Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets offer an affordable and customizable option for renovating your kitchen. With some basic DIY skills and tools, you can install RTA cabinets yourself and save on installation costs. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the entire process of installing RTA cabinets, from preparing your kitchen space to securing the cabinets on the wall.

Choosing RTA Cabinets

When selecting RTA cabinets, consider the size of your kitchen, style preferences, and budget. RTA cabinets come in standard cabinet sizes, with options for different finishes and storage configurations. Measure your kitchen space carefully to ensure the cabinets will fit properly. Choose cabinet fronts that match your desired aesthetic – options include shaker, traditional, and modern styles. Opt for sturdy plywood box construction and soft-close doors and drawers. Expect to spend $80-150 per linear cabinet foot for good quality RTA cabinets.

Preparing for Installation

Proper preparation is key to a smooth RTA cabinet installation.

  • Clear the space – Remove existing cabinets, countertops, and anything on the walls where new cabinets will be installed.
  • Address any moisture issues – Look for water damage or leaks under the sink or near plumbing. Repair issues prior to installing new cabinets.
  • Examine walls and floors – Walls should be relatively straight and solid. Flooring should be level – use shims if necessary.
  • Gather tools & materials – Stock up on safety gear, basic hand and power tools, hardware, and cabinet assembly supplies.
  • Read instruction manuals – Thoroughly review the manuals and understand all steps before starting.

Installing Wall Cabinets

Install upper cabinets first, starting with the corner cabinet or cabinet run furthest from the doorway.

  • Mark stud locations on the wall and the cabinet hang rail. Drill pilot holes.
  • Mount the hang rail securely to the wall studs. Use toggle bolts if securing to drywall.
  • Use a level and shims to ensure the hang rail is straight.
  • Lift and fasten each wall cabinet onto the hang rail with screws driven into the cabinet back or side frames.
  • Check each cabinet for level and plumb as you install. Make adjustments as needed with additional shims.
  • Install filler strips and trim molding to fill any gaps between cabinets and ceilings or walls.

Installing Base Cabinets

After upper cabinets are installed securely, shift focus to the lower base cabinets.

  • Mark stud locations and drill pilot holes for base cabinet mounts.
  • Set the first base cabinet in place, level, and fasten it to the wall studs through the cabinet back or sides.
  • Use shims as needed to make sure the cabinet sits flush against the wall.
  • Install remaining cabinets one at a time, securing them together with appropriate fasteners.
  • Make sure the front face frames are even, with cabinets sitting flat on the floor.
  • Use filler strips as needed to fill gaps between the last cabinet and wall.
  • Secure cabinets to each other through the side frames. Drive screws through interior cabinet walls for extra stability.

Installing the Countertop

With all cabinets installed securely, now you can add the countertop.

  • Make sure the cabinets are level, shimmed properly, and anchored securely to studs.
  • Measure and cut countertop to fit your cabinet run. Make necessary cutouts.
  • Set countertop in place and fasten securely using screws driven into the cabinet frames.
  • Apply adhesive or sealant along the seam where the countertop meets the wall.
  • Install the sink and faucet according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Caulk around the sink and backsplash to seal any gaps or cracks.

Finishing Touches

Add those final details to complete your RTA cabinet installation.

  • Install knobs or pulls on doors and drawers.
  • Insert shelving, racks, or drawers inside each cabinet.
  • Seal around base cabinets with caulk to prevent moisture damage.
  • Touch up with spackle or paint if necessary to hide any imperfections.
  • Clean up construction debris and wipe down your new cabinets.
  • Organize kitchen items in cabinets and enjoy your fresh new space!

Installing RTA cabinets is very doable for DIYers with some basic carpentry skills. Focus on proper prep work, securing cabinets well to the wall studs, and taking a methodical approach. Your new RTA cabinets will provide personalized storage and style in your kitchen for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing RTA Cabinets

Here are answers to some common questions people have about installing ready-to-assemble kitchen cabinets.

How long does it take to install RTA cabinets?

For an average 10 x 10 kitchen with standard layout upper and lower cabinets, expect the RTA cabinet installation to take 2-3 full days. The process involves careful measuring, securing hang rails, leveling and hanging cabinets, installing countertops, caulking, and adding final details.

Can I install them myself or do I need to hire a contractor?

If you have some DIY experience, you can definitely install RTA cabinets on your own. Basic carpentry skills are required. Patience and attention to detail are also key. Hiring a contractor is recommended for more complex kitchen layouts or if you don’t feel up to tackling the project solo.

What tools do I need?

Essential tools include a drill, circular saw, level, tape measure, stud finder, socket set, ladder, and safety gear like gloves and eye protection. Various clamps, pry bars, and specialty bits also come in handy. Make sure you have what’s needed for cutting the countertop material too.

How are RTA cabinets different than custom cabinets?

RTA cabinets are mass-produced kitchen cabinets that ship ready for customer assembly. Custom cabinets are built to order based on your kitchen’s exact specifications. RTA cabinets cost much less but involve basic installation. Custom cabinets don’t require assembly but offer a more tailored fit.

Should I assemble the cabinets first or install as I go?

It’s generally easiest to install RTA cabinets one by one as you go. Trying to maneuver large pre-assembled cabinet sets into place is challenging. Just follow the numbered assembly order in the instructions. Only assemble one cabinet at a time right before mounting it.

What should I use to secure the cabinets to the walls?

High-quality wood screws, at least 2.5 inches long, work best for anchoring wall studs. Use toggles or molly bolts to secure cabinets directly to drywall if needed. Apply adhesive between cabinets for extra stability. Angle screws through interior cabinet walls into adjacent units.

With good planning, tools, and attention to detail, you can achieve a professional-looking RTA cabinet installation. Take your time and don’t be afraid to ask for help lifting heavy cabinets or countertops into place.