Ready-to-assemble (RTA) kitchen cabinets offer homeowners an affordable and customizable option for renovating their kitchens. RTA cabinets come packaged with all the components and hardware needed for assembly and installation. Many major cabinet manufacturers now offer RTA cabinet product lines alongside their traditional cabinetry.
What are RTA Cabinets?
RTA cabinets, also known as flat-pack or knockdown cabinets, are sold unassembled. The cabinets are constructed by the manufacturer and packaged along with all the necessary hardware and components for assembly. RTA cabinets offer several benefits:
- Cost savings – Since RTA cabinets ship flat in boxes, shipping costs are lower. The end customer also saves on labor costs by assembling the cabinets themselves. This allows RTA cabinets to be offered at a lower price point than comparable pre-assembled cabinets.
- Customization – RTA cabinets can be customized to the size and configuration needed for the space. Customers can choose cabinet sizes, finishes, accessories and layout.
- Convenience – RTA cabinets ship directly to the home in compact, flat boxes. This allows for easy transport and provides homeowners the flexibility to assemble them on their own timeline.
While assembling RTA cabinets requires more time and effort from the homeowner, the cost savings and customization make them an attractive option for many renovators. The quality of RTA cabinets available today also matches that of pre-assembled cabinetry.
Major Manufacturers of RTA Cabinets
Many leading cabinet brands now manufacture RTA cabinets in addition to their site-built offerings:
IKEA pioneered the concept of flat-pack furniture and has applied this to its wide range of kitchen cabinets and cabinet fronts. IKEA offers:
- Modern and minimalist styles.
- Affordable prices, starting under $100 per base cabinet.
- Custom cabinet configurations through the IKEA kitchen planner.
- Limited selection of door styles and finishes.
- Particleboard construction.
Known for providing well-crafted cabinetry since 1968, KraftMaid entered the RTA market in 1999 with its Aspects line. KraftMaid RTA cabinets feature:
- Traditional styling in recessed panel and shaker designs.
- Solid hardwood doors and drawer fronts.
- Plywood box construction.
- Wide range of finishes from paints to stains.
- Coordinating cabinets, moldings and accessories.
Carried exclusively by The Home Depot, Hampton Bay offers value-priced RTA cabinets. Options include:
- Streamlined shaker and recessed panel styles.
- Painted finishes in popular colors like white and gray.
- Plywood boxes with oak veneer interiors.
- Matching cabinet moldings and accessories.
- Limited lifetime warranty.
- Affordable pricing from $129 per base cabinet.
Known for quality kitchen and bath cabinetry, Merillat manufactures the Nuvo line of RTA cabinets. Key features include:
- Transitional styling combining slab doors and recessed panels.
- Maple doors with plywood construction.
- Dovetail drawer boxes.
- Wide range of finishes from rustic to modern.
- Matching cabinet hardware available.
- Lifetime limited warranty.
Offering fashionable design and trusted performance, Aristokraft’s Entryways line provides RTA value.
- Modern, shaker, and traditional styles.
- Oak, maple and thermafoil finishes.
- Plywood boxes with wood veneer interiors.
- Soft-close doors and drawers.
- Coordinating moldings and accessories available.
- Lifetime limited warranty.
Purchasing RTA Cabinets
RTA cabinets can be purchased through three main channels:
Home Improvement Retailers
Major retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s offer a selection of RTA cabinets both online and in store. This allows shoppers to view samples in person. Retailers often promote discounted RTA cabinet packages with sinks, lighting and hardware included. Home delivery is available.
Many brands sell RTA cabinets factory-direct online with discounted pricing compared to retail stores. Purchasing directly from KraftMaid, Merillat or other brands allows customization of cabinet sizes and finishes. Orders ship directly to your home.
Local cabinet distributors carry products from various manufacturers. This allows comparing brands side-by-side. Distributors will also have a robust selection of accessories like moldings and hardware to match the cabinets. Expert assistance is available for designing and planning the kitchen.
Benefits of Choosing RTA Cabinets
There are many advantages to selecting RTA cabinets for your kitchen:
The DIY assembly of RTA cabinets translates into significant savings over pre-assembled cabinetry, to the tune of 30% or more.
With RTA cabinets, customers can fully customize their kitchen design selecting cabinet sizes, accessories, organization features and finishes to perfectly suit their space and style.
Leading RTA cabinet brands use quality materials like solid wood doors, plywood boxes and soft-close hardware comparable to custom cabinetry at a fraction of the cost.
