Ready to assemble (RTA) kitchen cabinets, also known as flat pack or knockdown cabinets, are a popular option for homeowners looking to remodel their kitchens on a budget. As the name suggests, RTA cabinets come packaged with all the pieces needed to assemble them, allowing you to put together your new kitchen cabinets on your own.
RTA kitchen cabinets offer many benefits that make them an attractive choice compared to custom or stock cabinets from home improvement stores. Here’s a closer look at what exactly RTA cabinets are, their pros and cons, prices, and what to look for when buying them.
What Are RTA Cabinets?
RTA kitchen cabinets come in a flat pack along with instructions and hardware needed to assemble them. The cabinets arrive in a box with panels, doors, drawers, shelves, and hinges all bundled together. You’ll need to put in some elbow grease to construct the cabinets and install them yourself in your kitchen.
These unassembled cabinets are typically made from materials like particle board, plywood, or fiberboard. Doors and drawer fronts may be made from materials such as wood, thermofoil, or vinyl. RTA cabinets come in a wide variety of styles and finishes to choose from.
The ready to assemble format allows manufacturers to flatten out the cabinets for cheaper shipping costs. It also shifts the assembly process to the customer. This translates to significant savings over buying traditional stock or custom cabinetry from home improvement stores.
RTA cabinets are available from big box stores, online retailers, warehouse stores and through specialty kitchen and bath showrooms or distributors. Top brands include Hampton Bay, ClosetMaid, Rev-A-Shelf and More.
Pros of RTA Kitchen Cabinets
There are many benefits that make ready to assemble kitchen cabinets a smart choice for many homeowners:
More Affordable Than Custom Cabinets
The primary advantage of RTA cabinets is their lower cost compared to custom cabinetry. Pre-assembled stock cabinets don’t offer the customization of cabinet sizes or accessories that RTA cabinets allow. Meanwhile, custom cabinets can cost tens of thousands more than RTA options.
RTA cabinets provide an excellent balance – you can get cabinets semi-customized to your needs at a fraction of the cost of fully custom cabinetry.
Easier to Transport and Install
Since RTA cabinets come deconstructed in a flat box, they are much easier to transport and maneuver into your home compared to bulky pre-assembled cabinets. The lighter flat packed boxes can save you delivery fees and make it easier to get the cabinets into your kitchen.
Their ready to assemble format also makes installation a DIY project, saving on pricey installer fees. You can assemble the cabinets on your own time and schedule.
More Size and Design Options
RTA cabinets are available in a wide range of standard and customizable sizes. Height, width, depth and accessories can usually be customized to fit your kitchen’s dimensions and layout.
You can choose from a variety of materials, finishes like wood stains or paints, hardware and storage accessories. This allows you to achieve a semi-custom look for less.
Quicker Lead Times
Since RTA cabinets are mass produced to stock configurations and sizes, the lead time is usually much shorter than custom made cabinets (1-2 weeks versus 4-8). You don’t have to wait months for your kitchen remodel to begin.
Stock cabinets at home improvement stores are ready faster but usually don’t come in as many size varieties. RTA cabinets strike a nice balance of quick lead times with customization flexibility.
Cons of RTA Cabinets
While there are many perks to ready to assemble kitchen cabinets, they do come with some downsides to consider:
The need to construct the cabinets yourself may be seen as a pro or a con, depending on your skill level and willingness to take on the project. Assembling cabinets requires some carpentry skills and tools, along with patience to follow instructions carefully.
If you don’t assemble the cabinets correctly, they could end up crooked or damaged. Poor assembly can lead to issues like doors not closing properly down the road. Many homeowners choose to pay extra to have a contractor assemble the cabinets.
Potential Quality Issues
In general, RTA cabinets are not as high in quality as custom cabinetry due to mass production methods and cheaper materials involved. drawer glides, hinges and other hardware may not last as long. Fit and finish is not perfect.
