Ready-to-assemble (RTA) furniture has become increasingly popular in recent years for its convenience and affordability. RTA furniture comes packaged with all the hardware and components needed to assemble the piece yourself at home. When it comes to kitchen cabinets, RTA provides a budget-friendly option for renovating your space without the high cost of custom cabinetry. But what exactly does RTA mean when it comes to cabinets?
What is RTA?
RTA stands for “ready-to-assemble.” RTA cabinets come with all the pieces pre-cut and ready for you to put together yourself using the included hardware and instructions. The parts are flat-packed, meaning the cabinets are shipped disassembled in a compact, space-saving box.
RTA cabinets provide the look and functionality of traditional cabinets, but without the higher price tag or lengthy installation time of custom cabinetry. They allow you to update your kitchen design and layout affordably.
How RTA Cabinets Are Made
RTA cabinets start as all standard cabinets do – built from quality materials like plywood, MDF, or solid wood. Pieces are precisely cut using computer numeric controlled (CNC) machining. This level of automation allows for a more consistent finished product.
All of the parts are then packaged along with the necessary hardware and clear instructions. The hardware includes cam locks, screws, hinges, drawer glides – everything needed to assemble the cabinets. Detailed diagrams and labeling make the installation process straightforward for DIYers.
Many RTA cabinet companies also offer matching accessories like molding, handles, and shelving to provide a cohesive look. The cabinets arrive neatly stacked in flat boxes, often with furniture blankets to prevent scratches during shipping.
Pros of Choosing RTA Cabinets
RTA cabinets provide many advantages over traditional cabinet options:
One of the main pros of RTA cabinets is their price point. Because you assemble them yourself, you avoid paying additional installation and labor costs. RTA cabinets can cost 50-70% less than custom cabinetry, providing huge savings on your remodel.
With RTA cabinets, you don’t have to wait weeks or months for custom cabinets to be designed, built, and installed. Because the cabinets are in stock ready to ship, you can receive them within days. Typical assembly takes 1-3 days with basic DIY skills. This allows you to upgrade your kitchen quickly.
Custom Look Without Custom Prices
Well-made RTA cabinets are available in a wide range of styles, finishes, and configurations. You can choose cabinets with features like soft-close doors, pull-out shelves, and adjustable hinges. High-quality materials like solid wood, plywood, and metal can provide the look of custom cabinetry at ready-to-assemble prices.
Easy Transport and Minimal Waste
Because RTA cabinets pack flat, they are easy to transport even for DIYers without a large vehicle. The compact packaging also cuts down on shipping costs. RTA cabinet parts are precision cut to size, resulting in less job site waste.
Things to Consider About RTA Cabinets
While RTA cabinets make kitchen remodels more accessible, they differ in some ways from custom cabinetry:
The DIY factor of RTA cabinets allows for huge cost savings. But you’ll need to set aside time for assembly and accept the responsibility of installing cabinets properly. If opting for RTA cabinets, make sure you are capable of following instructions accurately.
RTA cabinets are available in standard cabinet sizes and configurations. While you’ll have options for finishes and features, the core construction is pre-determined. RTA cabinets won’t accommodate fully custom sizing or design options.
There is a wide spectrum of quality for RTA cabinets. Budget big box store versions may have thinner materials prone to sagging over time. Do research to find high-quality brands that use durable materials and hardware. Higher price points often reflect better construction.
Can’t See Final Product Before Purchase
One downside of RTA cabinets is the inability to see the finished cabinets before purchase. Pictures online can look different from the actual product. Read reviews carefully to determine true quality. Purchase a sample door first if possible.
What to Look for in RTA Cabinets
Focus on these factors when choosing quality RTA cabinets:
- Materials: Look for plywood box construction, solid wood doors and drawers, and metal drawer glides. Avoid cheaper particleboard options.
- Hardware: Look for name brand drawer slides, hinges, and locks like Blum or Salice. Avoid plastic hardware.
- Doors/Drawers: Look for reinforced corners, quality finish processes like multi-step painting, and features like soft-close mechanisms.
- Warranty: Better RTA brands offer warranties of 1-5 years or more. Lack of a warranty could signal lower quality.
- Certifications: Look for GREENGUARD or CARB-2 certification to ensure formaldehyde emissions meet health standards.
- Company Reputation: Check companies’ ratings with the Better Business Bureau and reviews on retail sites. Good brands have a longstanding positive reputation.
- Made in the USA: Domestically produced cabinets typically adhere to higher quality control standards. Many brands produce RTA cabinets stateside.
Top Brands of RTA Cabinets
Some of the best RTA cabinet brands include:
- Barker Cabinets
- Cabinet Joint
- Hampton Bay
- KraftMaid Cabinetry
- Ready to Assemble Cabinets
- Shaker Cabinets
- Simpli Home
- Diamond Cabinets
- Hancock & Moore
- Ready Set Cabinets
These companies are known for better materials, intelligent storage solutions, durability, and excellent warranties. Investing a bit more in cabinets from reputable mid-priced brands can provide lasting quality.
Can You Tell a Difference Between RTA and Custom Cabinets?
