Ready-to-assemble (RTA) is a term used to describe furniture and cabinetry that is shipped unassembled to customers. RTA cabinets have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their convenience and cost savings compared to pre-assembled cabinetry. Here is a detailed overview explaining what RTA means in relation to cabinets and cabinetry.

What Does RTA Stand For?

RTA is an acronym that stands for “ready-to-assemble.” RTA cabinets are shipped as individual cabinet components that require assembly by the customer prior to installation.

The term RTA indicates that the cabinets are:

  • Unassembled – The cabinets are shipped in separate pieces that need to be put together.
  • Ready for Assembly – All the cabinet parts, hardware, and instructions for assembly are included.
  • For Self-Assembly – The customer is expected to assemble the RTA cabinets themselves.

So in summary, RTA stands for ready-to-assemble when referring to unassembled cabinetry that is shipped to customers for self-installation.

What are the Benefits of RTA Cabinets?

There are several advantages to choosing RTA cabinets over pre-assembled cabinetry:

  • Cost Savings – RTA cabinets are generally 20-50% cheaper than pre-assembled cabinets since the manufacturer saves on labor and shipping costs.
  • Convenience – The cabinets are delivered in flat boxes which are easier to transport and fit into spaces than bulky pre-built cabinets.
  • Flexibility – RTA cabinets can be assembled in any order so customers can customize their installation order.
  • Wider Selection – More styles and sizes are available from RTA brands since the cabinets are easier to produce and ship.
  • Easier Installation – The cabinets can be built right in the room they will be installed in, eliminating the need to haul large assembled cabinets into place.

While RTA cabinets offer many benefits, the tradeoff is that the customer must invest their own time and effort into the assembly. However, with clear instructions this can be straightforward for most homeowners.

What to Look for When Buying RTA Cabinets

If you opt for RTA over prefab cabinets, here are some tips on selecting quality ready-to-assemble cabinetry:

  • Materials – Plywood boxes are more durable than particle board. Solid wood doors are preferable over veneers.
  • Hardware – Look for thick durable hardware, soft-close hinges and slides.
  • Assembly – Choose cabinets with simple cam locks, screws and dowels for easier assembly.
  • Finish – Pre-finished cabinetry will have more durable finishes than site-applied paints or stains.
  • Warranty – Check warranty coverage for defects and kit replacement. Good RTA brands offer limited lifetime warranties.
  • Replacement Parts – Can you easily obtain spare hardware pieces or replacement doors?
  • Certifications – Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) certification indicates quality standards.
  • Reviews – Check reviews and complaints for specific RTA cabinet brands online.

Taking the time to inspect RTA cabinet materials and construction will help ensure a successful assembled cabinetry installation.

How are RTA Cabinets Packaged and Shipped?

One of the biggest perks of RTA cabinets is their specialized packaging and shipping process:

  • Cabinets are broken down into individual unassembled components.
  • Pieces are labeled with part numbers for easy identification.
  • Parts are packaged together in flat boxes optimized for shipping efficiency.
  • Styrofoam or cardboard inserts protect cabinet parts from damage.
  • Comprehensive instructions and hardware kits are included.
  • Cabinets are shipped directly via parcel or freight delivery.
  • Specialty carriers can deliver RTA cabinets right to your door.

Advancements in packaging have made it possible to safely ship even large-scale RTA cabinet orders directly to homeowners or job sites. Carefully unpacking and inventorying all the parts is an important first assembly step.

How Do You Assemble RTA Cabinets?

Assembling RTA cabinets is a relatively straightforward process:

  • Clear an open, clean workspace with room to spread out parts.
  • Carefully unpack boxes and inventory all cabinet parts and hardware.
  • Group parts for each cabinet together and confirm you have everything.
  • Read the instructions thoroughly before starting.
  • Assemble cabinet frames, then doors, then inserts.
  • Attach hinges, drawers, and sliding hardware per instructions.
  • Use clamps, carpenter squares, and power drills for easier assembly.
  • Follow all safety precautions – use safety glasses, measure twice, cut once.
  • Don’t force pieces that don’t fit – double check for errors.
  • Complete all final adjustments and hardware tightening prior to installation.

With some basic DIY skills, assembling RTA cabinets is very manageable for most homeowners.Taking it slow and following directions will result in beautiful finished cabinets.

Are RTA Cabinets Lower Quality Than Pre-Assembled Cabinets?

Despite the cost savings, RTA cabinets are not inherently lower in quality than pre-assembled cabinets. Many top cabinet brands offer RTA cabinetry lines made from the same materials to the same construction standards.

There are high-quality and lower-quality offerings both in RTA and prefab cabinetry. The key factors that determine cabinet quality include:

  • Materials Used – Plywood vs. particle board, solid wood vs. veneers, joinery methods.
  • Hardware Quality – Sturdy guaranteed hardware indicates better quality.
  • Finishing Process – Durable finishes are important in kitchens and baths.
  • Brand Reputation – Established brands are motivated to maintain quality and customer satisfaction.
  • Certifications – Third party testing and certifications validate quality and safety.
  • Warranties – Good warranties show the manufacturer stands behind their RTA product.

So while price can indicate quality, it is not the only factor. Well-made RTA cabinets from reputable brands can offer comparable quality and longevity to pre-assembled cabinetry. They provide an attractive and affordable cabinetry option for many homeowners and builders.


In summary, RTA stands for ready-to-assemble, describing cabinets that are shipped unassembled directly to customers. RTA cabinets offer many benefits in terms of price, convenience, and flexibility. When selecting RTA cabinetry, look for durable materials and finishes, quality hardware, approachable assembly, warranties, and brand reputation. With good RTA cabinets and some DIY skills, homeowners can enjoy beautiful, quality cabinetry. The RTA model makes cabinetry affordable and accessible while maintaining modern features and aesthetics.