Since RTA cabinets ship quickly and can be installed as they arrive, new kitchens can be completed in a matter of weeks rather than months.
RTA cabinets ship flat in compact boxes that easily fit through doors and transitions. This avoids damage associated with moving bulky pre-assembled cabinets.
Considerations When Buying RTA Cabinets
While RTA cabinets provide an affordable and customizable option, there are some things to keep in mind:
Be sure to accurately calculate the time needed to fully assemble all the cabinets. Complex cabinet designs take more time.
Once RTA cabinets are assembled they cannot be returned, so confirm all dimensions and specifications before starting.
Review all cabinets and parts after delivery. Damaged pieces should not be assembled. Follow up with the distributor promptly for replacements.
Careful kitchen design planning is important for a successful RTA cabinet installation. Accurately measure the space and create layout drawings.
Delivery lead times for cabinets and countertops may vary. Make sure materials are ordered so everything arrives in the proper installation sequence.
While requiring more effort upfront, RTA cabinets allow homeowners to create the kitchen of their dreams for less. Careful planning and execution can result in a successful DIY kitchen transformation.
How to Assemble RTA Cabinets
Assembling RTA cabinets is a relatively straightforward process though careful attention to detail is required. Here are some step-by-step tips on how to assemble RTA cabinets:
Gather Tools and Hardware
- Carefully unpack all cabinet boxes and parts and lay them out in the install area.
- Inspect for damage and ensure you have all components.
- Read cabinet diagrams and manuals thoroughly.
- Gather required tools like drill, screwdriver, level, etc.
Install Corner Cabinet First
- Begin with the corner cabinet, securing it plumb and level to the wall.
- Use shims under the cabinet if needed to adjust for uneven walls.
Add Adjacent Cabinets
- Install adjacent cabinets, ensuring they are plumb and level.
- Check front cabinet face frames for alignment.
- Use C-clamps to hold cabinets together while fastening.
Secure Cabinets Together
- Drill pocket holes to attach adjacent cabinet box sides and face frames.
- Make sure cabinets are fully tightened together.
Install Fillers and Finish Ends
- Cut any needed fillers to size and fasten between cabinets.
- Install end panels and carefully scribe to uneven walls.
Adjust Doors and Drawers
- Install doors, adjusting hinges so gaps are consistent.
- Install drawer slides, making sure drawers open smoothly without rubbing.
Install Decorative Trim
- Attach desired trim moldings using construction adhesive and finish nails.
- Use silicone caulk to fill any gaps for a seamless look.
Are RTA Cabinets Lower Quality?
RTA cabinets used to have a reputation for being cheaply made, using lower grade materials like particle board instead of plywood for the cabinet boxes. However, as RTA cabinets have become more popular, quality has improved significantly:
- Leading RTA brands like KraftMaid and Merillat use furniture grade plywood for cabinet sides, backs, bottoms, and shelves.
- Hardwood veneer is applied to cabinet interiors instead of using less attractive melamine.
- Dovetail joinery on drawers provides enhanced strength compared to simple butt joints.
- Adjustable shelves allow customization of cabinet storage space.
- Soft-close hinges and glides give a luxury feel.
- Sturdy metal drawer slides ensure smooth operation.
- Tongue and groove cabinet construction creates strong and stable box assemblies.
Improvements in materials and manufacturing allow today’s better-quality RTA cabinets to rival traditionally assembled, site-built cabinetry while costing significantly less. Even choices like IKEA kitchen cabinets use strong materials like birch plywood in their construction.
Are There Different Grades of RTA Cabinets?
As with any product, there can be differences in quality between various RTA cabinet manufacturers as well as product lines within a particular brand. Some ways that RTA cabinet grades can vary:
- Door/Face Frame Material – Higher quality cabinets use solid wood or wood veneers while lower grades may use laminates or thermofoil.
- Cabinet Box Material – Premium brands use furniture-grade plywood while economy lines often use less expensive particleboard.
- Drawer Construction – Dovetail joints indicate better quality compared to basic butt joints.
- Hardware – Sturdy, soft-close drawer glides and door hinges feel more high-end than standard versions.
- Warranties – Longer warranties signify the manufacturer’s confidence in their materials and workmanship.
- Certifications – Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) testing verifies quality construction.
- Country of Origin – Domestic manufacturing typically indicates better oversight and quality control.
- Price – Higher prices usually correspond to better materials, construction and durability.
Doing a little research into the specifications of the cabinets can give a good sense of the quality and value offered. Purchasing budget-friendly RTA cabinets does not necessarily mean compromising on durability.
