How to Buy Ready-to-Assemble (RTA) Kitchen Cabinets

Buying ready-to-assemble (RTA) kitchen cabinets can seem daunting, but with some planning and research it can be a smooth process resulting in a beautiful new kitchen. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to buy RTA kitchen cabinets.

Choose a Reputable Brand

When selecting RTA cabinets, choose a reputable brand that constructs cabinets from quality materials. Well-known brands like Hampton Bay, KraftMaid, Thomasville, and Allen + Roth offer style and durability at reasonable prices. Read reviews and talk to homeowners to get insights on specific brands. High-quality RTA cabinets will have stronger joinery, thicker cabinet sides, and more durable finishes.

Decide on a Style

RTA cabinets come in a wide variety of door styles like traditional shaker, contemporary flat panel, or modern slab. Choose a style that fits your kitchen’s overall design and architecture. For resale value, stick with versatile styles like shaker that appeal to most buyers. Also decide on the finish – painted, stained, glazed, or distressed. White and light gray painted cabinets suit many kitchen designs.

Choose Cabinet Construction

Look for solid wood doors and drawer fronts, rather than laminate. Dovetail joinery on drawers is more durable than staples or glue. Check that cabinet sides are made of moisture-resistant plywood at least 1⁄2” thick. Avoid cabinets with sides thinner than 3⁄8”. Look for full-extension drawers, soft-close hinges and doors, and adjustable shelves in base cabinets.

Take Measurements

Take detailed measurements of your existing kitchen or new kitchen plans. You’ll need the linear feet of cabinets along each wall including corners, height from floor to ceiling, window placement, appliance dimensions, and existing plumbing or electric. Leave room for trim and moldings. Have a cabinet dealer review your plan to identify any issues.

Order Samples

Order free wood or finish samples from cabinet brands to view quality and color options in person. Samples can help prevent costly ordering mistakes. Compare door styles by ordering a few samples. View a whole door sample to get a better sense than smaller swatches.

Hire an Installer or DIY

Installation takes time and expertise. Complex cabinetry layouts or IKEA systems often require a professional. But for more basic cabinet sets, you may save money by installing them yourself. Watch online tutorials to gain DIY skills. Make sure to have an extra set of hands!

Order All Cabinets at Once

Ordering all cabinets, including lazy susans and trim, in one batch is best to guarantee the same lot number and prevent variation in wood tones or colors. Staggered orders may not match exactly. Follow each manufacturer’s ordering instructions.

Organize Delivery Schedule

Schedule delivery once your kitchen is fully prepped and ready for cabinet installation. Ensure someone will be home during the delivery timeframe. Inspect all boxes thoroughly for damage before signing. Reject damaged products immediately.

Prepare the Installation Space

Clear the entire kitchen installation area and cover floors with rosin paper or cardboard. Take detailed measurements of install spaces and ensure plumbing and electric are complete. Read through cabinet instructions prior to starting. Have all tools ready to go.

Following this comprehensive guide will set you on the path to choosing high-quality RTA cabinets and smoothly installing them. Take your time and don’t rush the process – the investment will be worth it when you have your stunning new kitchen! Let me know if you have any other questions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Buying RTA Kitchen Cabinets

Here are some common questions home owners have when purchasing ready-to-assemble kitchen cabinets:

How much do RTA kitchen cabinets cost?

RTA cabinets cost $80-150 per linear foot installed, on average. Higher-end options with solid wood construction can cost up to $300-400 per linear foot.

What quality of wood should I look for?

Opt for plywood box construction at least 1/2″ thick. Solid hardwood doors and drawer fronts hold up better than laminates. Dovetail joinery on drawers is best.

Should I assemble the cabinets myself?

If you’re reasonably handy, you can assemble RTA cabinets yourself and save on labor costs. Watch online tutorials. Make sure to have helpers.

How accurate do my measurements need to be?

Take detailed measurements as cabinets are custom-built to your specs. Leave room for trim and moldings. Have a kitchen pro review your plan.

Should I order all cabinets at once?

Yes, order the entire kitchen at once to guarantee cabinets are from the same lot for consistent coloring and quality.

How do I transport and unload the cabinets?

You’ll need a large vehicle or rental truck. Carefully load boxes vertically. Unload carefully and inspect for any damage before signing.

Can I return RTA cabinets if damaged?

Yes, immediately reject any damaged boxes on delivery. Most manufacturers will replace damaged RTA cabinets free of charge.

Should I hire a contractor or install myself?

For complex layouts, hire a pro. For more basic cabinet sets, DIY to save money if you have carpentry skills.

What are signs of quality RTA cabinets?

Look for solid wood doors, thick plywood sides, dovetail joinery, durable finishes and hinges, full-extension drawers, and soft-close hardware.


Purchasing ready-to-assemble kitchen cabinets is a big project, but very rewarding. Focus on choosing a reputable brand, allowing plenty of time for delivery and installation, taking detailed measurements, and ordering all cabinets in one batch. Hire a professional installer or take on the DIY challenge. With quality RTA cabinets installed properly, you’ll gain a stunning, functional kitchen that will bring joy for years to come.