When it comes to buying ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets for your kitchen or bathroom remodel, you have two main options – purchasing RTA cabinets from a specialty cabinet retailer or buying stock cabinets from a large home improvement store. There are pros and cons to both options that are worth considering when deciding where to get your new cabinets.

RTA Cabinets From Specialty Retailers

RTA cabinet companies like Cabinet Direct, Barker Cabinets, and Cabinet Joint cater specifically to the RTA cabinet market. Some of the potential advantages of purchasing RTA cabinets from these specialty retailers include:

Wider Selection

Specialty RTA retailers offer a much wider range of styles, finishes, organizing solutions and accessories than home improvement stores. You’re likely to find more customizable options to get the exact look you want.

Higher Quality Materials

Many RTA specialty cabinets are made with furniture-grade plywood boxes, full extension drawers, soft-close hinges and doors, and wood veneer or solid wood fronts. The quality is often superior to basic stock cabinets.

Professional Cabinet Design

Most RTA cabinet sellers have design software and professionals that can help you create a custom kitchen layout. This service is usually free or low cost.

Cost Savings

Without a retail showroom overhead, specialty RTA sellers can offer significant cost savings over other cabinet options, passing factory direct pricing onto customers. Sales and specials also allow you to save more.

However, RTA cabinets from specialty retailers can have some downsides:

  • Limited inventory and long lead times if not in stock
  • Potential for shipping damages
  • More work installing and assembling cabinets yourself

Stock Cabinets From Home Improvement Stores

Places like Home Depot and Lowe’s offer a wide range of stock cabinet options for kitchen and bath projects, including:

In Stock and Quick

Stock cabinets are available off the shelf for immediate purchase and project start. No waiting for orders and deliveries.

Less Assembly Required

Stock cabinets only require minor assembly like attaching doors and drawers. Less work for the DIYer.

Shop Display for Colors

You can see cabinet colors and door styles on display in person. Less guessing on colors from small samples.

Retail Support

Getting answers and assistance from knowledgeable store employees in person. Easier returns and exchanges.

But purchasing stock cabinets from big box retailers has some potential cons as well:

  • Less selection than specialty retailers
  • More limited customization options
  • Lower quality materials and hardware
  • No professional kitchen design services

Key Differences and Considerations

To summarize the key differences:

  • Convenience vs. Customization – Home stores are more convenient while specialty retailers offer more custom options
  • Quality vs. Value – Specialty cabinets are generally better quality, but home store cabinets typically offer greater value
  • Selection vs. Immediacy – More unique styles from specialists but in-stock availability from general retailers
  • Pro Design vs. Self Reliance – Specialists help you optimize kitchen workflow while home stores leave layout to you

When deciding where to purchase RTA or stock cabinets, consider:

  • Your budget
  • How much assembly you can handle
  • Your kitchen layout and design needs
  • Your timeline
  • Overall quality and features needed

Many homeowners opt for a hybrid approach – using RTA cabinets for harder to find styles like glass door cabinets or unique finishes, while filling in other areas with more affordable stock cabinetry. This provides a balance of customization and value. Do your homework to make the best choice for your kitchen or bath cabinets.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is generally cheaper – RTA cabinets or stock cabinets?

Stock cabinets from home stores are typically cheaper than RTA cabinetry from specialty retailers. But RTA cabinets often come in a wider range of price points, with entry-level options starting lower than home store stock cabinetry.

Are RTA cabinets low quality?

Not necessarily. Many RTA cabinets are mid-to-high end in quality, with all-wood construction, soft-close hardware, and premium materials. But quality can vary more widely in the RTA market than with stock cabinets.

Can I design my kitchen layout myself or do I need professional help?

If you have design experience you can layout your kitchen on your own, but first-time kitchen renovators will benefit from professional kitchen designers to ensure optimal workflow and space planning. Some specialty RTA retailers include free design services.

Which provides more cabinet customization – RTA or stock?

RTA cabinets offer far more customization options in terms of cabinet sizes, wood species, door styles, finishes, and accessories. Stock cabinets have a much more limited range of standard sizes and options.

Is shipping expensive for RTA cabinets?

Shipping costs vary by retailer. Many offer free shipping or discounted shipping rates. Typically RTA cabinets cost no more than $100-200 to ship to most locations.


While stock cabinets provide convenience and immediate availability, RTA cabinets offer superior selection and customization. Focus on your budget, design needs, and project timeline when deciding between RTA and stock. And don’t be afraid to mix and match to get the best of both options. With some smart planning, you can get beautiful and affordable new cabinets for your kitchen or bath remodel.