Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets offer an affordable and convenient way to get high-quality cabinetry installed in your home. Putting together RTA cabinets takes time and effort, but following some key tips will ensure the process goes smoothly. With the right tools and techniques, you can successfully assemble sturdy and stylish RTA cabinets.


RTA cabinets come packed flat in boxes with all the pieces and hardware needed for assembly. While the task of constructing the cabinets yourself may seem daunting, having a systematic approach helps simplify the process. Carefully reviewing the instructions and diagrams, organizing hardware and parts, and methodically assembling one section at a time makes putting together RTA cabinets very manageable.

With a few basic tools, space to work, and patience to follow each step slowly, assembling RTA cabinets is an achievable DIY project. The reward is having quality cabinets installed in your home at a fraction of the cost of custom cabinetry. Follow these tips and techniques for a successful RTA cabinet assembly process from start to finish.

Gather the Right Tools and Supplies

Putting together the cabinets will go much smoother if you ensure you have the necessary tools and supplies before getting started. Here are some essential items to have on hand:

  • Safety gear – work gloves, safety goggles, knee pads
  • Screwdrivers – Phillips head and flathead in various sizes
  • Electric drill and drill bits
  • Hammer
  • Pry bar
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Cabinet hardware – screws, clips, pegs, etc.
  • Wood glue
  • Rags
  • Sandpaper
  • Stud finder

Make sure to carefully open the cabinet boxes and organize all the hardware packets and parts so they can be easily located during each assembly step. Having everything you need within reach helps the workflow go efficiently.

Study the Instructions Thoroughly

All the key information needed to properly assemble the RTA cabinets is provided in the instructions booklet. Be sure to carefully read through the entire instructions, observing the accompanying diagrams and illustrations multiple times. Familiarize yourself with the parts list, the labeled hardware, and the order of operations.

Many find it helpful to first lay out all the cabinet pieces and hardware in an organized manner. Then study the instructions, visualizing how the parts come together by following the step-by-step directions. Taking time to become familiar with every aspect of the process will help avoid mistakes.

Pay close attention to the recommended tools for each step, as well as any safety precautions. Proper understanding of the instructions is vital for success. Go through the booklet slowly several times until you feel confident in how to complete each step of the process.

Work on a Clear, Clean Surface

Choose a large, flat workspace that allows plenty of room to unpack boxes and lay out cabinet pieces. The floor is often the best surface for assembling RTA cabinets. You may want to spread out a tarp or blankets first to prevent damaging flooring.

Make sure the area is swept and free of clutter, nails, dirt, or anything else that could scratch the cabinets. Carefully unpack the boxes, keeping parts organized and hardware packets clearly labeled. Having an efficient workspace helps the construction process go smoothly.

Check all Pieces Before Assembly

Before constructing the cabinet boxes, take time to ensure you have all necessary parts, and that each piece is free from defects or damage. Examine the panels, doors, shelves, and hardware, looking for dents, chips, or flaws. Catching any imperfections now prevents headaches later.

Check edges and holes to verify everything lines up correctly for assembly. It can be frustrating to realize damaged or improper parts mid-project. Thoroughly inspect and take inventory of all components first for a seamless construction experience.

Follow Instructions Step-By-Step

Guided by the diagrams and directions, proceed through each assembly step methodically. Never force pieces together – if alignment seems off or parts don’t fit cleanly, double check the instructions to ensure proper order and orientation.

Taking shortcuts risks incorrect assembly and a sloppy finished product. Have patience and stick to the guidelines. Repeatedly review the diagrams associated with each step until clear on how components fit together.

Only move to the next step when completely finished with the previous one. Trying to multitask can result in mistakes. Follow the process sequentially for best results. Avoid improvising or deviating from the instructions provided.

Securely Tighten Hardware

Use care when tightening screws and other hardware to prevent stripping the holes or cracking the wood. Tighten each screw partially at first, then return and fully tighten once all fasteners are in place.

Prior to drilling pilot holes, make sure cabinet pieces are aligned correctly. Use a level frequently to check for evenness. Hardware should fit snugly but not be over-tightened. Let glue fully dry before attaching adjacent components. Proper techniques ensure durability.

Work Slowly and Double Check Often

Putting together RTA cabinets does not need to be rushed. Working patiently and deliberately helps avoid errors. Expect the process to take several hours or days depending on how many cabinets you purchase.

