A new kitchen is something most homeowners dream of. Shiny new countertops, brand new appliances, and fresh, still-smells-like-sawdust cabinets. It’s enough to make you want to get in there and cook, entertain, and enjoy this functional space to its fullest. And because new kitchen cabinets are the biggest ticket item of a kitchen renovation, it’s a decision you want to get right the first time.

Mark McCammon from Pexels

From fully custom craftsman cabinets to ready-to-assemble (RTA) kitchen cabinets, there’s a lot to consider to ensure your end result meets both your expectation and your budget. Installation, quality, and added features determine how much your cabinet system will cost, and one of the best ways to save money without sacrificing your upgrades is to assemble and install your cabinets yourself. RTA cabinets are available in high quality finishes and with plenty of cool added features available, so let’s delve into the science of choosing the best ones for your situation.

What are Ready-to-Assemble Kitchen Cabinets?

You can purchase a kitchen cabinet system from an installer who will measure your space, help you determine what features suit your lifestyle, and do all the work for you. But let’s face it- if you’re on a budget the sticker shock associated with this method is just too much to handle. While cabinet installers and craftsmen are worth every penny, many suppliers recognize that doing it yourself can free up your budget for better quality cabinets with more special features, and that’s invaluable to many homeowners.

Ready-to-install (RTA) cabinet manufacturers design cabinetry that ships to your home with everything necessary to install your cabinets yourself, including most of the tools needed to do so, and they offer a wide range of quality and features to choose from. If you’re even minimally handy with basic tools, RTA cabinets are something you can explore to save money on installation so you don’t have to skimp on quality.

Tips For Choosing the Right RTA Kitchen Cabinets

Choosing the right cabinets here is vital. Choose the wrong thing and you’ll be unhappy with your cabinets for years to come. But choose the perfect RTA kitchen cabinets for you and the kitchen could become the true heart of your home. Here are some tips to make sure you choose the perfect cabinets for you while making the purchase and installation process as simple as possible.

  1. Don’t budge on your non-negotiables: Before you begin looking at RTA cabinets, know what’s non-negotiable for you, and then don’t budge on it. There are so many options and so many considerations that go into the process and it can be easy to get carried away with options you didn’t even know you had. So take some time before going into it to define what you absolutely need in your kitchen and don’t stray from that. This is the best way to avoid regrets.
  2. Stick to your budget: Unfortunately, we all have a budget to stick to. And when you’re looking at all your options, upgrades and special features can add up quickly. There’s nothing worse than that sick feeling of knowing you’ve spent way too much money every time you walk through your beautiful new kitchen, but if you’re firm on both your budget and your non-negotiables, you’ll love every inch of your kitchen and you’ll have peace about how much money you spent on it.
  3. Ask for samples: If you go into a store like Lowe’s or IKEA, you can touch and feel every product to help you make your decision. But there are a lot of manufacturers who operate online and ship RTA kitchen cabinets all over the world, and they have almost infinite options to choose from. If you find cabinets you love online, request a sample. Most manufacturers will send as many samples as you need to help you make a decision, and the cost of samples are usually refundable to the cost of the cabinet system you select.
  4. Do comparisons: Most manufacturers offer extremely comparable selections. Don’t just look at one cabinet company: find the options you like from several manufacturers so you can make price comparisons as well as customer review comparisons. One company might have a cheaper price tag, but another company could have something almost identical that includes better instructions and better installation equipment. Compare several manufacturers’ strengths and weaknesses to help you make your decision.

Expense Factors that go into Ready-to-Assemble Kitchen Cabinets

Photo by Dominika Roseclay from Pexels

Imagine the cost of RTA kitchen cabinets as a triangle that consists of three legs: quality, features, and size. Reduce the size of one leg, and you’ll grow the size of another. 

For example, if you want as big of a cabinet set as possible for maximal storage, you’ll have to sacrifice on quality, features, or both to achieve the same budget. You can keep all your features with high quality, but the whole triangle (aka, the total cost) will get bigger.

If quality is the most important factor for you, but you want to stay within a certain budget, to keep the triangle (cost) to the same size you’ll need to decide which of the other two legs you’ll need to minimize to keep the size of the triangle down.

Here are some details in each category that go into determining the total cost of a ready-to-assemble kitchen cabinet set.

  • Quality: One of the best things about RTA cabinets is that they can be as high of quality as you want. A wide quality range is available, and here are some features to look out for that have the propensity to increase both cost and quality.
    • Dovetail drawers.
    • Soft-close doors.
    • Solid wood doors and drawers.
    • Full-extension drawers.
    • Painted-on finish (rather than sprayed-on).
  • Size: Size isn’t always everything, but to many homeowners it’s very important. After all, the amount of space you need to store all your kitchen gadgets, dishes, and utensils is an important consideration. Cabinet cost is figured by linear feet, but there are other size considerations that determine the cost per linear foot.
    • Depth.
    • Height.
    • Storage space (number of doors and drawers).
  • Features: There are many, many features to choose from in RTA kitchen cabinetry. You can keep costs down by sticking with the basics – just doors and drawers – but added features will increase your kitchen’s functionality. Here are some features that are usually considered upgrades and can increase the price of your kitchen.
    • Corner carousel.
    • Pull-out shelves.
    • Deep pots-and-pans drawers.
    • Pull-out spice racks.
    • Cabinetry appliance covers.

Order, Install, Enjoy.

Once you’ve made your final decisions on quality, features, and size (and ultimately cost), the final thing to do is order, install, and enjoy. Once you order ready to assemble cabinets online it will ship to your home in boxes with everything you need but a drill included. You’ll find screws, wood glue, instructions, and more packaged and ready to assemble.

But once you’ve finished assembly, part of enjoying your new ready-to-assemble cabinets is taking proper care of them over the years so that they can serve you for years to come. Here is a list of basic maintenance to perform on your cabinets so they’ll last as long as possible. 

  1. Clean your cabinets regularly: Dust and debris builds up on cabinets and corrodes the finish over time. To help your finish last, keep it clean.
  2. Tighten things up: Every year or so, tighten the screws on your hinges, door pulls, and knobs. This will keep things tight, preventing damage due to loose hardware.
  3. Refinish when appropriate: Though keeping things clean will extend the life of your paint or stain, refinishing will eventually be necessary. If you don’t procrastinate on this, no permanent damage will come to your cabinets. If you don’t refinish as needed, exposed wood can warp, splinter, or even rot.
Editorial Contributors
Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield is an experienced writer specializing in home improvement topics. He has a passion for educating and empowering homeowners to make informed decisions about their properties. Matt's writing focuses on a range of topics, including windows, flooring, HVAC, and construction materials. With a background in construction and home renovation, Matt is well-versed in the latest trends and techniques in the industry. His articles offer practical advice and expert insights that help readers tackle their home improvement projects with confidence. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or a seasoned professional, Matt's writing is sure to provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

Learn More