To the average eye, quality RTA cabinets are indistinguishable from custom cabinetry once installed. Here are some tips to get a seamless look:
- Use matching cabinet trim molding to conceal seams and create a built-in look.
- Add cabinetry accents like glass doors, decorative legs, or accent lighting for a high-end feel.
- Incorporate drawers, roll outs, and other functional storage accessories for lots of customization.
- Use matching cabinet hardware like knobs, pulls, and hinges for a cohesive look.
- Level cabinets properly and anchor to studs for stability.
- Caulk and fill nail holes for a smooth finish.
What IKEA Cabinets Qualify as RTA?
Many IKEA cabinet systems are packaged with ready-to-assemble convenience:
IKEA’s primary kitchen cabinet line features a rail and module system for ultimate customization. The box construction uses moisture-resistant particleboard with options like solid wood doors and drawer fronts.
This modern cabinet line features a frameless construction with concealed hinges. Options include integrated sinks, mixers, LED lighting, and more.
While designed for closets, the PAX system works great for pantries and utility cabinets. The clean-lined design has fully customizable interiors.
Also designed for storage, BESTÅ cabinets are often used in laundry rooms, mudrooms, and more. The boxy shape works in both modern and traditional kitchens.
RTA Cabinet Cost Breakdown
Here are rough estimates for price ranges of RTA cabinets:
- Economy: $50 – $200 per cabinet. Made of particleboard or laminates. Best for apartment or temporary use.
- Mid-Range: $200 – $500 per cabinet. Plywood boxes with solid wood doors. Provides good quality for most homeowners.
- Premium: $500+ per cabinet. Full plywood construction, commercial-grade hardware, premium finishes. Great for luxury homes.
- Semi-Custom: $800+ per cabinet. Higher-end materials and customization like sizing and storage options. Approaches custom cabinetry.
Other factors like size, species of wood, and hardware choices impact exact costs. Expect to spend $4000 – $10000 for a full RTA kitchen.
How Long Do RTA Cabinets Last?
With good quality construction and care, RTA cabinets can last 15-20 years or longer. Better materials and hardware increase durability. Factors impacting lifespan include:
- Materials like particleboard sag over time, reducing structural integrity. Plywood and solid wood last longer.
- Frequent exposure to moisture can warp and delaminate cabinet boxes. Proper kitchen ventilation helps.
- Hardware wears out over years of use. Sturdier full extension glides last longer than basic side mounts.
- Abuse like slamming doors stresses hinges, affecting alignment over time. Soft-close hinges help.
- Extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations can negatively impact finishes and joints. Climate controlled homes help cabinets last.
RTA Cabinet Installation Tips
Follow these tips for properly installing and caring for your RTA cabinets:
- Review all instructions before starting. Organize hardware and parts. Have tools ready.
- Temporarily assemble cabinets without nails/screws first to ensure proper fit. Then disassemble for final assembly.
- Attach cabinets to wall studs, not just drywall. This provides important structural support.
- Achieve level cabinets with shims where needed. Use a level frequently to check.
- Follow nailing and screwing schedules precisely. Proper hardware use prevents joint failure.
- Fill nail holes, caulk seams, and touch up paint for a polished look.
- Use trim molding to conceal gaps and create a built-in look.
- Keep cabinets dry and avoid harsh cleaners. Wipe spills promptly.
With attention to detail, RTA cabinets can transform the look of your kitchen just as well as custom cabinetry. Follow tips for seamless installation and care for years of hassle-free use.
Frequently Asked Questions About RTA Cabinets
What are the main differences between RTA and custom cabinets?
The main differences are cost, lead time, and customization options. RTA cabinets cost 50-70% less than custom, arrive within days, and come in standard sizes. Custom cabinets take weeks to months, provide full customization, and cost significantly more.
Should I assemble RTA cabinets inside or outside the kitchen?
Most experts recommend assembling cabinets outside the kitchen to allow more room to work. Lay out parts methodically and assemble one at a time. Then install complete cabinets in place.
How difficult is it for one person to install RTA cabinets?
Most homeowners can install RTA cabinets solo, though a second person makes the job easier. Work slowly and carefully. Use blocking and shims to hold cabinets in place while fastening to ensure proper positioning.
What are the best practices for cleaning RTA cabinets?
Use a microfiber cloth with a mild soap and water solution for regular cleaning. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive sponges. For grease, use a degreaser formulated specifically for kitchen cabinets. Keep cabinets dry to avoid damage.
Should I order extra hardware in case I mess up?
It’s a good idea to order 5-10% extra hardware like cam locks and hinges when purchasing cabinets. Having spare parts allows you to recover from mistakes without compromising cabinet strength and integrity through makeshift fixes.
RTA cabinets provide convenience, affordability, and a custom look for upgrading kitchens. Choosing quality materials and finishes enables RTA cabinets to perform as well as custom cabinetry at a fraction of the investment. Following best practices for installation and care also ensures you’ll enjoy your new RTA cabinets for many years.
With some diligence on the front end selecting cabinets, RTA allows DIYers to take on kitchen projects themselves that otherwise may be unattainable. Achieve beautiful, functional results that suit your unique style with ready-to-assemble cabinet options.