Ready-to-assemble (RTA) kitchen cabinets are a great option for budget-conscious homeowners looking to remodel their kitchens. RTA cabinets come unassembled in flat boxes, allowing for easier transport and lower costs compared to pre-assembled cabinetry. With some time and effort, RTA cabinets can be transformed into beautiful, customized kitchen cabinetry. Follow this guide to learn everything you need to know about choosing, purchasing, and installing RTA kitchen cabinets.

Choosing RTA Cabinets

When selecting RTA kitchen cabinets, you’ll want to consider the following factors:

Types of RTA Cabinets

RTA cabinets come in three main types:

  • Stock cabinets – Pre-configured cabinets in standard sizes. Most affordable option but limited customization.
  • Semi-custom cabinets – Stock cabinets that can be modified with different heights, depths, finishes. More flexibility.
  • Custom cabinets – Cabinets built completely to your specifications. Most expensive but fully customizable.

Consider how much customization you need when deciding between stock, semi-custom, and custom RTA cabinets.


RTA cabinets are constructed using different materials:

  • Wood – Most common. Options like oak, birch, maple. Strong and can be stained or painted.
  • Thermofoil – Wood substrate with plastic laminate finish. Resists scratching and cracking. Easy to clean.
  • Melamine – Wood particles coated in resin. Affordable but prone to chipping. Limited color options.
  • Metal – Very durable but can be prone to denting. Often used for cabinet frames.

Look for solid hardwood rather than veneers or particleboard for highest quality.


Consider cabinet finishes like:

  • Stain – Enhances natural wood grain. Provides rich, warm look.
  • Paint – Allows for virtually any color. Durable and scratch-resistant.
  • Glaze – Translucent coat over stain or paint. Adds depth and dimension.
  • Thermofoil/Melamine – Smooth laminated finish fused to wood. Resilient and easy to clean.

Door Styles

Select a door style that matches your kitchen’s aesthetic:

  • Slab – Simple, flat panel design. Clean, minimalist look.
  • Shaker – Timeless style with recessed center panel. Versatile and inexpensive.
  • Raised panel – Classic style with raised center adding depth. Traditional look.
  • Beadboard – Cottage-inspired with vertical grooves. Rustic, informal vibe.
  • Glass inset – Elegant doors with glass windowpanes. Allows displaying collectibles.

Quality and Budget

  • Purchase cabinets from reputable brands known for quality and durability. Check reviews and inspect cabinet components closely.
  • Expect to pay more for solid wood boxes, soft-closing hinges, and premium finishes. Upgrade where it counts.
  • Don’t skimp on corner cabinets and other specialized storage – opt for quality here.
  • Set a realistic budget and stick to it. RTA cabinets are inexpensive but upgrades add up quickly.

Purchasing RTA Cabinets

Follow these tips when purchasing RTA kitchen cabinets:


  • Order all cabinets for your kitchen design at once to avoid variances in finishes or components.
  • Double check measurements and cabinet configurations against kitchen plans before ordering.
  • Allow 12-14 weeks for custom RTA cabinet orders to be manufactured and delivered.
  • Make sure retailer has sufficient inventory if ordering stock cabinets.


  • Inspect cabinets upon delivery and note any damage or missing pieces before signing.
  • Have someone available to assist when cabinets are delivered – they will be heavy and awkward.
  • Clear adequate space and access to the kitchen prior to delivery date.
  • RTA cabinets ship in multiple large boxes – make sure you have room to store them as you install.

Purchase Extras

  • Order 2-3 extra cabinet doors and drawers in case of damage during install.
  • Buy touch up paint/finish to cover nicks or scratches that happen over time.
  • Purchase filler strips to cover gaps between irregular wall shapes and cabinets.
  • Buy extra screws, nails, and cabinet hardware to have on hand during install.

Installing RTA Kitchen Cabinets

Installing RTA cabinets is an involved process but achievable for a committed DIYer. Here are some tips:

Prepare the Space

Remove existing cabinetry, countertops, and backsplashes if remodeling.

Cover floors, walls, and appliances to protect from dust and debris.

Address any plumbing or electrical issues in the wall cavity before installing.

Clean dust and debris from the wall area where cabinets will be installed.

Mark stud locations on the walls and floor for securing the cabinets.

Assemble the Cabinets

Carefully unpack cabinets and organize hardware and components. Do not discard anything!

Assemble cabinets one at a time following included instructions closely.

Use bar clamps to hold cabinet boxes and faces together tightly when assembling.

Check each cabinet for square using a carpenter square as you assemble – adjust as needed.

Use wood glue on cabinet joints and wipe away excess for stronger bonds and clean look.

Allow assembled cabinets to fully cure for 24-48 hours before hanging on walls.

Install the Cabinets

Mark level horizontal lines on walls to guide cabinet installation. Use a laser level for accuracy.

Lift and temporarily secure corner cabinets and work outward from there. Have helpers!

Attach cabinets to studs in the wall using long screws through the hanging strips or back panel.

Use shims between the wall and cabinet to plumb and level as you secure each cabinet.

Install filler strips and molding to cover gaps between wall and cabinet edges.

Attach cabinets together through face frames using cabinet screws. Pull tightly together.

Add Cabinets Details

Install doors, drawers, and hardware using manufacturer’s instructions. Adjust as needed for proper fit and operation.

Use silicone caulk to seal around edges, corners, and between cabinets for an air-tight installation.

Consider adding under cabinet lights, glass cabinet doors, lazy susans, pull out shelves and other accessories.

Use wood putty on nail holes, hardware holes, and inevitable dings from install process before painting or staining.

FAQs about RTA Kitchen Cabinets

How much do RTA kitchen cabinets cost?

RTA cabinets cost $80-150 per linear foot installed. Stock RTA cabinets start around $3000 for an average 10×10 kitchen while custom RTA cabinets are $9000+.

Are RTA cabinets lower quality?

Not necessarily. Many RTA brands use quality materials and solid construction. The unassembled format lowers costs, not quality. Inspect carefully when purchasing.

Can I install RTA cabinets myself?

With time, patience and proper planning, RTA cabinets can absolutely be DIY installed. It is an ambitious project though – consider hiring a carpenter if uncertain.

How long do RTA cabinets take to assemble?

Assembling RTA cabinets takes advanced DIYers about 2-3 days. Hire an assembly service if short on time. Allow cabinets to cure 24-48 hours before installing.

What tools do I need to assemble RTA cabinets?

Must-have tools: drill/driver, hammer, pry bar, clamps, carpenter square, cabinet hardware, wood glue, silicone caulk. Nice extras: nail gun, router, laser level.

Should I hire a contractor to install RTA cabinets?

Due to the complexities, hiring a contractor is recommended unless you are an advanced DIYer. Get quotes from at least 3 contractors before hiring.


RTA cabinets provide an affordable way to get gorgeous custom cabinetry for your kitchen. With smart planning and a methodical approach, RTA cabinets can be installed by committed DIYers as well. Focus on buying quality components, assembling carefully, and taking your time with the install process. With some patience and elbow grease, you can save substantially by opting for ready-to-assemble over pre-assembled cabinets. Just be sure to do your homework first!