Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets offer a cost-effective way to remodel your kitchen or bathroom. With some handy DIY skills, you can transform the look of a room with new cabinets without busting your budget. However, not all RTA cabinets are created equal when it comes to quality. Follow these tips to find high-quality ready-to-assemble cabinets that will last for years to come.

Examine the Materials

The materials used to construct RTA cabinets can vary greatly and have a significant impact on their durability and longevity. High-quality cabinets will be made from solid wood or plywood rather than particle board or medium density fiberboard (MDF).

Plywood offers strength and stability, while solid wood brings natural beauty that can’t be replicated. Avoid cabinets made with particle board or MDF as they are more prone to swelling and crumbling when exposed to moisture over time.

Look for cabinet boxes constructed using furniture-grade plywood that is at least 1⁄2-inch thick. The most durable options will use plywood with oak, birch, or maple veneers. Doors and drawer fronts crafted from solid wood will withstand daily wear better than those made of thinner engineered wood.

Check Cabinet Hardware

The hinges, drawer glides, and other hardware included with RTA cabinets greatly influence their functionality and lifespan. Don’t sacrifice quality to save a few dollars here.

Look for full-extension drawer glides that allow you to fully pull out drawers for complete access. Soft-close hinges prevent slamming and are a must for cabinet doors. Sturdy European-style concealed hinges offer smooth operation for years of use.

Solid brass or stainless steel hardware will resist rust and tarnishing better than less expensive alternatives. Be sure to choose hardware finishes and styles that match your kitchen or bathroom decor.

Assess Attention to Detail

Examining the finishing touches and construction details offers clues about the overall quality of RTA cabinets. High-end brands pay attention to fine details for a furniture-like appearance.

Check for cam locks, wall brackets, filler strips, and other accessories needed for proper installation. Look for finished interiors in cabinet boxes and drawers. Edge banding and matching finishes on exposed sides indicate attention to detail.

Avoid cabinets with visible staples, nails, or glue residue. Check for evenly applied finishes without drips or thin spots. Details like soft-close doors and dovetail joinery indicate superior construction.

Read Customer Reviews

Don’t rely solely on product photos and descriptions from the manufacturer. Read through customer reviews on retailer websites and forums to learn about real-world experiences purchasing and installing the RTA cabinets.

Look for brands that receive consistent positive feedback for delivering complete cabinets with quality construction and durable finishes. Multiple complaints about missing pieces, flawed workmanship, or difficult assembly should raise red flags.

Seeking input from people who have purchased the RTA cabinets gives you insight you won’t find on the company website. Take note of any common issues brought up in reviews.

Examine Installation Instructions

Before making a purchase, download the installation manuals to get a feel for the assembly process. High-quality RTA cabinets will include detailed instructions with clear diagrams and hardware specs.

Look for numbered steps and labeled parts to simplify the process. The instructions should thoroughly cover cabinet construction, adjustments, installation order, and final touches. Avoid brands with vague or confusing documentation.

Thorough instructions indicate the company cares about the installation experience and long-term use of their products. If assembly seems overly complex, it may be better to hire a professional rather than DIY.

Consider the Warranty

Never buy RTA cabinets without an adequate manufacturer’s warranty. Standard coverage spans one to five years, but longer is always better when it comes to warranties.

Look for a “lifetime” limited warranty that covers defects in materials and workmanship. Coverage should include replacement parts and sometimes labor costs. Limitations will apply, so read the fine print carefully.

A strong warranty shows the company stands behind their products and offers added peace of mind for a major purchase. Extended coverage adds value if issues arise down the road after installation.

Buy Unfinished Cabinets

For the highest quality ready-to-assemble cabinets, opt for an unfinished wood model that you’ll paint or stain. Unfinished cabinets showcase the natural wood grain and allow a custom finish.

Prefinished cabinets have a top coat added at the factory. This baked-on finishing process can’t match the quality of on-site finishing. The thin finish also shows dings and wear over time.

With unfinished cabinets, you can apply your choice of stain, paint, or clear coat after installation for a flawless factory-like finish. Proper finishing seals the wood against moisture and prevents damage.

Inspect Samples in Person

If possible, visit a home improvement store or cabinet showroom to inspect RTA cabinet samples firsthand. Viewing and touching the cabinets allows you to thoroughly assess their quality.

Open and close the doors and drawers to check operation. Look at the finish quality up close, not just in photos. Check for any imperfections in the wood surfaces.

Seeing and handling RTA cabinet samples gives you a better idea of their durability and appearance than browsing online. If visiting a store isn’t feasible, order samples to have pieces shipped to inspect.

Choose Reputable Retailers

Where you purchase RTA cabinets also affects their quality. Reputable retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s partner with top brands and hold inventory to high standards.

Purchasing cabinets from big box stores also means you can inspect pieces before purchasing. Their generous return policies provide peace of mind.

Department stores and some online retailers may have lower prices, but often lack in-stock inventory, product variety, and hands-on quality control. Stick with major retailers you trust.

Consider Hiring a Pro

Installing new cabinets is no small feat, especially for larger kitchen or bathroom remodels. If the DIY project seems daunting, don’t hesitate to hire a professional installer.

Experienced contractors have the skills to properly assemble and secure cabinets while avoiding rookie mistakes. They have the right tools to achieve a flawless finish result.

Hiring a pro takes the guesswork out of the equation so you can feel confident your investment in high-quality RTA cabinets will pay dividends for years to enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions About RTA Cabinets

What does RTA mean?

RTA stands for ready-to-assemble or ready-to-install. RTA cabinets come with all the parts and hardware included but require assembly before installation.

What tools do I need to assemble RTA cabinets?

Basic tools like a drill, screwdriver, level, T-square, and clamps are must-haves. You may also need a saw for modifications. Have wood glue and silicone caulk on hand for assembly.

How long does it take to assemble RTA cabinets?

With some DIY skills, expect assembly to take 2-3 hours per cabinet on average. Larger or more complex cabinets may take 4-5 hours. Professional installers work much faster than novices.

Can RTA cabinets hold up as well as custom cabinets?

High-quality RTA cabinets are constructed using the same plywood, joinery, and hardware as custom cabinets – just requiring assembly. Durability depends more on materials than how cabinets are made.

Should I install cabinets on my own or hire a pro?

If you’re comfortable using tools and have assembled furniture before, DIY installation is definitely doable. For complex projects, hiring an installer saves time and headaches.


Finding ready-to-assemble cabinets that meet your quality, budget, and style needs takes some savvy shopping skills. Focus on material quality, construction details, and reputable brands when evaluating RTA cabinets. Investing in high-quality products combined with professional installation (if needed) results in a kitchen or bathroom that will provide lasting function and beauty for years to come. With some diligence during the selection process, you can feel confident your RTA cabinets will surpass expectations.