Ready-to-assemble (RTA) kitchen cabinets are a popular option for many homeowners looking to remodel their kitchens on a budget. As the name suggests, RTA cabinets come packaged with all the parts and hardware needed to assemble them yourself. Here’s a detailed overview of what RTA kitchen cabinets are, their pros and cons, costs, and more.

What Does RTA Mean?

RTA stands for “ready-to-assemble.” RTA kitchen cabinets come packed flat in a box with all the components and instructions needed to put them together yourself. The cabinets are shipped disassembled so they take up less space during shipping and are more affordable than pre-assembled cabinetry.

RTA kitchen cabinets offer a middle ground between stock and custom cabinetry in terms of quality, cost, and customization. They are mass-produced like stock cabinets but can be customized with different finishes, inserts, and accessories. RTA cabinets need to be assembled but offer more customization than off-the-shelf options.

Pros of RTA Kitchen Cabinets

Here are some of the biggest benefits of choosing RTA kitchen cabinets:

  • Cost Savings: RTA cabinets are up to 50% cheaper than custom cabinetry since you assemble them yourself. There are no labor costs factored into the price.
  • Customization: RTA cabinets can be customized with different finishes, door styles, inserts, accessories and more. This allows you to get a semi-custom look for less.
  • Convenience: The cabinets are delivered directly to your home ready to be assembled. No trips to the home improvement store needed.
  • Quality Materials: RTA cabinets are typically constructed from plywood or solid hardwoods. Higher-end options may feature furniture-grade plywood boxes.
  • Easy Assembly: RTA cabinets go together with simple tools like screwdrivers, hammers, and wrenches. Most can be assembled in a few hours with the help of an instruction guide.

Cons of RTA Cabinets

While RTA kitchen cabinets offer many perks, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider:

  • Self-Assembly: You are responsible for putting the cabinets together correctly and ensuring they are level and secure. Improper assembly can lead to issues down the road.
  • Hidden Costs: Smaller additional pieces like filler strips, trim, and hardware may need to be purchased separately. Factor these into your budget.
  • Limited Sizes: RTA cabinets come in set dimensions, so an exact custom fit is not possible. Fillers may be needed for odd-sized spaces.
  • No Installation: In addition to assembly, you’ll need to handle installation yourself or hire contractors. This adds time and labor costs.
  • Potential Damage: Mistakes made during shipping, assembly or installation can damage the cabinets. Replacement parts may be needed.

Are RTA Cabinets Cheaply Made?

The quality of RTA cabinets can vary greatly, from cheaply made options using lower-end materials to higher-end cabinetry constructed from furniture-grade plywood. In general, here’s what to expect at different price points:

  • Cheap RTA Cabinets: Lower-priced RTA cabinets typically use thinner particleboard or lower-grade plywood. Durability and longevity may be lower, but so is the cost.
  • Mid-Range RTA Cabinets: Most quality RTA cabinets are made from durable plywood boxes and solid wood doors and drawers. They offer good value for most homeowners.
  • Premium RTA Cabinets: Higher-end RTA cabinetry rivals semi-custom cabinets, with furniture-grade plywood construction, soft-close hinges, and premium finishes. The quality is excellent.

No matter your budget, always check the materials and construction quality before purchasing. Avoid thin particleboard boxes in favor of plywood. Look for solid wood doors and drawers for durability. Higher quality materials will last longer.

What Do RTA Cabinets Typically Cost?

RTA kitchen cabinets range in price from about $50 per cabinet for cheaper options to over $300 per cabinet for premium quality. According to 2020 data, you can expect to pay:

  • Economy Range: $80-$150 per cabinet
  • Mid-Range: $150-$250 per cabinet
  • Premium: $250-$350+ per cabinet

Keep in mind that the total cost of your RTA kitchen cabinets will depend on factors like:

  • Number of cabinets needed
  • Dimensions and sizes
  • Door styles and finishes chosen
  • Accessories and upgrades selected
  • Shipping costs

A full kitchen with 20-30 cabinets could cost $2,000 to $6,000 or more. Measure your space carefully, create an inventory of cabinets needed, and get quotes to estimate your total cost.

What Should I Look for When Buying RTA Cabinets?

Focus on these factors when choosing quality ready-to-assemble kitchen cabinets:

  • Construction: Look for plywood boxes, solid wood doors, and durable finishes. Avoid thin particleboard.
  • Door Styles: Check the selection of door designs and finishes available to get the look you want.
  • Hardware: Look for soft-close hinges and full extension drawers included. Sturdy hardware improves durability.
  • Warranty: Choose an RTA cabinet supplier that stands behind their product with a solid warranty, ideally lifetime.
  • Company Reviews: Read buyer reviews and reports about the quality of the cabinets and the company’s customer service.
  • Assembly Instructions: Clear instructions with numbered parts and detailed steps make DIY assembly easier.

RTA vs. Stock vs. Custom Cabinets

How do RTA cabinets compare to other cabinetry options? Here’s an overview:

  • Stock Cabinets: Inexpensive, pre-assembled cabinets in standard sizes. Limited customization.
  • RTA Cabinets: Affordable, ship disassembled for DIY assembly. Can be customized.
  • Custom Cabinets: Fully customized and professionally installed. Maximum quality but very expensive.

RTA strikes a balance in terms of cost, quality, and customization. They offer more personalization than stock cabinets and cost far less than custom, making them a budget-friendly semi-custom option.

Are RTA Cabinets Right for Your Kitchen?

RTA kitchen cabinets provide an affordable way to get new cabinets fully customized to your taste. With some handy DIY skills, you can save substantially on labor costs. RTA cabinets are ideal for:

  • Kitchens on a tight budget
  • Standard cabinet footprints and layouts
  • Homeowners able to handle assembly and installation
  • Those wanting a semi-custom look for less

However, if your kitchen requires completely custom sizing or high-end built-ins, or if you don’t want to take on any DIY work, RTA cabinets may not be the best choice. Overall, RTA cabinetry offers quality and customization that competes with semi-custom cabinets at a fraction of the cost.

Frequently Asked Questions About RTA Cabinets

What tools do I need to assemble RTA cabinets?

You’ll need basic tools like a drill, screwdriver, level, hammer, wrench, and potentially a nail gun. Many suppliers include extra hardware if any pieces are damaged.

How long does it take to assemble RTA cabinets?

With 2 people, expect assembly to take 8-16 hours depending on the size of your kitchen. Work from the bottom up, starting with the base cabinets. Follow all instructions carefully.

Can RTA cabinets be returned if damaged?

Most RTA companies allow returns within a certain window if the cabinets arrive damaged. Always inspect boxes and take photos if anything is broken before accepting delivery.

Do RTA cabinets come with countertops?

No, countertops need to be purchased separately. RTA suppliers can recommend good pairings for their cabinetry. Laminate and quartz are popular countertop options.

What are the best RTA cabinet brands?

Some top-rated RTA cabinet brands include Ready to Assemble Cabinets Depot, Cabinet Joint, Ready Made Cabinets, and Barker Cabinets. Compare warranties and reviews.

The Bottom Line

RTA kitchen cabinets offer homeowners an affordable and customizable option for transforming their kitchens. With a little DIY spirit and the right techniques, RTA cabinetry can provide a fresh new look without breaking the bank. Focus on quality materials and construction when choosing your cabinets to ensure a durable and long-lasting kitchen remodel.