What are RTA Cabinet Boxes Made of?
For the main structural elements of an RTA cabinet like sides, top and bottom, there are two primary materials used:
- Constructed from layered wood veneers glued together at alternating grain directions.
- Extremely stiff, strong and resistant to warping or moisture damage.
- Heavier in weight than particleboard.
- Generally found in higher priced RTA cabinet lines.
- Made from wood particles bonded together with resins and glues.
- Lighter weight than plywood.
- Prone to expansion and disintegration if exposed to excessive moisture.
- Provides an affordable option for economy-priced RTA cabinets.
- Durability can be improved by applying veneers or laminates to exposed edges.
No matter the material used, proper installation and care is required to prevent cabinet box damage from water and humidity. Carefully seal around sinks and dishwashers and address any moisture issues quickly.
RTA Cabinets Pros and Cons
| Pros | Cons |
| Lower cost than custom cabinetry | Assembly required |
| Fast production and delivery times | Need accurate measurements |
| Components ship directly to home | Modifications difficult after assembly |
| Easy to transport and install |Damage can occur during shipping|
| Wide selection of sizes and finishes | Limited quality control after shipment|
| DIY assembly allows cost savings|No recycling old cabinets at job site|
| Coordinate timing with other renovation work | Lack of customer service from some vendors |
- RTA kitchen cabinets provide an affordable, customizable option perfect for DIY renovators.
- Leading brands like KraftMaid and Merillat offer RTA lines with quality comparable to custom cabinetry.
- Specialized RTA cabinet distributors also provide an excellent source.
- Carefully assembled and installed RTA cabinets can provide long-lasting function and style.
- Opting for RTA over custom-built offers substantial cost savings of 30% or more.
- RTA cabinets are ideal for homeowners comfortable with installation themselves.
- Improvements in materials and manufacturing make quality concerns less of an issue today.
- With careful planning and execution, RTA cabinets allow creating dream kitchens on a budget.
FAQs about RTA Cabinets
What are RTA cabinets?
RTA stands for ready-to-assemble. RTA cabinets are sold unassembled and packaged with all the hardware and components needed for assembly by the purchaser. RTA cabinets do not require a professional installer and use allows homeowners to save significantly on installation costs.
What companies make RTA cabinets?
Many major cabinet brands offer RTA cabinet lines including KraftMaid, Hampton Bay, IKEA, Merillat and Aristokraft. Retailers like Home Depot and Loew’s also have proprietary RTA cabinet brands.
How long do RTA cabinets last?
Similar to custom cabinetry, RTA cabinets have an expected lifespan of 20-30 years with proper installation and care. Choosing brands with quality materials and robust construction is important for longevity.
How much do RTA cabinets cost?
RTA cabinets cost between 50-70% less than custom cabinets generally. As an estimate, RTA cabinets range from $80-250 per linear cabinet foot including installation compared to $200-500+ for custom.
Can you paint RTA cabinets?
Yes, RTA cabinets can be painted or stained to achieve the desired finish. The factory applied finishes on some RTA cabinet lines also make painting unnecessary if the color matches the kitchen design.
Are RTA cabinets low quality?
While RTA cabinets used to be viewed as lower quality, today’s manufacturing improvements allow leading RTA cabinet brands to offer durable products that rival custom-built cabinets at far lower prices. Material choices are very important.
How long does it take to assemble RTA cabinets?
As a general estimate, it takes 8-10 hours to fully assemble and install RTA cabinets for a 10×10 kitchen. Larger kitchens and complex cabinet designs will require more time. Working with an assembly partner expedites the process.
Can RTA cabinets be returned?
Once RTA cabinets are assembled, they cannot be returned. Review all components carefully before starting assembly. Reach out to the vendor regarding any missing or damaged pieces right away.
Are there RTA cabinet grades?
Like other cabinet types, RTA cabinets come in different grades from economy to premium. Better grades use solid wood doors, plywood construction and soft-close hardware indicating quality and durability.
RTA cabinets have revolutionized the consumer cabinet market, allowing DIYers to affordably tackle kitchen renovations themselves. Leading brands now offer RTAs with quality on par with custom cabinetry thanks to improved construction and materials. By researching cabinet specs, planning cabinet layouts meticulously and taking time with assembly, RTA cabinets can perform as good or better than costlier pre-built options. With some extra effort, homeowners can reap substantial savings constructing their dream kitchen with RTA cabinetry.