Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets offer a cost-effective and customizable solution for kitchen and bathroom renovations. With some handy DIY skills, you can install RTA cabinets and save significantly compared to custom cabinetry. Here is a complete guide on how to select the best RTA cabinets for your next remodel.

Check Construction and Materials

The quality of materials and construction is the most important factor when choosing RTA cabinets. Opt for plywood box construction, which is sturdier than particle board. Dovetail joinery on the drawers is also recommended for durability.

Look for cabinet boxes made of moisture-resistant plywood at least 1⁄2” thick. Avoid paper-thin lamination and opt for thick, durable finishes like thermofoil or wood veneer. For cabinet doors, choose solid wood or strong engineered wood like MDF with veneers.

Examine cabinet hardware like hinges, pulls, and slides for metal construction and smooth operation. Avoid cabinets with plastic hardware or unstable drawer glides. Higher quality materials and robust construction will ensure long-lasting cabinets.

Confirm Quality Certifications

Reputable RTA cabinet brands comply with voluntary quality certification standards for durability, safety, and environmental health. Look for seals like:

  • Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA)
  • American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
  • Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP)
  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

KCMA-certified cabinets withstand rigorous tests for structural integrity. ANSI and ESP certifications mean the cabinets passed formaldehyde emissions standards for indoor air quality. FSC-certified wood is sustainably harvested. These seals provide added assurances of quality.

Choose Cabinet Front Style

RTA cabinets come in a range of classic and contemporary front styles to match any kitchen decor. Traditional options include:

  • Recessed panel – Timeless and elegant with a central recessed square or arched panel bordered by a raised frame.
  • Raised panel – Similar to recessed but with a prominent central panel that sits above the frame.
  • Beadboard – Casual classic style with a tongue-and-groove plank design.

Modern and minimalist cabinet front styles include:

  • Flat panel – Clean, simple design with a smooth, flat center and minimal trim.
  • Shaker – Straight sides with a subtle recessed square center panel.
  • Slab – Seamless front with no trim or panels for a minimalist look.

Consider the overall kitchen aesthetic and decor when selecting cabinet door style. Examine door samples to evaluate color, finish, grain, and other details.

Choose a Durable Finish

RTA cabinet finishes must be strong enough to withstand everyday wear and tear. Top finish options include:

  • Thermofoil – Durable plastic laminate fused to MDF or plywood. Resists scratches and moisture. Easy to clean.
  • Wood veneer – Real wood laminated over plywood or MDF. Stains well but requires sealing to prevent moisture damage.
  • Laminate – Plastic coating over particle board or MDF. Prone to chipping and peeling over time.
  • Painted wood – Solid wood doors painted for a built-in finish. Resists nicks better than wood veneer.

Consider kitchen usage, traffic patterns, and lighting when choosing finishes. Darker finishes hide fingerprints and water spots better in busy kitchens. Lighter stains complement bright, airy spaces. Distressed finishes mask dings well in rustic designs.

Compare Cabinet Brands

Quality and value can vary greatly among RTA cabinet manufacturers. Here are some of the top brands to consider:

  • IKEA – Very affordable, widely available basic cabinets. Particleboard construction.
  • KraftMaid – Mid-range brand with plywood construction and wide style selection.
  • Hampton Bay – Budget-friendly RTA cabinets sold exclusively at Home Depot.
  • Canyon Creek – Manufactures premium RTA cabinets with solid wood doors and warranties.
  • Barker Cabinets – Specializes in high-quality kitchen, bath and laundry RTA cabinetry.

Check manufacturer websites for product specs, warranty details, available sizes and accessories. Be sure to order samples to inspect quality firsthand.

Factor in Your Skill Level

RTA means “ready to assemble,” so some DIY skills are required. Evaluate your experience before ordering:

  • Beginner – Opt for cabinets with simple construction. Avoid ornate moldings or glass fronts, which require expert installation.
  • Intermediate – Choose standard cabinet boxes with more intricate door styles within your skill range.
  • Advanced – If experienced with complex cabinetry, select any door styles, storage solutions and modifications within your budget.

Don’t take on more than you can handle. If unsure, order a single cabinet first to test your skills without risking an entire kitchen. Or hire a carpenter for the cabinet installation.

Choose Within Your Budget

RTA cabinets provide quality and customization at a fraction of the cost of custom cabinetry. Set a firm budget and search for sales to maximize value:

  • Economical – Particleboard cabinets by IKEA or Hampton Bay cost $75-$200 per cabinet.
  • Mid-Range – Plywood cabinets by brands like KraftMaid range $200-$800 per cabinet.
  • Premium – High-end options like Barker can cost $800-$2,000+ per cabinet.

Measure your kitchen layout and create a cabinet plan. Calculate total costs for cabinets, hardware, delivery, tax, and installation. Set your budget and design kitchen cabinets accordingly.

Order Cabinets Early

Due to COVID-19, material shortages, and shipping delays, RTA cabinet order times can now take 6-12 weeks for delivery. Avoid project delays by ordering cabinets early:

  • Order immediately once cabinet layout is finalized. Do not wait for demolition or construction to begin.
  • Provide the supplier with accurate kitchen measurements and cabinet quantities needed.
  • Choose in-stock cabinet sizes and door styles to prevent extended lead times.
  • Ask for guaranteed delivery timeframe and expedited shipping if needed urgently.

With some smart planning and early ordering, you can have quality RTA cabinets onsite and ready for installation when needed.


The key steps for selecting quality RTA cabinets for your DIY kitchen or bath remodel include:

  • Review cabinet construction and materials carefully. Seek out plywood boxes, dovetail joinery, and durable finishes.
  • Look for major certifications like KCMA, ANSI, and FSC for assurances of quality and health safety.
  • Choose cabinet door styles and finishes that suit your kitchen decor, lighting, and usage patterns.
  • Compare brands, quality and prices to find RTA cabinets that fit your budget.
  • Order cabinets early to avoid delays of 6-12 weeks in the current environment.
  • Opt for RTA cabinet styles matching your skill level – simple for beginners or complex for advanced DIYers.

With attention to quality, style, affordability and proper planning, RTA cabinets can be a smart choice for kitchen and bathroom renovations. Follow these tips to select and install cabinets with confidence.