There can be more variances and flaws with RTA cabinets off the shelf. Doing your homework to find reliable brands helps minimize quality problems.
Can’t See Product Before Buying
When purchasing RTA cabinets, you usually cannot see the actual product before delivery. This means you won’t be able to inspect for defects ahead of time. Online and warehouse retailers often have generous return policies to offset this – but returning large cabinets can be a hassle.
Limited Selection In-Store
While some home improvement stores carry a few RTA cabinet lines, the selection is limited compared to what you’ll find online or at a kitchen cabinet distributor. To see the full range of RTA cabinet options, you generally have to visit a specialty retailer or buy online.
Resale Value May Be Lower
Like any home improvement project, higher quality cabinets will yield a better return on investment in terms of home resale value. Custom wood cabinets generally retain their value and enhance resale better than particle board RTA cabinets. But your total spend will also be higher upfront.
RTA Kitchen Cabinet Costs
RTA Cabinets Price Per Linear Foot
On average, you can expect to spend $50-200 per linear foot for RTA kitchen cabinets. This factors in upper and lower cabinets along with hardware and accessories. More premium cabinet brands and materials like solid wood will be at the higher end of the range. Value priced thermally fused laminate or vinyl cabinets will be under $100/linear foot.
Here’s a rough breakdown of linear foot pricing tiers for RTA cabinets:
- Value/budget: $50-100/linear ft
- Mid-range/standard: $100-150/linear ft
- Premium/semi-custom: $150-200+/linear ft
Of course, your total cost will depend on the size of your kitchen and how many cabinets you need. Other add-ons like cabinets with specialty storage features, organization inserts, crown molding and lighting will also impact the budget. Expect to spend $2,000-5,000 for a small 10 x 10 foot kitchen. A larger 15 x 15 foot kitchen could run $8,000-$15,000 or more.
Cost Comparison to Stock & Custom Cabinets
To give you an idea of the cost differences between cabinet types:
- RTA cabinets: $100-200/linear ft
- Stock cabinets: $200-300/linear ft
- Custom cabinets: $500-1000+/linear ft
So while RTA cabinets will cost more than the builder basic cabinets at home improvement stores, they can save tens of thousands over custom cabinetry while still offering a customized fit.
The price of RTA kitchen cabinets will vary based on these key factors:
- Size – The more cabinets you need, the more it will cost overall.
- Construction – Plywood boxes will cost more than particle board. Solid wood doors command a higher price than veneers.
- Materials – Wood species, lamination and finishes have a wide range of pricing. For example, maple cabinets will be pricier than thermofoil.
- Quality – Better quality cabinet brands with durable features and hardware will be more expensive.
- Special features and accessories – Specialty storage and organization options add to cost.
- Where you buy – Prices can vary between big box stores, online retailers, kitchen distributors and other outlets.
What to Look for with RTA Cabinets
Focus on these features when shopping for ready to assemble kitchen cabinets:
Cabinet Box Construction
The cabinet box, also called the carcass, makes up the structure that will house your kitchen items. Look for plywood construction at a minimum, as it will be more sturdy than particle board. Dovetailed joints are preferable over nails or staples to give the cabinet box strength.
Quality drawer glides that allow full extension for easy access to contents are ideal. Look for ball bearing glides rated for at least 75-100 pounds. Dovetail joinery in drawers is also recommended for durability.
Doors and Drawer Fronts
Look for solid wood over veneers or laminates, as solid wood will withstand wear better over time. Plywood and MDF doors are other durable options. Hinges should be sturdy and adjustable.
Make sure the finish is resistant to kitchen grease, moisture and heat. Wood veneer, thermally fused laminate and vinyl/PVC finishes are good options. Look for low VOC finishes if you have health sensitivities.
Review the steps and make sure assembly looks straightforward for your DIY abilities. Many retailers also offer professional assembly for an added fee.
Look for at least a 1 year warranty from the manufacturer. Better warranties of 5 years or limited lifetime are ideal to protect against defects.
Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) certification indicates cabinets passed quality assurance testing. CARB certification means formaldehyde emissions meet health standards.
Ready to Assemble vs Assembled Cabinets
Since installation and assembly are key considerations, how do RTA cabinets compare to already assembled stock cabinets? Here’s an overview of the pros and cons of each.
- Lower cost
- Customizable sizing
- Quicker shipping
- Easier for DIY installation
- Need ability to assemble
- Cannot see product before buying
Assembled Stock Cabinets:
- No assembly required
- Can inspect product before buying
- Often available immediately
- More expensive
- Limited size options
- Harder to transport and install
As you can see, RTA cabinets offer more flexibility for a customized kitchen design thanks to their modular assembly and lower price point. But assembled cabinets certainly have an ease factor if you want to skip the assembly.
RTA Cabinet Installation Cost
If taking on the cabinet assembly and installation yourself sounds unappealing, many retailers offer professional installation as an added service when you purchase RTA cabinets from them. This allows you to have the cabinets assembled and fitted in your kitchen properly so they are ready to use when complete.
On average, expect to pay $50-$100 per hour for RTA cabinet installation. The total cost will depend on:
- Cabinet quantity/kitchen size
- Complexity of layout
- Required materials like mounting hardware
- Local labor rates
- Installer’s experience level
Smaller kitchens under 12 cabinet units could start around $800-$1,500 for installation. For larger kitchens with 20+ cabinets, total installation fees of $2,000-$4,000 are more realistic.
Be sure to get an itemized estimate of the cabinet installation cost upfront before purchasing the cabinets. Confirm what is included such as assembly, clean up, disposal fees, connection to utilities, and permitting if needed. Many retailers offer package deals that include the RTA cabinet purchase price along with professional installation for a bundled discount.
Ready to Assemble Kitchen Cabinet Brands
Many cabinet brands offer ready to assemble options along with their other cabinet lines. Here is an overview of some top quality RTA cabinet manufacturers to consider across a range of price points and styles:
A house brand of Home Depot, Hampton Bay offers a wide selection of RTA stock and custom cabinetry including Shaker, traditional, and contemporary styles. Highly affordable pricing with decent quality. Convenient to purchase along with other home improvement products.
Focused on traditional styled cabinets, Barker offers oak, maple, and cherry RTA cabinets known for fine craftsmanship and made in the USA. Lifetime warranty on boxes. Mid-high end pricing.
Formerly Known as Ready-to-Assemble Cabinets, Cabinets.com merged with Masterbrand Cabinets to offer a huge selection of RTA kitchen, laundry and bathroom cabinetry online. Quality and pricing from value to premium options.
A specialty retailer offering semi-custom RTA cabinets known for durability, organization features, and good value. Easy online ordering process with consultants available.
The original RTA cabinet retailer, IKEA offers ultra affordable prices starting under $100 per cabinet. Their SEKTION system includes dozens of sizes and options. Quality and longevity is not as high but great for a temporary kitchen redo on a tight budget.
A longstanding brand with available RTA stock and semi-custom cabinets. Mid-range pricing but solid quality and wide style selection through their Masco distributors.
Focused on value priced RTA cabinets, Shenandoah Cabinetry offers a variety of classic and contemporary kitchen cabinet lines starting around $90 per cabinet box. Great selection under $200 per linear foot.
Sektion from IKEA
IKEA’s SEKTION system helps you customize your kitchen down to the smallest detail—with no custom costs. Start with ready-to-assemble kitchen cabinet frames and doors in standard sizes to create exactly what your home needs. Choose between wall cabinets, tall cabinets, base cabinets and drawers in different colors and materials. Then add fronts, handles, hinges, interior organizers and smart features to design a kitchen that’s all yours.
With selection and prices this good, the only limit is your imagination. What will you SEKTION?
Ready to Assemble Bathroom Vanities
In addition to kitchen cabinets, many of the same manufacturers offer ready to assemble bathroom vanities. These are a great option to upgrade your bathroom affordably.
