Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets are a popular option for many homeowners and DIYers looking to renovate or remodel their kitchens. As the name implies, RTA cabinets come ready for the buyer to put together and install themselves. Here is a detailed overview explaining what RTA cabinets are, their pros and cons, costs, and things to consider when buying RTA kitchen cabinets.
What Are RTA Cabinets?
RTA cabinets, also sometimes referred to as flat pack cabinets, are sold unassembled and require the buyer to put them together before installing them. The cabinets come with all the individual pieces and hardware packed flat in a box for easy transport and handling.
RTA cabinets typically include:
- Pre-cut cabinet pieces with drilled holes for assembly
- Cabinet doors and drawers
- Shelves and interior fittings
- Assembly hardware like screws, nuts, washers etc.
Everything the buyer needs to assemble a complete cabinet is included in the package. All one needs to do is follow the instructions to put the parts together just like assembling furniture. The assembled cabinets can then be installed like any traditional cabinet.
Pros of RTA Cabinets
Here are some of the biggest advantages of choosing RTA cabinets for your kitchen:
RTA cabinets are extremely convenient since they come with all the parts and hardware together in one box. There is no need to source different components from multiple places. All that is required can be ordered together.
One of the biggest reasons homeowners opt for RTA cabinets is their lower cost compared to pre-assembled cabinets. Since RTA cabinets ship unassembled, it saves manufacturing and shipping costs. These savings are passed on to buyers making RTA cabinets an affordable cabinetry option.
Easier Transport and Handling
RTA cabinets are much easier to transport and handle as they can be moved through narrow spaces in their flat pack form. Pre-assembled cabinets are bulkier and difficult to maneuver in tight spaces or stairs.
The DIY assembly makes installation flexible. RTA cabinets can be adjusted and customized to fit exact dimensions if walls or floors are not perfectly square. Pre-assembled cabinets have less room for modifications.
RTA cabinets are available in a wide range of styles, finishes, and colors from various brands. You can find an option that fits the design you have in mind for your kitchen.
Better Quality Control
Unlike site-built cabinets, RTA cabinets are factory made with automated precision manufacturing. This results in very consistent quality and dimension accuracy.
Easier to Organize and Store
For DIYers doing their own kitchen renovation over time, RTA cabinets can be conveniently stored until needed.
Cons of RTA Cabinets
While RTA cabinets have their advantages, they also come with some downsides to consider:
Need for Assembly
The most obvious disadvantage is the assembly time and effort required. Putting cabinets together involves careful attention to detail and can be tedious.
Since RTA cabinets are shipped flat, there is a higher risk of parts arriving damaged or getting lost. The buyer has to source replacements which takes time.
Inability to Modify
While RTA cabinets offer some flexibility, you cannot make major modifications like changing cabinet heights or depths. The cabinet pieces are pre-cut to fixed dimensions.
Some low-end RTA cabinet brands have cabinets made of lower quality materials susceptible to damage. Durability may be less compared to solid wood cabinets.
In general, RTA cabinets may have a lower resale value in the future compared to site-built solid wood cabinets.
Cost of RTA Cabinets
RTA cabinets range in cost from $50 on the very low end to $500 at the high end. The exact price depends on the:
- Materials used – fiberboard, plywood, solid wood etc.
- Door styles – slab, shaker, inset etc.
- Finish type – laminates, wood veneers, painted
- Features – soft-close doors/drawers, pull out shelves etc.
Generally speaking most decent quality RTA cabinets cost between $100 to $300 per cabinet on average. High-end options with solid wood doors and premium hardware can cost over $500 per cabinet.
For an average 10 x 10 kitchen with 30 linear feet of cabinets, a RTA cabinetry package can cost between $3000 to $9000 depending on the options selected.
What to Look for When Buying RTA Cabinets
When shopping for RTA cabinets, keep the following criteria in mind:
- Construction – Check the materials used. Plywood boxes are stronger than particleboard. Solid wood doors are superior to MDF or veneers.
- Hardware – Look for name brand hardware like Blum hinges and drawer glides for smooth operation. Avoid cheap hardware.
- Finishes – Make sure finishes like laminates and wood veneers are thick and durable. Painted finishes should be HVLP sprayed for a smooth look.
- Assembly – Review the instructions and see if they are clear and detailed. Some brands provide helpful instructional videos as well.
- Warranty – Look for at least a 1 year manufacturer warranty. Several brands offer limited lifetime warranties too.
- Brand Reputation – Stick with established cabinet brands known for decent quality and service rather than obscure names.
- Certifications – Look for kitchen cabinet certifications like KCMA APHA to ensure quality standards.
RTA or ready-to-assemble cabinets provide an affordable and customizable cabinetry option for DIY-minded homeowners. Their convenience and lower cost make them an attractive choice for many renovators. However, RTA cabinets do require some assembly work and may not match the quality or durability of premium pre-built cabinets. Checking cabinet construction, components, and brand reputation when buying is advised. Overall, RTA cabinets are a viable choice for certain home improvement budgets and skillsets. With some research and planning, they can be a satisfactory and budget-friendly cabinet solution.