Why Ready To Assemble - RTA Cabinets Are A Bad Idea

While some RTA cabinets might vaguely resemble traditional cabinetry, the pictured custom contemporary kitchen by Degnan Design-Build-Remodel uses high-quality traditionally-built cabinets from Auburn Ridge.

Ready-to-Assemble (RTA) Cabinets Probably Won't Provide the Quality You're Looking For

When it comes to investing in a kitchen remodel, some homeowners ask us if Ready-to-Assemble, or RTA Cabinets, are a good way to save on costs. While there are some instances in which RTA cabinets might be the right choice, they aren't always the great value they are promoted to be.

About RTA Cabinets

RTA cabinets are sold by many different companies, including popular home decor companies like IKEA. They will arrive at your home in several boxes, requiring you the homeowner to put together the frame, face, drawers, inserts, doors, and hardware. They've grown in popularity in recent years because of their lower cost and flexibility. Homeowners can buy the cabinets months in advance to take advantage of sales and store at home, since they come in boxes, yet to be assembled. Although they are not custom, there are many different styles to choose from.

Common problems homeowners find in RTA cabinets

Putting together a kitchen's worth of RTA cabinets isn't as easy as the home improvement sites make it out to be. You will need some skills to build these cabinets properly and to ensure they are hung level. The parts are typically put together with a cam lock system or screw and plate fasteners, so make sure you are familiar with these joints before beginning the project. A cam lock mechanism is where the cabinet face frame, sides, top, and bottom are held together with a hook-type fastener that engages the opposing piece when a screw is turned. Some manufacturers suggest the use of glue and advise that the client not depend solely on the cam locks. RTA cabinets may boast "dovetail" joints, remember these are joints that you will have to assemble. Unless you are a master carpenter, these joints will be rough and with gaps. 

Other features and hardware, like drawer slides, can be made of poor quality on RTA cabinets. Slides and hinges may look great at first, but are not built to last.

Once RTA cabinets are assembled, they should be moved as little as possible before installing because they are susceptible to damage the more they are shifted and jostled.

What are RTA cabinets made of?

Some RTA cabinets are constructed of plywood, but in many cases, the plywood is of low quality to keep costs low. It's not uncommon to see peeling veneers and severely warped panels over time. The interior coatings used to finish the plywood are also of low quality, giving the wood on the walls and shelves a rough and unfinished look and feel. IKEA RTA cabinets are typically made from medium-density fiberboard and Melamine, a laminate that contains no actual wood. 

If the RTA cabinet manufacturer offers products made of real wood, it is often Russian birch. This can sometimes be passed off as cherry, so make sure to fully read the descriptions of the products. Some manufacturers offer maple and oak as well, but the quality of the lumber is of a lower quality than what is typically used in American cabinet manufacturing. 

Avoid the headache of RTA cabinets

A kitchen remodel is a major investment for homeowners, so why skimp on the most high-profile aspect of the job? There are many options for all-wood cabinets, in a number of quality finishes and attractive styles. Custom cabinets provide American-made quality and a wide range of choices for style and finishes to get exactly the look you want. Degnan Design Build Remodel has years of experience with kitchen remodels and can answer all your cabinet questions.

About Degnan Design-Build-Remodel
Since 1981 Degnan Design-Build-Remodel has provided home improvement and construction services to customers throughout Greater Madison, Wisconsin. Our goal is to WOW you with a "Designed For Your Life" solution using a process that will transform your home into a beautiful living space, delivered on time, and on budget. We are known for our communication, respectfulness, and a commitment to our customers and our community. Contact us to speak with one of our designers about your home improvement project.