Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets are a popular option for homeowners looking to remodel their kitchens or bathrooms on a budget. RTA cabinets come unassembled, allowing you to put them together yourself at home. This guide will explain everything you need to know about RTA cabinets, including what they are, pros and cons, costs, and tips for assembly and installation.

What Are RTA Cabinets?

RTA cabinets, also known as flat pack or knockdown cabinets, come disassembled in a flat box. The cabinets are manufactured in a factory and then shipped to retailers or directly to consumers. All of the parts, including the cabinet boxes, doors, drawers, and hardware are included along with detailed instructions for putting the cabinets together.

The main advantage of RTA cabinets is their affordable price point. Since you assemble them yourself, you avoid paying extra installation fees to a contractor. The cabinets are mass-produced using cost-efficient materials and manufacturing techniques which translates to lower costs for buyers. RTA cabinets range widely in quality and price, with options from budget to premium styles.

Pros of RTA Cabinets

There are many benefits that make RTA cabinets a smart choice:

  • Lower cost – Pre-assembled cabinets are priced 30-50% higher than RTA options. You save a significant amount by putting them together yourself.
  • Convenience – Cabinets are delivered directly to your home. No need to transport materials from a store.
  • Customization – Modify and adjust cabinets to fit your exact layout needs during assembly.
  • Wide selection – Many styles and finishes are available to suit any design tastes. From modern to traditional.
  • Easy installation – DIY assembly with common household tools. Quicker than custom cabinetry.
  • Quality options – While lower-priced lines exist, many manufacturers also offer solid wood RTA cabinets.

Cons of RTA Cabinets

Despite the many pros, there are some downsides to weigh:

  • Need for assembly – You must have good DIY skills and time to put them together. Complex cabinetry requires more work.
  • Potential for damage – Mistakes made during shipping or installation can damage parts. Take precautions when unpacking.
  • Limited configurations – Modifications like adding new shelves may be difficult after assembly. RTA cabinets offer less customization than built-onsite cabinetry.
  • Can’t see actual product – Buying cabinets online means you can’t inspect them beforehand. Be sure to buy from reputable brands.
  • Hardware complaints – Some brands use lower quality hardware that doesn’t hold up over time. Upgrading hardware is recommended.

Are RTA Cabinets Cheaply Made?

RTA cabinets were initially viewed as lower quality budget options, but many quality manufacturers exist today. The biggest factor is the material used:

  • Particle board – Most affordable option using wood byproducts fused together. Prone to swelling and crumbling when exposed to lots of moisture.
  • Plywood – Offers more strength and durability. Made from thin layers of wood glued together. Is more resistant to moisture damage.
  • Solid wood – Highest quality material made from solid wood pieces. Most resilient but also priciest option. Common for doors, drawers and face frames.

Many manufacturers now use a combination of solid wood, plywood and particle board in crafting RTA cabinets. Opt for plywood over particle board for increased longevity. Carefully check the materials and quality ratings before purchasing. High-end RTA cabinets can rival custom cabinetry if made well.

Cost of RTA Cabinets

RTA cabinet prices vary widely based on the type of material, door styles, and extras like soft-closing hinges or pull-out shelves. Here are typical price ranges:

  • Economy – Particle board. Limited styles. $50-150 per cabinet
  • Mid-Range – Plywood mix. More styles. $150-350 per cabinet
  • Premium – Solid wood and plywood. Wide style options. $350-650+ per cabinet

Other factors impacting cost include brand, ordering direct vs. through a retailer, sales/promotions, and shipping charges. Buying during seasonal sales periods can yield major savings.

For a 10×10 kitchen with 30 linear feet of cabinets, budget $2,500-7,500 for RTA cabinets installed. Measure your kitchen and map out your cabinet plan to estimate costs more precisely.

Where to Buy RTA Cabinets

RTA cabinets are sold through three main avenues:

Home Improvement Stores

Retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s offer a selection of RTA cabinet brands in-store and online. This option allows you to see samples in person before purchasing. Limited sizes may be in stock necessitating ordering.

Online Retailers

Wayfair, Overstock, and other online sellers provide wider selections of RTA cabinet lines. Benefits include free shipping, sales, and ordering samples. Can’t inspect before buying.

Direct from Manufacturer

Many cabinet brands like KraftMaid, Hampton Bay, and Diamond sell RTA styles directly through their website. Provides most options and customization. High-quality listings with warranties.

Shop around to compare prices between stores for the same cabinets. Paying more doesn’t always mean higher quality. Carefully read reviews of brands from previous buyers.

Tips for Assembling RTA Cabinets

Putting together RTA cabinets is a project DIYers can handle with proper preparation. Follow these tips for smooth assembly:

  • Carefully read the instruction manual cover to cover before starting. Understand each step.
  • Check that all materials were shipped based on the packing list. Contact the manufacturer immediately about missing or damaged pieces.
  • Have an assistant. Large cabinets and face frames are awkward for one person. Make it a team effort.
  • Assemble cabinets on a smooth, clean floor with plenty of space to move around.
  • Use hand tools like hammers, drills, stud finders, levels and screwdrivers for assembly. Invest in quality options.
  • Pre-drill all holes before driving in screws to prevent cracking particle board.
  • Tighten screws gradually in a crisscross pattern to pull pieces flush. Avoid over-tightening.
  • Apply wood glue for joining main cabinet parts. This strengthens connections. Let dry fully before loading weight.
  • Label cabinets, doors, and drawers as you go per the instructions. This prevents mix-ups later.
  • Install adjustable cabinet feet to level and secure base cabinets into position.

