RTA (ready-to-assemble) kitchen cabinets offer homeowners a budget-friendly and customizable option for refreshing their kitchen spaces. RTA cabinets come dismantled in boxes, ready for the homeowner to put together themselves. This guide will provide an in-depth look at RTA kitchen cabinets, including the pros and cons, tips for selecting and installing, pricing, and more.
What are RTA Kitchen Cabinets?
RTA kitchen cabinets, also known as ready-to-assemble cabinets, are kitchen cabinets that come packaged in boxes with all the components and hardware needed for assembly. RTA cabinets ship disassembled so they take up less space during shipping and are more affordable than pre-assembled cabinetry.
RTA cabinets offer several benefits:
- Cost Savings: RTA cabinets are roughly 40-50% cheaper than pre-assembled cabinets since the homeowner provides the labor for assembly and installation. This makes RTA cabinets an affordable option for budget-conscious renovations.
- Customization: Homeowners can select their preferred cabinet sizes, wood types, finishes, and organizational accessories when ordering RTA cabinets. This allows for a customized kitchen.
- Convenience: RTA cabinets ship directly to your home in compact boxes that are easier to transport than bulky pre-assembled cabinets. All the components and hardware are included for assembly.
While RTA cabinets offer clear advantages, they also require more work on the part of the homeowner. The assembly and installation process can be challenging for those without carpentry skills. Professional installation is recommended for more complex projects.
Pros and Cons of RTA Kitchen Cabinets
RTA cabinets provide an affordable way to refresh your kitchen design, but also come with some downsides to consider.
- Cost Savings: The DIY assembly results in significant savings over professional installation of pre-assembled cabinets. RTA cabinets can cost 40-50% less.
- Convenience: RTA cabinets ship in compact boxes directly to your home. This avoids the hassle of transporting bulky pre-assembled cabinets.
- Customization: RTA cabinets can be customized in size, wood type, finish, and accessories. This allows you to design your ideal kitchen.
- Quality Materials: RTA cabinets are typically constructed from the same high-quality materials as pre-assembled cabinets, like plywood boxes and solid wood doors. Durability doesn’t suffer.
- Assembly Required: You’ll need to unpack, assemble, and install the RTA cabinets on your own. This requires time and carpentry skills.
- Potential Mistakes: If RTA cabinets are improperly assembled or installed, issues like misalignment or instability can occur. The quality of DIY work factors in.
- Limited Sizes: RTA cabinet collections may have fewer sizes and accessories than a full custom cabinetry line. Customization is somewhat limited.
- Can’t View Before Purchase: Since RTA cabinets ship boxed up, you can’t view or test them out before purchase like you can with in-store cabinet displays.
What to Look for When Buying RTA Cabinets
Focus on these factors when selecting RTA kitchen cabinets:
Check that the cabinets have plywood boxes rather than lower-quality particleboard. Look for solid wood doors and drawers for durability. Quality materials will ensure your RTA cabinets last.
Verify all necessary cabinet hardware like hinges, drawer glides, and door pulls are included. Many RTA companies include hardware kits for each cabinet. Hardware should be durable and well-engineered.
Look for a wide range of finish options like stain, paint, and glaze. More finish options allow better customization to your style. Durable finishes like polyurethane protect cabinet surfaces.
Choose RTA cabinets from reputable companies known for quality and service. Read reviews and evaluate the warranties offered. A reliable company will stand behind their RTA products.
Ordering and Delivery
Find an RTA company with a user-friendly website for designing, ordering, and tracking orders. Clear delivery timelines and shipping information is essential.
How to Install RTA Kitchen Cabinets
Installing RTA cabinets is a big job, but breaking it down into individual steps makes it more manageable. Here is an overview of the process:
1. Prepare the Work Area
Clear out the kitchen and cover floors/countertops to protect them. Gather required tools, safety gear, and building supplies. Ensure adequate lighting and ventilation.
2. Assemble the Cabinets
Unpack cabinets and hardware. Follow included instructions to properly assemble cabinet frames, doors, and drawers. Use clamps to hold pieces for gluing. Allow glue to dry fully before moving assembled cabinets.
3. Hang the Wall Cabinets
Measure and mark stud locations for upper wall cabinets. Use a level to draw accurate horizontal lines for mounting. Attach mounting rails or ledger boards at this height. Hang upper cabinets by fastening to the ledger or rails.
4. Install the Base Cabinets
Set base cabinets in place, shimming as needed to level. Fasten to wall studs and/or adjoining cabinets for stability. Connect cabinets together with appropriate fasteners. Apply caulk to gaps before counter tops go in.
5. Add Countertops
Take countertop measurements and cut tops to fit (or have fabricator template and cut for you). Set countertops in place and secure to cabinets from underneath. Apply caulk along seam edges for a finished look.
6. Install Decorative Hardware
Attach any additional functional hardware like drawer glides or roll-out trays. Install decorative hardware like knobs or pulls on doors/drawers to complete the installed look.
7. Seal and Finish Cabinets
Clean all cabinet surfaces well. Apply protective sealant/finish per manufacturer’s guidelines if ordered unfinished cabinets. Allow proper drying time before use.
RTA Cabinet Pricing
RTA cabinets cost less than pre-assembled, ranging anywhere from $50 per linear foot on the very low end, to $350+ per linear foot for premium styles.
Here are some factors that influence RTA cabinet pricing:
- Materials: Higher-end wood species, plywood construction, and solid wood doors/drawers increase cost. Thermofoil or laminate options cost less.
- Brand: Leading RTA brands that heavily invest in design and technology charge more for their products. Lesser-known brands tend to be more budget-friendly.