After finishing each assembly step, take a moment to compare your work-in-progress to the instruction diagrams. Visually confirm that everything is square and stable, holes line up, and your cabinets match the pictures before moving to the next step. Paying close attention ensures proper assembly.

Use Helpful Assembly Tips

  • Glue strengthens joints – apply wood glue before driving screws
  • Tighten screws in a star pattern for even alignment
  • Check wall stud locations before mounting to ensure adequate support
  • Make sure cabinets sit flush against each other when installed
  • Use shims to level and secure cabinets properly to the wall
  • Secure cabinets together with clamps while waiting for glue to dry

Following these useful techniques as you assemble the components results in stronger, study cabinets that function well once installed.

Add Finishing Touches

The cabinet boxes come assembled but doors, handles, shelves, and other accessories are installed after. Take a break after completing the cabinet construction before moving on to the final details.

When ready for the finishing touches:

  • Carefully clean dust and debris from cabinet boxes
  • Attach door hinges and adjust alignment
  • Insert fixed and adjustable shelves at desired heights
  • Attach handles/knobs with proper hardwre
  • Install drawer glides and slide in drawers
  • Complete any needed adjustments for proper fit and function
  • Touch up any scratches with finish nails or wood putty
  • Secure cabinets to your wall studs

Take pride in your assembled RTA cabinets as you wrap up the accessories and hardware installation. Soon you will have beautiful and functional cabinetry ready for years of storage and use.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Despite best efforts, some issues can still pop up when assembling RTA cabinets. Here are tips for troubleshooting common problems that may arise:

Parts not lining up – Loosen hardware and recheck step-by-step instructions for proper alignment before re-tightening.

Cabinets not level – Use shims underneath cabinets and verify walls are plumb. Check for level frequently.

Doors not shutting right – Adjust hinge alignment and review installation instructions.

Chipped or scratched surfaces – Use wood filler for minor blemishes or replace damaged component if necessary.

Unstable cabinets – Ensure adjacent units are fastened together properly. Anchor to studs securely.

Going back through instructions can resolve most issues that develop. Be patient and take time to problem-solve any difficulties before proceeding.

FAQs About Assembling RTA Cabinets

What tools do I need to put together RTA cabinets?
Basic essentials include a Phillips head screwdriver, hammer, electric drill with drill bits, tape measure, level, stud finder, pry bar, and safety equipment like gloves and goggles.

How long does it take to assemble RTA cabinets?
Expect assembly to take 10-20 minutes per cabinet on average. Larger or more complex cabinetry will require more time. Plan on spending several hours up to 2-3 days for more extensive RTA installation projects.

What if parts are damaged or missing?
Check that all components were included by taking inventory before starting. Contact the manufacturer right away if any pieces are defective or missing for prompt replacement parts.

Should I assemble the cabinets where they will be installed?
It’s generally easiest to construct the cabinets in a clear workspace then install them in place once fully assembled. But for larger cabinets, assembling in the final location is sometimes better.

What if I’m having trouble following the instructions?
Don’t hesitate to reach out to the manufacturer if the instructions seem unclear or ambiguous. Some also provide helplines to assist with assembly. Consider hiring a carpenter for help as well.

Do I need to be good at construction for RTA assembly?
While carpentry skills are helpful, with patience any motivated DIYer can assemble RTA cabinets by closely following all included instructions and diagrams. Go slowly and double check your work.

How do I ensure my RTA cabinets hold up over time?
Properly tightening all hardware and using wood glue for joints gives cabinets maximum strength and durability. Check for level and plumb during assembly. Securely anchor to wall studs once installed.

Following the manufacturer’s instructions precisely while working safely and meticulously results in secure, long-lasting RTA cabinets for years of everyday use.


Assembling ready-to-assemble cabinets is an achievable process for any willing DIYer. By studying instructions thoroughly, organizing a clean workspace, taking inventory of all components, carefully following each step, and asking for help when needed, RTA cabinets can be assembled properly for durability and quality.

While initially time consuming, putting together RTA cabinetry yourself pays off through thousands saved in installation costs. The systematic approach outlined above simplifies the assembly so you can take pride in building quality, customized cabinetry affordably. Pay close attention to details and work slowly when constructing the cabinets. Then soon you’ll have beautiful new storage and function throughout your home.