RTA Cabinets: Ready To Assemble Cabinets

Many people associate Ready to Assemble cabinets with cheap.  I must admit I was in that camp for a while.  But then I saw an RTA cabinet that seemed very solid.  Coupled with seeing some regular pre-assembled cabinet lines that are just the opposite, I got to wondering what else was out there.  After some searching, I found a company that distributes RTA cabinets made right here in the US. Rick Haylon at The Cabinet Authority, LLC was kind enough to answer a couple of questions I had for him. Here’s what he had to say (his words in italics)…

 Conestoga Plywood Box ConstructionFirst off, thanks for responding Rick.  I appreciate it.  One of the first things I’d like you to clear up for me is this notion of “cheap” that so many people seem to have about Ready to Assemble cabinetry.  Granted, the price is usually less for RTA than regular cabinetry, but how solid is the construction?  What are your doors and boxes made of, and how are they supposed to be assembled to make a finished cabinet?

Many of the RTA cabinets that are available on the internet are indeed “cheap” — in all senses of the  word! There are an abundance of sites that are selling cabinets made overseas that just don’t  hold a candle to the better US-made cabinets in terms of wood quality, craftsmanship, design, options, etc.  

MiniFix cam and bolt setup

Cam-locks are Bad

For example, I would automatically stay away from any cabinets assembled using a cam-lock system or some screw-in plastic corner bracket. If the drawer boxes are not solid wood, dovetailed construction (pre-assembled),  this is also a bad sign. If the cabinets are pre-routed to fit together, then this is a much better answer.  

Determining Factors of Kitchen Cabinet Prices

To oversimplify, the cost of cabinetry is determined primarily (but not exclusively) by these factors: – craftsmanship – wood specie and quality – door/drawer style – finish – hardware – shipping – assembly & installation – overhead (such as showrooms, samples, etc.) and markup  

RTA Might Not Be Much Cheaper

As you can surmise, assembly is a factor in the cost, but certainly not the biggest or only factor. So, if you think you’re going to save half (for example) and get equal-quality cabinets, you’re probably mistaken. (The bigger internet savings is from the reduction of overhead and markup. This is where you might be able to save a big percentage.)  




Conestoga dovetail drawer and hardware

So, it is quite possible to get as good or better cabinets RTA than some of the regular pre-assembled cabinetry you would find in a kitchen and bath showroom. Rick sells Conestoga Wood Specialties cabinetry, and I dug around the Conestoga website after I contacted Rick.  Even without having seen them in person, I’m very impressed.  I can’t remember what that first “rather nice” RTA cabinet was that I saw, but it was still not on par with the Conestoga Craftsman line I’m sure.   RTA doesn’t necessarily mean “cheap” in the quality department. 

There are junk cabinets in the ready-to-assemble category for sure, but pre-assembled cabinets and custom can also be terrible. If you’re open to the idea of assembling your own cabinets (and you must be or you wouldn’t have landed on this site) steer clear of the poor quality RTA cabinets.


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