Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets are a popular option for homeowners looking to remodel their kitchens or bathrooms on a budget. RTA cabinets come packaged with all the individual pieces and hardware needed for assembly. The do-it-yourself nature of RTA cabinet installation makes them more affordable than custom cabinetry. However, RTA cabinets still offer variety in style, color, and configuration to suit most home design needs. This guide will provide a detailed overview of what RTA cabinets are, their pros and cons, top brands, costs, and tips for choosing and installing RTA cabinetry in your home renovation project.
What Are RTA Cabinets?
RTA cabinets, which stands for ready-to-assemble cabinets, come packaged with all the component parts required for assembly. RTA cabinets ship disassembled with detailed instructions and hardware for the homeowner or contractor to put together. They are also commonly referred to as knockdown or flat pack cabinets.
RTA cabinets provide a budget-friendly alternative to custom cabinetry, which can be prohibitively expensive. With RTA cabinets, you avoid paying for professional installation labor. However, you do have to invest your own time and effort in assembling the cabinets properly.
The convenience of RTA cabinets has made them immensely popular, especially for homeowners undertaking DIY kitchen or bathroom remodels. Their affordable pricing and wide range of style options allow homeowners to get high-quality cabinets that fit their budget.
Here are some of the defining features of RTA cabinets:
- Shipped Disassembled – RTA cabinets ship in a knocked down or flat pack state ready for assembly. Packaging them this way reduces shipping costs.
- DIY Installation – Homeowners or contractors assemble RTA cabinets themselves using included instructions and hardware. You save on professional installation fees.
- Affordable Pricing – Without added labor costs, RTA cabinets cost 25-50% less than custom cabinetry. Great value for budget renovations.
- Variety of Styles – Choose from contemporary, traditional, transitional, and other popular cabinetry styles to suit your home.
- Customization Options – Many RTA brands offer customizable sizing, storage solutions, finishes, and other options.
Pros and Cons of RTA Cabinets
Ready-to-assemble cabinets provide an excellent blend of affordability and customizability for home renovations. However, RTA cabinets also come with some inherent drawbacks to weigh when deciding if they are suitable for your project.
- Cost Savings – The DIY assembly results in significant savings over custom cabinet installation.
- Convenience – Cabinets ship directly to your home so you avoid multiple trips to a showroom.
- Customization – Modify sizes or finishes to fit your exact layout and design style.
- Quality Materials – Leading brands use durable plywood boxes and solid wood doors/drawer fronts.
- Wide Availability – Find RTA cabinets at home improvement stores, online retailers, and local cabinet shops.
- Assembly Required – You must have the time, skill, and patience for proper assembly. Poor assembly can lead to problems down the road.
- Limited Sizing – RTA cabinets come in specific standard sizes, usually 3” increments. Custom sizing is only available at an added cost.
- No On-Site Assistance – It’s on you to ensure proper assembly and installation rather than having an experienced installer.
- Damage Risk – Mistakes made during shipping, assembly or installation can lead to expensive replacement costs.
- Hardware Limitations -Softmax-closing hinges and full extension drawers are less common. These hardware features are easier to find with custom cabinetry.
While the DIY nature of RTA cabinets does involve some disadvantages, the cost savings, convenience, and customization potential still make them an excellent choice for many homeowners. Taking the time to properly assemble and install your RTA cabinets helps minimize the downsides.
Top Brands of RTA Cabinets
Many reputable cabinet brands offer ready-to-assemble cabinetry suitable for any style or budget:
The most affordable RTA cabinet option provides contemporary, minimalist styles. Their SEKTION line includes a 25-year warranty.
This brand provides attractive, high-quality RTA cabinets with tons of custom options at a mid-range price point.
Kitchen Cabinet Kings
A leader in RTA cabinet supply, featuring classics like shaker and contemporary styles. Known for high-quality and lots of customization.
Offers a huge selection of RTA cabinet configurations, wood species, and colors at reasonable prices.
Owned by Masterbrand, a leading cabinet manufacturer, featuring many door styles and finishes.
Specializes in RTA cabinetry with full-access accessories, soft-close hardware, and custom sizing.
Catering to the higher end of the market, they provide luxury RTA cabinet designs and finishes.
This selection represents some of the top options, but many other reputable local cabinet suppliers also carry quality ready-to-assemble cabinet product lines.
Cost of RTA Cabinets
The cost of RTA cabinets varies significantly based on the manufacturer, materials, door styles, and other options selected. On average, expect to pay the following RTA cabinet costs:
- Economy – $50 – $100 per linear foot
- Mid-Range – $100 – $200 per linear foot
- Premium/Semi-Custom – $200 – $300 per linear foot
So for a 10 foot long kitchen, you may spend between $500 and $3000 just on RTA cabinet boxes and doors, excluding extras like hardware and installation accessories.
Factors that increase the cost of RTA cabinets include:
- Solid wood doors and drawer fronts over veneered medium density fiberboard (MDF)
- Plywood cabinet box construction instead of particle board
- Specialty door styles like inset or beaded inset
- Custom paint or stain colors instead of standard finishes
- Glass cabinet doors
- Kitchen islands
- Soft-close hinges and drawer glides
- Kitchen storage and organizational accessories
However, RTA cabinets are almost always far less expensive than custom cabinetry, which starts at $300 per linear foot and can exceed $1000 per linear foot. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of RTA vs custom cabinets to choose what fits your budget and design needs.
