Assembling and installing ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets can be a daunting task for any homeowner. One of the key decisions you’ll need to make is whether or not to use glue when putting them together. Here’s an in-depth look at the pros and cons of gluing RTA cabinets to help you make an informed choice.

What Are RTA Cabinets?

RTA cabinets, also known as flat pack or knockdown cabinets, come in pieces with pre-drilled holes and hardware included. They ship flat in boxes for the end consumer to put together at home. The main advantage of RTA cabinets is that they are far more affordable than pre-assembled cabinetry. They also allow for convenient transport and installation.

Should You Use Glue When Assembling RTA Cabinets?

While RTA cabinets can typically be assembled with just the included hardware like screws and cam locks, many experts recommend also using glue when putting them together. Here are some of the benefits of using glue:

Creates Stronger Cabinet Boxes

Using high-quality wood glue when joining cabinet components helps create stronger, longer-lasting finished products. The glue bonds the wooden pieces together to reinforce the joints and prevent loosening or separation over time. This is especially important for the main cabinet boxes that will hold a lot of weight.

Reduces Squeaks and Vibrations

If cabinet parts aren’t completely flush or tight against each other, it can result in annoying squeaks and vibrations when opening and closing doors and drawers. Glue helps minimize gaps between pieces so everything fits together snugly and operates smoothly without noise.

Provides Extra Protection from Moisture

Any moisture that infiltrates unfinished cabinet edges can cause swelling and deterioration over time. Glue forms a water-resistant seal between pieces to help protect the internal cabinet boxes from moisture damage.

Easier for DIY Installation

Gluing cabinet boxes together as you assemble them makes the finished units much easier to maneuver and install by yourself or with a helper. Sturdy glued boxes are less likely to pull apart when lifting into place.

Enhances Overall Durability

Joint failure is one of the most common issues with RTA cabinets over time. The adhesive properties of wood glue help ward off joint problems by reinforcing the entire assembly from the inside out.

What Are the Downsides of Using Glue?

While using glue during assembly has its advantages, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider:

  • More Difficult Disassembly – Glued boxes can be almost impossible to take apart later if needed. This makes modifications or repairs more challenging.
  • Increased Assembly Time – Applying glue and allowing it to dry adds extra steps and time to the cabinet assembly process. RTA cabinets already take significant time to construct.
  • Messier Process – Wood glue can get messy if you aren’t careful. It requires a bit more cleanup during and after assembly.
  • Need for Precision – The glue application must be precise or else pieces may not align correctly. Rushing the process can backfire.
  • Specialized Glue Selection – Not all adhesives work well for RTA cabinet assembly. Choosing the right glue is key.

Best Practices for Gluing RTA Cabinets

If you opt to use glue when putting together your ready-to-assemble cabinets, follow these tips for best results:

  • Only apply glue to raw wood surfaces, not finished edges or pre-applied laminates. Purchase a high-quality wood glue formulated specifically for cabinets and woodworking.
  • Always do a “dry fit” first to ensure a proper fit before gluing and fastening permanently.
  • Apply a thin, even layer of glue on both surfaces to be joined. Avoid using too much glue which can seep out and make a mess. Clamp pieces together immediately after applying glue.
  • Let the glue dry fully before unclamping and moving on to the next assembly step. Most cabinet glues take 24 hours to reach full bond strength.
  • Thoroughly wipe up any excess glue squeeze-out immediately using a damp cloth. Allowing dried glue residue to remain risks uneven cabinet finishes.
  • Pay close attention to keeping joints tight and properly aligned while the glue dries. Misalignment can prevent drawers and doors from operating smoothly.
  • Only glue a few cabinets at a time to allow adequate drying time before stacking or installing. Rushing the glue curing process can undermine the strength benefits.


While gluing your RTA cabinets together does require a little extra time and diligence, most cabinet experts agree it is worth the effort. The enhanced strength and durability gluing provides leads to better-functioning finished cabinetry that will last for years to come. Just be sure to use the right woodworking glue and assembly techniques to maximize benefits and avoid potential pitfalls.

Frequently Asked Questions About Gluing RTA Cabinets

Should I glue every part of the RTA cabinets?

It’s recommended to glue the main cabinet boxes, especially joints that will need to bear weight. Drawers, doors, and face frames typically only require assembly with screws and/or cams.

What is the best wood glue for RTA cabinets?

Look for an adhesive specially formulated for cabinetry, like Titebond III or Gorilla Wood Glue. Avoid basic multi-purpose glues which dry too quickly.

How long does cabinet glue need to dry?

Most quality wood glues take a full 24 hours until completely cured. Allow at least this much time before stacking glued cabinets or installing permanently.

Can I speed up the glue drying time?

You can slightly accelerate cure time by clamping joints tightly to thin the glue line. But allowing the full recommended drying time is best to achieve max strength.

Is wood glue waterproof when dry?

Yes, reputable wood glues create water-resistant bonds when fully cured. This helps protect cabinet interiors from moisture damage long-term.

Should I glue before or after assembling with screws?

It’s best to do a dry fit with screws first, then disassemble and apply glue if needed before final permanent assembly with screws.

Will glue make RTA cabinets harder to disassemble later?

Yes, gluing cabinets together will make any future modifications much more difficult compared to screwing alone. Keep this in mind if changes may be needed down the road.

Key Takeaways on Gluing RTA Cabinets

  • Gluing RTA cabinet boxes creates stronger, long-lasting joints by reinforcing the fastened connections.
  • Adhesive forms water-resistant seals and minimizes gaps that lead to squeaks or vibrations.
  • Precision and specialized cabinet glue are required to gain benefits without creating mess or misalignment.
  • Allow adequate drying time before stacking, moving, or installing glued cabinets.
  • Weigh increased effort against long-term durability gains before deciding whether to glue.