Invest time and care during assembly for cabinets that will last. Don’t rush this important step.

Installing RTA Kitchen Cabinets

Once they’re assembled, installing RTA cabinets works much like traditional cabinets:

  • Mark the cabinet layout on the walls with a pencil based on your measurements.
  • Place wall cabinets first using a level to ensure they’re straight. Screw into wall studs for secure support.
  • Add filler strips if there are gaps between walls and cabinet sides. Shim as needed for an even fit.
  • Set base cabinets in place, then join them together by driving screws through adjacent cabinet sides.
  • Make any final adjustments for plumb and level. Test doors and drawers open and close smoothly.
  • Secure cabinets to walls using corner braces, L-brackets or metal strips. This prevents pulling away from the wall over time.
  • Seal around all cabinet edges with caulk for a cleaner finished look. Fill any visible screw holes.
  • Add trim molding, hardware and the countertop once cabinets are installed.

Securing wall cabinets and anchoring base cabinets well are vital steps for sturdy installation results. Take it slowly to get it right.

Tips for Installing RTA Bathroom Vanities

The process for installing RTA bathroom vanities is nearly identical:

  • Choose an RTA vanity with sink top included, or buy them separately. Have plumbing roughed in already.
  • Assemble the vanity following included directions. Seek help moving large solid wood vanities.
  • Place the vanity in the desired spot. Double check for level and plumb. Mark outlines for drilling.
  • Predrill holes then anchor the vanity to the wall framing with lag bolts. Use shims if the floor is uneven.
  • Apply silicone sealant around the edges in a continuous bead. Don’t over caulk.
  • Make final plumbing connections to hook up the faucet and drain assemblies. Test for leaks.
  • Apply caulk around the sink where it meets the countertop for water protection.

Vanity lights can be added for extra illumination. Take cues from the existing bathroom style when choosing hardware.

Maintaining RTA Cabinets

Follow these care tips to keep RTA cabinets looking like new:

  • Use cabinet organizers and dividers to neatly arrange contents and prevent scratches.
  • Add bumpers to doors and drawers to protect from banging into each other or walls.
  • Keep cabinet exteriors clean by wiping down with a soft cloth and mild soap solution. Avoid chemical cleaners.
  • Use wood polish monthly to condition and protect wood cabinet surfaces. This enhances the finish.
  • Fix nicks in wood quickly with matching wood putty to prevent additional damage. Re-stain or paint as needed.
  • Tighten any loose hinges, pulls or latches over time. Replace damaged hardware.
  • Adjust doors and drawers that become misaligned by following manufacturer instructions.

Proper use and care is key for maximum life from RTA cabinets. Treat them with care to preserve their appearance and performance.

RTA Cabinets: Frequently Asked Questions

Are RTA cabinets hard to assemble?

RTA cabinet assembly has a reputation for being challenging, but it’s manageable for most DIYers. The process just takes time, patience and careful attention to detail. Have an assistant for large pieces. Follow instructions closely. The more complex the cabinetry, the harder it is.

How long should it take to assemble RTA cabinets?

It typically takes 2-3 hours for a single person to assemble one standard-sized base cabinet. Larger units or wall cabinets take 4-6 hours. Having someone help cuts the time considerably. Set aside a full weekend for a kitchen.

What tools do I need to assemble RTA cabinets?

You’ll need basic tools like a drill, Phillips head screwdriver, hammer, stud finder, level, utility knife and tape measure. Have a power drill for driving screws efficiently. Use a jigsaw to cut any panels. Invest in quality tools.

What problems are common with RTA cabinets?

Issues like missing pieces, warped or cracked parts, and hardware breaking are common complaints. Buying from reputable brands and inspecting cabinets promptly helps. Know return policies in case replacements are needed.

Can RTA cabinets hold up as well as custom cabinetry?

Properly assembled high-end RTA cabinets can potentially last just as long as custom cabinetry. Pay attention to materials and construction quality over saving costs. Choose plywood over particle board when possible for durability.

How are RTA cabinets different than IKEA?

IKEA is a popular retailer of RTA furniture. But RTA simply means ready-to-assemble and many cabinet brands manufacture RTA designs. IKEA has affordable options but also check other RTA brands for quality comparisons.

Key Takeaways on RTA Cabinets

  • RTA cabinets offer an affordable DIY alternative to traditional cabinets, arriving flat-packed for assembly at home.
  • Benefits include lower costs, convenience, customization, and wide style selections. Downsides are the need for installation and potential for damage.
  • Quality can vary widely – inspect materials used like solid wood veneers and plywood over particle board. Many good brands exist beyond the budget tier.
  • Factors like materials, construction, and features determine RTA cabinet pricing ranging from economy to premium options. Measure your space carefully when estimating costs.
  • Assembling RTA cabinets is quite manageable with basic tools, patience, teamwork and closely following instructions. Take care to assemble properly for maximum longevity.
  • Installing RTA cabinets uses a similar process to typical cabinetry. They must be adequately secured and anchored in place on walls and floors to prevent damage over time.
  • With proper assembly, installation, and maintenance, RTA cabinets offer homeowners quality and custom looks without the high price tag.