Tips for Choosing RTA Cabinets
Follow this advice when selecting ready-to-assemble cabinets for your home renovation:
Take detailed measurements of your space to order cabinets in optimal sizes. In inches, measure wall lengths, ceiling heights, window placement, and appliance dimensions.
Keep in mind that RTA cabinets come in fixed widths, usually increasing 3” at a time. Choose sizes that limit filler strips and avoid cutting cabinet boxes. Measure twice to ensure accuracy before ordering.
Match Interior Style
Browse cabinet door styles like shaker, inset, flat panel, and thermofoil. Consider finishes too – painted, stained, glazed, distressed. Choose options suiting your home’s interior look and color scheme.
Examine cabinet box material (plywood vs. particle board), joinery methods (doweled vs. screwed), and door/drawer front materials (solid wood vs. veneer). Higher quality materials increase durability.
Read Product Reviews
Research the brand’s reputation and feedback from past buyers. Look for consistent quality, good value for pricing, and excellent customer service.
Price out cabinets at several retailers, both local and online options. Include all costs – shipping, handles, molding. Get quotes rather than estimates to compare apples to apples.
Taking the time to evaluate your needs, kitchen layout, and the RTA cabinet features and options will ensure you order the perfect ready-to-assemble cabinetry for your home. Use online design tools through retailers to visualize different configurations.
How to Install RTA Cabinets
While ready-to-assemble cabinets simply screw together, proper installation is still key to getting your ideal kitchen or bathroom. Follow these steps:
Gather Tools and Hardware
Have drill/drivers, saw, hammer, level, tape measure, screws, fasteners, and filler material ready before delivery. Review the required and recommended hardware so you can purchase anything missing.
Prepare the Space
Remove old cabinets and countertops. Repair walls and level floors. Install wall boards if needed to attach cabinets. Accurate measurements and a level surface are crucial.
Stage and Organize Parts
Unpack boxes and organize hardware and components. Group together cabinet parts room by room. Carefully review instructions before beginning assembly.
Assemble Frames and Doors
Following instructions, slowly assemble cabinet frames, doors, and drawer fronts. Use clamps to hold pieces flush and use a carpenter’s square to ensure 90 degree angles.
Mount Cabinets Level and Plumb
Drill pilot holes to avoid splitting. Use shims to adjust until the cabinets sit flush on the wall. Confirm level and plumb with a 4’ level before securing permanently.
Add cabinet trim like crown molding, light rail, and filler strips for a finished look. Adjust shelves and drawers. Install cabinet hardware like knobs, pulls, and soft-close mechanisms.
Protect installed cabinets while countertops are templated and installed. Communications between contractors ensures a precise, clean counter installation.
With attention to detail during assembly and installation, your new RTA cabinets will look like high-end custom cabinetry at just a fraction of the cost.
FAQs about RTA Cabinets
What is the difference between RTA and custom cabinets?
RTA cabinets ship unassembled to the homeowner for DIY assembly while custom cabinets are built on-site by professionals. RTA cabinets cost much less but involve more effort. Custom cabinets have higher upfront costs but don’t require homeowner labor.
Do RTA cabinets look cheap?
Not necessarily. Leading RTA cabinet brands use quality materials and sturdy construction. The assembly and finish work has more impact on the final look. With proper assembly and installation, RTA cabinets look quite elegant.
Is IKEA a good brand for RTA cabinets?
Yes, IKEA is one of the most popular and affordable RTA cabinet brands. Their SEKTION line includes options with solid wood doors and soft-close hinges that rival more expensive brands. IKEA cabinets are perfect for contemporary, minimalist kitchens.
What is the most expensive part of RTA cabinets?
The door style and materials mostly impact cost. Solid wood raised panel or inset doors cost more than flat panel and shaker options. Specialty finishes like paints and glazes add cost as well. Prioritize spending on visible door components over the box interiors.
Can I customize RTA cabinet sizing?
Yes, many RTA brands offer custom sizing but often at an added cost. Due to shipping logistics, most mods are better at full inch increments. Optimizing layout around standard sizes minimizes costly customization.
How much time does RTA cabinet installation take?
A typical kitchen may take 15-25 hours total for assembly and installation. Go slowly to avoid mistakes. Having an extra set of hands speeds up the process. Proper planning and organization also improves installation efficiency.
Ready-to-assemble cabinets offer a great blend of affordability, style, and convenience for homeowners. Carefully weighing the pros and cons of RTA vs. custom cabinet options will ensure you choose the best cabinet solution for your home renovation project and budget.
RTA or ready-to-assemble cabinets provide an excellent budget-friendly solution for home renovations. Their convenience and wide availability from many reputable kitchen cabinet manufacturers allow homeowners to get incredibly customizable cabinetry at 25-50% less cost than custom cabinets.
While installing RTA cabinets requires diligent attention to detail and quality workmanship, the cost savings and specification flexibility make them a great choice for most homeowners’ needs. Carefully measuring your space, choosing cabinets that match your interior style, and methodically assembling and installing the RTA components will lead to a successful kitchen or bathroom remodel.
With the information in this guide detailing what RTA cabinets are, their key pros and cons, top brand recommendations, estimated pricing, and installation tips, you are now well prepared to take on an RTA cabinet installation project. The ability to handle the assembly yourself means investing significant sweat equity into your remodel, but the thousands saved over custom cabinetry makes the effort well worth it.