Ready to assemble (RTA) cabinets are a popular option for homeowners and contractors looking to save time and money on their kitchen or bathroom remodels. As the name implies, RTA cabinets come ready to be assembled on site, rather than being delivered fully constructed. Here is a detailed overview explaining what RTA cabinets are, their benefits, and what to consider before purchasing them.

What Are RTA Cabinets?

RTA cabinets, also sometimes called knockdown cabinets, come packed in boxes with all the pieces and hardware needed for assembly. The cabinets are typically made of materials like particle board or plywood, with vinyl or thermally fused laminate finishes.

The parts are cut to size and pre-drilled at the factory. All you need to do is follow the included instructions to put them together yourself. It’s a bit like assembling furniture from IKEA or other retailers. The necessary tools are also usually minimal – just a hammer, screwdriver, and possibly a power drill.

Benefits of Choosing RTA Cabinets

There are a few key advantages to opting for ready to assemble over traditional pre-assembled cabinets:

More Affordable

One of the biggest appeals of RTA cabinets is that they are significantly less expensive than custom cabinetry. Because they are mass produced and shipped flat, manufacturers can save on production and transportation costs. These savings are then passed on to the consumers. According to HomeAdvisor, RTA cabinets tend to cost 50-60% less than custom options.

Easier Transport and Delivery

Since RTA cabinets are shipped in a flat pack, delivery and getting them to your installation site is much simpler. Pre-constructed cabinets need to be brought in large pieces and carefully maneuvered into place. RTA cabinets can be easily brought right through the front door.

Quick and Easy Installation

With RTA cabinets, the assembly process is straightforward and can usually be managed in a short timeframe. The installation instructions are designed to be simple enough for non-professionals to follow. This means you can save on installation costs by putting them together yourself over a weekend instead of hiring a carpenter.

Flexible Design Options

One of the best parts of RTA cabinets is that you can customize them to your exact size and style specifications. Many retailers offer a wide selection of customizable door styles, finishes, storage options and extra accessories. You can match your existing decor or create a completely new kitchen design aesthetic.

What to Look for When Buying RTA Cabinets

While ready to assemble cabinets make renovating easier, there are still some important factors to research before purchasing:

Quality Materials

Pay attention to what the cabinets are constructed from. Particle board and plywood can vary greatly in durability and longevity. Opt for thicker materials with sturdy joining mechanisms. Also look at the quality of the door hinges and drawer glides.

Detailed Instructions

Well-written instructions with clear diagrams or photos should be provided for each step of the assembly process. Review them thoroughly before purchasing to ensure you understand what is required.

Warranty Coverage

Many RTA companies offer warranties on their products. Check that defects in materials and workmanship are covered for at least a year. Extended warranties of 3-5 years are ideal.


Look for independent certifications such as from the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA). These assure that rigorous durability, safety and quality standards have been met.

Company Reputation

Do some research on customer reviews and complaints for the brand you are considering. This can reveal potential issues with shipping, packaging, customer service or the assembly process that users have experienced.

Return Policy

Understand the return policies if cabinets arrive damaged or if you simply change your mind. Many retailers will not accept returns on custom RTA orders.

The Assembly Process for RTA Cabinets

Once you have selected and ordered your RTA cabinets, be sure you understand the process of putting them together. Follow these tips for smooth assembly:

  • Carefully unpack all the boxes and organize hardware and components. Refer to the instructions manual and verify all pieces are present before starting.
  • Read through all the steps first before picking up any tools. Make notes or highlights for any areas you have questions on.
  • Work on a smooth, clean surface with adequate space. Avoid carpeting.
  • Follow the steps in order and do not skip ahead. The sequence is designed to make assembly easier.
  • Use wood glue for stronger joints on areas like corner gussets. Let glue fully cure before stressing joints.
  • Drill pilot holes before inserting screws to prevent splitting wood. Don’t over tighten screws.
  • Double check doors and drawers are level and open/close smoothly after each section is completed.
  • Install filler strips and caulk gaps for a finished look once everything is assembled.
  • Take your time. Rushing through steps can lead to mistakes and poor cabinet construction.

RTA Cabinet Considerations

While RTA cabinets make renovations accessible, they may not be the right choice for all kitchen or bath projects. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

Customization – If you want fully custom cabinets tailored exactly to your space, RTA likely will not suffice. The designs, sizes and modifications are limited.

Quality – Pre-assembled custom cabinets are usually higher quality in terms of materials, construction and longevity. Be mindful of the tradeoffs.

Complex Designs – Intricate cabinetry with tricky angles or installations may be difficult to achieve with ready to assemble options.

Damaged Pieces – If some parts arrive flawed or broken, it can be tricky to obtain replacements and continue the project.

Expertise Required – While designed to be DIY-friendly, some assembly skills, tools and patience are still required. If you don’t feel up to it, installation costs can add up fast.


Ready to assemble or RTA cabinets provide an affordable and customizable option for kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects. Their simplified shipping and installation make renovations accessible even on tight budgets and timelines. Just be sure to do your homework on the manufacturer’s quality and reputation. With good planning, you can likely assemble RTA cabinets successfully as a DIY homeowner and end up with beautiful new cabinetry.