- Order Size: Due to economy of scale, ordering more cabinets reduces the per-unit price. Small orders or single cabinets cost more.
- Features: Additional features like soft-close doors/drawers, roll-outs, and custom storage additions increase the overall price. Basic cabinets are most affordable.
- Finish: Unfinished (raw wood) cabinets cost less than pre-finished cabinets. Specialty finishes like glazing add labor costs.
- Quality: Superior joinery, durable finishes, precise engineering, and heavy-duty hardware increase quality and price. Bargain cabinets may lack refinements.
Popular RTA Kitchen Cabinet Brands
Some of the most popular and reputable RTA cabinet brands include:
- IKEA: Known for contemporary, minimalist styles and wildly affordable prices. IKEA offers a huge selection of cabinetry and accessories.
- Canyon Creek: Offers classic to contemporary styling with custom sizing, storage, and finish options. Known for beautiful wood grain finishes.
- Barker Cabinets: Focuses on traditional styled designs and quality hardware/storage accessories. Lots of customization possible.
- Kabinet Kingdom: Specializes in European-inspired designs. Carries both framed and frameless cabinet construction. Has budget and premium lines.
- Cabinet Joint: Manufactures higher-end RTA cabinets known for soft-close features, wood veneer finishes, and excellent warranties.
- RTA Cabinet Store: One-stop shop offering cabinet, countertop, sink, and accessory packages for whole kitchen projects. Has various door style and color options.
Should You Hire a Contractor?
While avid DIYers may choose to self-install their RTA cabinets, hiring a professional contractor is advisable for more complex projects.
Reasons you may want to hire a kitchen contractor for your RTA cabinet installation:
- You need existing cabinets removed or reconfigured as part of the remodel.
- Electrical or plumbing systems must be relocated to accommodate new layouts.
- Tricky situations exist like sloped floors or ceiling height differences that require skill to work around.
- You want built-ins or specialty storage solutions beyond the basic cabinetry.
- You lack the tools, time or confidence for successful DIY assembly and mounting.
Even if you don’t opt for full contractor installation, consider hiring for critical steps like precision cabinet mounting or countertop templating/cutting. Ensure your investment with pro help on tricky parts.
RTA Cabinet Installation: DIY Tips
If tackling RTA cabinet installation as a DIY project, these tips will help it go smoothly:
- Review all instructions before starting. Have an overview of the process and expected results before picking up tools.
- Carefully unpack cabinets and immediately verify you have all components/hardware as listed. Reach out to the company for any missing or damaged pieces right away.
- Assemble cabinets one at a time, completing them fully before moving to the next. Avoid the confusion of having multiple half-finished units.
- Work on a flat, smooth surface when constructing cabinets. Keep components organized and clamps handy.
- Use a jigsaw, hole saw, or drill to cut out openings for plumbing or electrical needs prior to mounting cabinets.
- Apply painter’s tape along walls and cabinets to protect from damage during installation. Remove tape before finishing kitchen.
- Secure cabinets with at least two points of contact per unit: to wall studs, floor, ceiling, or adjoining cabinets. This prevents tipping.
- Go slow when adjusting cabinet doors and drawers to avoid over-tightening hinges/glides. Test fit and function repeatedly for smooth operation.
Maintaining and Cleaning RTA Cabinets
Follow these tips for properly maintaining your RTA kitchen cabinets once installed:
- Wipe spills promptly using a soft cloth and mild soap/water. Avoid harsh cleaners that can damage finishes.
- Use cabinet door/drawer bumpers to prevent banging and dents. Open/close doors gently.
- Tighten loose hinge screws or drawer pulls as needed. Check for loosening annually.
- Clean grease buildup regularly using a degreasing cleaner. Degrease more frequently if no range hood exists.
- Every few years, tighten all screws/fasteners, check for loose joints, and inspect for any damage needing repair.
- Limit direct sunlight exposure which can cause fading of finishes. Install UV film on windows if needed.
- Apply a fresh coat of protective sealant like polyurethane every 3-5 years per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Following a careful cleaning and maintenance routine will help your RTA cabinets retain their good-as-new appearance and function for years before considering replacement. Be attentive and you’ll get lasting value from your investment.
Frequently Asked Questions
What tools are needed to assemble RTA cabinets?
Common tools needed are Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, a hammer, level, drill with bits, adjustable wrench, utility knife, tape measure, carpenter’s square, and clamps. A friend or family member to lend an extra pair of hands can also be helpful!
What is the difference between RTA and stock cabinets?
Stock cabinets are pre-assembled cabinetry available for purchase off the shelf at home improvement stores. RTA cabinets ship disassembled directly from the manufacturer. RTA cabinets allow for more custom sizing and configurations.
How long do RTA cabinets last?
High quality RTA cabinets installed and maintained properly are expected to last 15-20 years on average. More inexpensive cabinets may start showing wear sooner. The longevity comes down to materials and construction quality.
Can I mix and match RTA cabinet collections?
While each RTA company has unique product lines, mixing and matching between collections generally isn’t recommended. The finishes and dimensions likely won’t align properly. Stick with cabinets from the same collection.
Should I hire a contractor for installation?
Those comfortable with DIY carpentry can self-install if the project scope is straightforward. Contractors are best for kitchen overhauls moving walls, electrical, and plumbing. At minimum, hire for countertop templating.
RTA kitchen cabinets offer homeowners an opportunity to affordably remodel by taking a hands-on approach. With smart planning, careful assembly, and professional assistance when warranted, RTA cabinets can transform your kitchen just as impressively as pricier pre-assembled options. Take time to ensure you select quality RTA cabinets suited to your space and style goals.