Putting together ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets may seem intimidating, but with the right tools, patience, and these step-by-step instructions, you can have your new kitchen cabinets assembled in no time.

Gather the Necessary Tools and Hardware

Before starting the assembly process, make sure you have all the tools and hardware needed. This typically includes:

  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Pliers
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil or marker
  • Cabinet screws
  • Cam locks and keys
  • Wood glue
  • Sandpaper
  • Rags

Be sure to lay out all the parts and hardware beforehand so everything is easily accessible during assembly. The instruction manual that comes with the cabinets will outline exactly which screws, cams, and other parts are needed for each step.

Prepare the Installation Space

Choose a wide open, clean area for assembly. The kitchen, garage, basement or other large room works well. Be sure to sweep and vacuum the floor first to prevent dirt and debris from scratching the cabinets during assembly.

Cover the floor with a protective layer like cardboard, blankets or a tarp to prevent damage to the cabinet parts during assembly. Make sure you have adequate lighting and room to move around the cabinets with ease.

Review the Instructions Thoroughly

Carefully read through the instruction manual, ideally more than once, before starting the build. Pay close attention to the diagrams, part names, screw sizes, and any special notes or tips. Having a solid understanding of how the parts fit together and the steps involved will make the process go much more smoothly.

Also, check that you have received all the listed parts and hardware. Reporting any missing or damaged pieces right away makes replacement easier.

Start with the Wall Cabinets

It is best to start the assembly process with the upper wall cabinets, followed by the base cabinets and lastly accessories like drawers, doors and shelves. Building the wall units first gives you a chance to check their fit prior to installing the countertop and base cabinets beneath them.

Attach Side Panels and Back Panel

The first step is joining the cabinet sides, top and bottom with the back panel using the provided screws and an electric drill. Often, the cam locks will also be installed to connect the side and top/bottom panels together.

Pre-drilling holes is key to prevent splitting the wood when screwing parts together. Take care to drill the holes and insert screws straight to ensure the cabinets assemble in a square.

Install Shelf Pegs and Shelves

Once the cabinet box is constructed, slide the shelving pegs into the pre-drilled shelf holes where desired. Keep in mind standard spacing between shelves is around 12 to 15 inches. Set the shelves in place on the shelf pegs. Secure shelves to the cabinet back wall with a screw if noted in the instructions.

Add Doors and Drawers

After all cabinets are fully constructed, the doors can be hung using the provided hinges and screws. Drawers are typically built separately then slid into place once the cabinets are installed. The drawer slides allow smooth gliding when opening and closing.

Adjust the doors and drawers to ensure proper alignment on the cabinet frames. Most hinges are adjustable if tweaks are needed after assembly.

Use Care When Lifting and Moving Cabinets

Take care when lifting and moving assembled cabinets – they can be heavy and awkward. Use an extra set of hands or a moving dolly when possible. Never try to move fully loaded cabinets on your own.

Also, avoid lifting cabinets by the doors, drawers or shelving to prevent damage. Lift beneath the cabinet base or sides for best support.

Tips for Easier Assembly

  • Read and follow the directions carefully for each step. Don’t skip ahead.
  • Look closely at the detailed diagrams showing how parts connect.
  • Only use the hardware provided, unless the instructions state otherwise.
  • Pre-drill screw holes to prevent splitting and cracking.
  • Work on a flat, stable surface with good lighting.
  • Tighten screws snugly but be careful not to overtighten.
  • Use a power drill for efficiency but set it to low torque and speed.
  • Check each cabinet for square after assembly before moving to next one.
  • Ask a friend to help with the build – extra hands are always useful!

With proper preparation, tools, space and patience, assembling RTA cabinets can be manageable for DIYers. Taking it slowly and double checking each step produces the best results. Soon you’ll have quality, custom-looking cabinets ready for installation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to put RTA cabinets together?

It typically takes about 30-60 minutes per cabinet for assembly by one person. Larger cabinets or installations with multiple cabinets will take several hours to fully assemble.

What if I am missing hardware or parts?

Closely check that all listed parts are present before starting. Note any missing or damaged pieces right away and contact the cabinet company for free replacement parts.

What if the cabinet sides don’t line up perfectly?

Check that the cabinet is square and panels are joined tightly. If side alignment is slightly off, use shims during installation to make sides flush with no gaps.

Should I use power tools or assemble manually?

While a power drill makes assembly faster, it isn’t required. A manual screwdriver works for those without power tools but will take more time and effort.

How do I get replacement parts or extra hardware?

Contact the manufacturer directly through their customer service department to order any replacement cams, hinge plates, screws or other parts as needed after assembly.


Assembling ready-to-assemble kitchen cabinets is a manageable task for most homeowners with basic DIY skills. Following the detailed instructions, using proper tools and techniques, and taking your time results in quality cabinets customized to your space. With a systematic approach, soon you’ll be enjoying your beautiful new DIY kitchen cabinets.