Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets are a popular option for homeowners looking to renovate or remodel their kitchens on a budget. RTA cabinets come unassembled, allowing the homeowner to put them together themselves following instructions, rather than paying for professional installation. This cuts down on labor costs significantly. RTA cabinets can be an affordable and customizable solution for achieving the new kitchen of your dreams while sticking to your budget.
What Exactly Are RTA Cabinets?
RTA stands for “ready-to-assemble.” RTA cabinets are shipped to customers in an unassembled state and require assembly before installation in your kitchen. The cabinets arrive in a flat box containing all the individual pieces, hardware, and instructions for putting them together.
RTA cabinets provide a more budget-friendly alternative to fully assembled cabinetry from a home improvement store or custom cabinets built and installed by professionals. You get to handle the assembly and installation yourself, reducing the labor costs. RTA cabinets come in a wide variety of styles, colors, and configurations to choose from to suit the look you want.
Advantages of Choosing RTA Cabinets
More Affordable Price Point
The main advantage of opting for RTA cabinets is the cost savings. With RTA cabinets, you avoid paying for professional installation labor by assembling and installing the cabinets yourself. This can lead to significant savings, with RTA cabinets costing 30-50% less than custom cabinetry.
Convenience of Home Delivery
Having RTA cabinets delivered to your home is convenient compared to purchasing pre-assembled cabinets at a home improvement store. The cabinets are delivered directly to your door in flat boxes that are easier to transport.
RTA cabinet companies offer plenty of customization choices in terms of cabinet sizes, wood types, finishes, door styles and hardware. You can select options to create a kitchen with a unique style.
Many RTA cabinet companies use the same high-quality materials and manufacturing processes as more expensive custom cabinet brands. Opting for RTA doesn’t have to mean compromising on cabinet quality.
The RTA Cabinet Assembly Process
Assembling RTA cabinets takes some work, but following the included instructions carefully makes it a doable DIY project for many homeowners. Here is an overview of the process:
Organize the Cabinets and Hardware
First, unpack all the cabinet boxes and lay out the cabinet parts, doors, drawers and hardware. Organize them based on the instructions so you can easily find what you need for each assembly step.
Assemble Cabinet Boxes
The cabinet boxes go together first. They usually assemble with cam locks, dowels and screws. Take your time here to ensure the corners fit tightly and the cabinets assemble square.
Attach Doors and Drawers
Next, attach the doors and drawers, using hinges, slides and pulls. Adjust the hinges so the gaps between the doors are even. Soft-close hinges prevent slamming.
Add Interior Accessories
Insert adjustable shelves, roll out trays, spice racks and other interior accessories. Follow the directions to install them at the right heights and locations.
Prepare for Installation
Once assembly is complete, the cabinets are ready to be installed! Fill any holes with wood filler and sand smooth. Add trim molding. Protect cabinet fronts with painter’s tape.
Tips for Easier RTA Cabinet Assembly
Assembling RTA cabinets takes time and patience, but a few tips can help it go smoothly:
- Carefully read the instructions before starting. Understand each step before moving on.
- Organize hardware and tools so they are easily accessible when needed.
- Work on a soft, clean surface to avoid scratching the wood.
- Pay close attention to alignment. Adjust as needed to keep cabinets square.
- Tighten cam locks and screws gradually in sequence to pull pieces together evenly.
- Use wood glue for extra strength and durability at joints. Let dry completely.
- Drill pilot holes before inserting screws to prevent splitting the wood.
- Work slowly and double check your work. Don’t force pieces together.
Following the instructions properly and taking your time results in secure cabinets that function and look like built-ins.
Are RTA Cabinets Difficult to Install?
Installing assembled RTA cabinets is comparable to installing other prefab cabinets. The process involves:
- Measuring and marking positions on the wall.
- Using a level to draw straight reference lines.
- Securing wall anchors, brackets and hanging rails.
- Lifting and fastening each cabinet box onto the wall securely.
- Making adjustments so cabinets are plumb and level.
- Securing cabinets together with clamps or fasteners through adjoining cabinet sides.
- Finishing off with trim pieces around the edges for a built-in look.
The installation process takes some handyman skills, but is very doable, especially with two people. Helpful tips for smooth installation include:
- Having an assistant makes maneuvering the cabinets much easier.
- Using a cabinet jack lifts and holds cabinets in place hands-free for fastening.
- Tightening screws gradually prevents pulling cabinets out of alignment.
- Checking level and plumb periodically ensures cabinets hang straight.
- Securing cabinets both to the wall and each other results in a rigid installation.
The most important aspects are proper preparation, taking your time, and having a helper. With care and patience, you can achieve a professionally installed look.
RTA Cabinet Quality Concerns
Many wonder if opting for RTA cabinets means compromising on quality. Much depends on the manufacturer. High-end RTA companies use top-notch materials and quality control equal to custom cabinet brands. When researching options, look for:
Strong, Thick Cabinet Boxes – 3/4″ solid wood frames with 1/2″ thick cabinet backs withstand heavy use. Dovetail joinery adds strength.
