install interior organizers and partitions.
  • Seal around sinks and appliances with caulk.
  • Fill nail holes with wood filler and touch up paint.

And that’s it – you now have stunning custom cabinetry without the custom price tag! Enjoy the satisfaction of completing a major kitchen upgrade with ready-to-assemble cabinets.

Frequently Asked Questions About Building RTA Cabinets

What tools do I need to install RTA cabinets?

You’ll need basic hand and power tools like a drill, screwdriver, level, stud finder, pry bar, and safety gear like glasses and gloves. Other useful tools include a nail gun, hole saw, router, jigsaw, and clamps.

How much do RTA cabinets cost compared to custom?

On average, RTA cabinets cost 30-50% less than custom cabinetry. You save by assembling them yourself versus paying for installation.

Can I install RTA cabinets directly over drywall?

No, cabinets should always be mounted onto wood studs or with strong toggle bolts in drywall. Attaching directly to drywall alone is unstable.

What if my cabinets arrive damaged?

Thoroughly inspect RTA cabinet boxes and parts when they arrive. Contact the manufacturer right away if anything is damaged – don’t try to assemble damaged cabinets.

Are RTA cabinets lower quality than custom?

Not necessarily. Many RTA brands use the same materials and manufacturing as custom cabinet makers. The main difference is you assemble RTA yourself.

How long does RTA cabinet assembly and installation take?

With some experience, plan on about 2-3 days for assembly and install. Working with an extra set of hands speeds up the process considerably.


Assembling and installing your own ready-to-assemble cabinets is a satisfying DIY project that can save you thousands. By carefully following each step and using the proper tools and materials, you can achieve beautiful, customized cabinetry. Mount cabinets securely, level and plumb, for best results. Be patient during assembly and installation to avoid mistakes. Your new RTA cabinets will look like they were custom built for your kitchen!