RTA bathroom vanities come as either:
- A vanity cabinet only – designed to sit on top of your existing sink base or a newly tiled platform.
- A vanity cabinet with included countertop and sink basin.
Benefits of RTA bathroom vanities include:
- Cost savings over custom vanity cabinetry
- Quick and easy assembly compared to moving large pre-assembled vanities
- Customized sizing potential for an exact fit to your bathroom footprint
- Choice of materials and colors to match your decor
- Storage options like drawers, shelves, cabinets and hampers
Measure the length of your bathroom wall and make sure to account for sink and faucet overhang on the sides when sizing an RTA vanity. As with kitchen cabinets, be sure to read reviews and look for solid wood construction and water resistant finishes.
RTA Cabinet Maintenance
Once your ready to assemble kitchen or bathroom cabinets are installed, proper care and maintenance will keep them looking beautiful. Follow these tips:
- Use microfiber cloths or soft sponges to gently clean cabinet surfaces as needed with warm water and mild dish soap. Avoid harsh cleaners.
- Dry any water or spills right away to avoid swelling and warping, especially around sink bases.
- Use cutting boards and avoid cutting directly on counter surfaces to prevent scratches and knicks.
- Open and close doors gently without slamming to reduce strain on hinges.
- Tighten any loose hinges or knobs as needed. Lubricate hinges occasionally with silicone spray.
- Consider adding roll-out trays, lazy susans and other organizers to simplify access to cabinet contents.
- Touch up nicks or scratches on cabinet surfaces promptly with matching wood fillers or touch up markers/wax to avoid further damage.
- Use child safety locks as needed to avoid cabinet doors being left open or drawn on.
Ready to Assemble Cabinet FAQs
Some common questions about RTA cabinets include:
Are RTA cabinets cheaper than custom cabinets?
Yes, RTA cabinets offer significant cost savings over full custom cabinetry, often 50% less or more for similar construction quality. Their mass manufacturing, flat packed shipping, and DIY assembly translate into lower costs for consumers.
Can RTA cabinets be returned?
Policies vary by retailer. In general, unopened RTA cabinet boxes can be returned but may have restocking fees. It is more difficult to return once cabinets are assembled/installed. As with any big purchase, check return fine print before buying.
How long do RTA cabinets last?
With proper care and maintenance, you can expect 10-20 years of life from RTA cabinets before needing replacement. More expensive woods and hardware extend longevity. Cheaper big box store brands may start to show wear sooner.
Should I assemble RTA cabinets myself?
If you are handy and can follow instructions well, assemble them yourself to save on labor. But the assembly process can be tedious and challenging. Hiring a professional installer is recommended for those lacking DIY skills or dealing with complicated kitchen layouts.
How are RTA cabinets shipped?
RTA cabinets ship via parcel delivery service in flat boxes direct to your home, or to a local pickup warehouse for free or low cost pickup. Box dimensions are usually under 4 feet long to fit within standard large delivery truck sizes.
When should I order RTA cabinets?
Order your RTA cabinets 4-8 weeks before your target installation date to ensure adequate time for delivery and assembly. More lead time may be needed for out of stock or custom color cabinets. Confirm lead times with the seller before ordering.
Ready to Assemble Cabinets: A Budget-Friendly Cabinet Option
If you’re looking to remodel your kitchen or bathroom affordably while still achieving a customized look, ready to assemble cabinets offer the perfect solution. Thanks to their cost-effective manufacturing and assembly process, RTA cabinets provide homeowners with quality craftsmanship at a fraction of the price of custom cabinetry.
Taking the time to carefully compare construction, materials, sizing options and brand reputation will help narrow down the expansive RTA cabinet selection to options that best fit your space and budget. Investing some sweat equity into assembling and installing the cabinets yourself will multiply your savings further.
While not as luxurious as hand crafted wood cabinetry