Durable Exteriors – Finishes and surfaces should resist scratches, impacts, and moisture. Plywood construction is most durable.
Smooth Drawers and Doors – Quality slides, hinges and hardware ensure smooth operation for years. Soft-close mechanisms prevent slamming.
Premium Interior Fittings – Full-extension shelves, sturdy racks and trays stand up to frequent use. Melamine interiors are easy to clean.
Safety Certifications – Look for brands certified compliant with CARB 2 emissions standards for indoor air quality.
Warranties – Better brands offer warranties against defects of 1-year on parts, 3-5 years on finishes, and lifetime on cabinet boxes.
When buying RTA, stick with top manufacturers like Barker Cabinets, Cabinets To Go, or Cliffside Industries to ensure a long-lasting, quality kitchen.
Style Options for RTA Cabinets
One great advantage of RTA cabinets is the wide range of styles and options available. Whether you want a traditional, contemporary or eclectic look, there are RTA cabinets to match.
From simple slab cabinet doors to intricate raised panel and shaker styles, you’ll find a door design perfect for your kitchen’s look.
Opt for lighter maple and oak, dramatic walnut or cherry, eco-friendly bamboo or budget-friendly thermofoil and melamine options.
Stains, glazes and paints in any color imaginable let you customize your cabinets’ finish. Distressed, aged patinas are also on-trend.
Update your kitchen’s style with beautiful hardware like brushed nickel pulls, matte black bars, or hammered copper knobs.
Roll-out trays, spice pull outs, waste bin compartments, blind corner cabinets with lazy susans – the storage options are endless!
RTA cabinet companies understand homeowners want custom looks at affordable prices. Take advantage of the wide selection of options.
Are There Different Quality Grades of RTA Cabinets?
Yes, RTA cabinet brands offer different quality tiers and lines ranging from budget-friendly to top-of-the-line. Key differences include:
Entry-level – Parts self-sourced overseas. Lower quality materials like particleboard. Limited warranties.
Mid-range – Pre-cut materials finished in domestic factories. Solid wood frames. More durable surfaces.
Premium – Highest grade domestic plywood boxes. Finished in the U.S. More hardware upgrades. Lifetime warranties.
Semi-custom – Custom sizes and storage options. More door styles and wood grades. Top quality soft-close hardware.
Like many products, lower prices mean lower quality with RTA cabinets. Stick with mid-range to premium options from reputable brands for the best durability and performance.
Are RTA Cabinets Environmentally Friendly?
Eco-conscious homeowners will be glad to know many RTA cabinet brands offer green options. Cabinet materials and manufacturing can impact sustainability and indoor air quality. Here’s how to go green with RTA cabinets:
Formaldehyde-Free – Seek cabinets made with CARB 2 compliant materials with zero or low formaldehyde emissions.
MDF & Plywood – These pressed/glued wood products are more sustainable than solid wood which requires whole tree harvesting.
Reclaimed Wood – Some companies offer doors and faces made from recycled wood from old buildings.
Bamboo – Bamboo is a renewable grass alternative to wood that is grown quickly and sustainably.
Finishes – Water-based stains, glazes and paints avoid VOCs released by oil-based finishes.
Certifications – Look for brands that hold FSC, Greenguard or Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association certifications.
Going with eco-friendly RTA cabinet materials avoids deforestation and unhealthy indoor air pollution. Ask brands about their green commitments and certifications.
How Much Do RTA Cabinets Cost?
RTA cabinet prices depend on the quality tier, door styles, and custom upgrades selected. Here are typical price ranges:
- Economy – Particleboard boxes cost $50-150 per cabinet. Limited warranties.
- Mid-Range – Plywood cabinets run $200-300 on average per standard base cabinet.
- Premium – Top quality boxes and doors cost $300-500+ per base cabinet.
- Semi-Custom – Custom sizing and storage options add $500+ per customized cabinet.
Keep in mind that number of cabinets needed varies by kitchen size. Costs add up for larger kitchens. High-end upgrades like glass cabinet doors also increase costs significantly.
While RTA cabinets are cheaper than custom, they still represent a significant investment. Carefully calculate your kitchen’s cabinet requirements and budget tradeoffs around quality and customization.
What are the Best RTA Cabinet Brands?
With many RTA brands to choose from, it helps to know which manufacturers have the best reputation for quality and service. Here are some top rated RTA cabinet brands:
- Canyon Creek Cabinets – Stylish, customizable cabinets at affordable prices. Lifetime warranties on boxes.
- Barker Cabinets – Offer high-end features and materials at lower costs. 25-year warranties.
- Cabinet Joint – Frameless RTA made from 3⁄4” plywood. Dovetail drawers. Lifetime warranties.
- KraftMaid Cabinetry – A trusted brand for beautifully crafted cabinets. Environmentally friendly options.
- Diamond Cabinets – Mid-priced cabinets with abundant storage options. Easy to assemble.
- CABINETS TO GO – Wide range of styles including modern, shaker, and traditional. Budget-friendly prices.
- Kemper Cabinetry – Provides semi-custom looks and options at lower costs than custom shops.
Be sure to carefully compare warranty coverage, quality of materials and hardware, delivery costs, and customer reviews. An informed choice results in the best RTA cabinet value.
Tips for Buying RTA Cabinets
Here are helpful tips for selecting the right ready-to-assemble cabinets for your kitchen:
- Review the full product catalog and samples to make informed style choices.
- Select durable plywood over particleboard for cabinet boxes.
- Inspect the joinery and connection hardware quality. Avoid plastic cam locks.
- Look for soft-close drawer glides and door hinges for smooth operation.
- Make sure finishes are CARB 2 compliant to avoid off-gassing.
- Choose companies that offer sink base cabinets matching the cabinet line.
- Calculate the number and sizes of cabinets needed by the room’s dimensions.
- Ask about replacement parts availability for the future.
- Read independent customer reviews to assess quality and service.
- Review delivery costs, production timelines and warranties upfront.
Doing your homework ensures you select high-quality RTA cabinets suited for your kitchen’s specific size and style needs.
Are RTA Cabinets Right for You?
Ready-to-assemble cabinets offer homeowners great benefits, but also have downsides to consider. Assess if RTA is the right choice based on:
Budget – RTA cabinets cost significantly less than custom cabinetry. If budget it tight, RTA provides big savings.
DIY Skills – Assembling and installing RTA cabinets requires some carpentry skills. If you’re less handy, custom installed may be easier.
Kitchen Size – The number of cabinets affects total cost. RTA makes more economic sense for smaller kitchens than large, extensive projects.
Style Selection – If you want a wider selection of sizes, wood, finishes and hardware than a home store, RTA offers more options.
Timeline – Assembly and installation takes time and delays using your kitchen. Factor in your needs and timeframe.
Quality Standards – Focus on top rated brands if your standards are high. Don’t sacrifice on box materials or hardware.
Analyze both the pros and cons for your specific kitchen to decide if quality RTA cabinets are the practical choice.
RTA Cabinets Offer Affordable Customization
Ready-to-assemble cabinets provide an excellent value for homeowners undertaking kitchen remodeling projects. RTA cabinets cost significantly less than custom cabinetry, with savings of 30-50% over having cabinets professionally built and installed.
RTA cabinets ship conveniently to your door in ready-to-assemble parts. Assembling the cabinets yourself avoids high labor costs, while giving you control over the installation quality. Leading RTA brands offer beautiful styles and plenty of custom options at affordable price points. Investigate high-end manufacturers using quality materials to ensure durability.
With some handy DIY skills and a patient approach, RTA cabinets enable homeowners to renovate their kitchen beautifully within their budget. Focus on accurate measurements, securing studs, and installing cabinets precisely. The result can look seamlessly like expensive custom built-ins. If a quality RTA cabinet brand is chosen and care taken during assembly and installation, the cabinets will function flawlessly for decades, recouping your investment many times over.
Frequently Asked Questions About RTA Cabinets
Q: Are RTA cabinets difficult to assemble?
RTA cabinet assembly takes time and care, but following the included instructions closely makes it a doable DIY project for many homeowners. The key tips are working slowly, double checking your work, and not forcing pieces together.
Q: How long does RTA cabinet assembly take?
It typically takes 8-16 hours for 1-2 people to fully assemble a kitchen’s worth of RTA cabinets. Larger kitchens with more cabinets will be on the longer end of that timeline.
Q: Can RTA cabinets hold up over time?
Yes, when high-quality plywood boxes and durable finishes are selected, RTA cabinets are very long lasting, comparable to custom cabinetry. Focus your buying decision on proven durable brands.
Q: Do RTA cabinets come with countertops?
RTA cabinetmakers specialize in making the cabinet boxes and doors. Countertops are usually sourced separately. Some brands partner with local countertop fabricators who can do full installs.
Q: Can cabinets be returned if there are defects?
Reputable RTA brands allow cabinets to be returned if any manufacturing damage or defects are identified. Save all packaging materials just in case a return is needed.
Q: How accurate do RTA cabinet measurements need to be?
Measure carefully as RTA cabinets are production made to your specifications. Tolerance is 1/8″ on cabinet size. Consider ordering filler pieces if old kitchen layouts have irregular dimensions.
RTA cabinets present an excellent value for budget-conscious homeowners. With some handy skills and research on leading brands, you can install a quality kitchen affordably using RTA cabinetry.
RTA cabinets provide an affordable way for DIY-ers to tackle kitchen remodeling projects while achieving beautiful, customized results. Taking the time to properly assemble and install quality RTA cabinets results in a kitchen indistinguishable from pricy custom cabinetry. Just be sure to do your homework and select durable RTA cabinet materials, finishes and hardware to ensure lasting performance. With some patience and TLC during the assembly process, RTA cabinets can look like they were professionally built and installed at a fraction of the cost.