What are Knock Down Cabinets and what does RTA stand for?

RTA stands for “ready to assemble” and is interchangeable with the term Knock down cabinets. When the cabinet manufacturer builds the cabinet parts and ships the parts in a box to be assembled when it arrives at the installation location. These are “knock down” or ”RTA” cabinets.

Not all RTA cabinets are created equal. There are good quality cabinets as well as some poorly made products. You must know what to look for when considering any type of cabinet whether they are stock cabinets, Semi-custom cabinets, or a Custom built cabinets.

Take a look at some advantages, disadvantages below to see if RTA cabinets are right for your project.

Advantages of RTA Cabinets

  • Money saved in assembly if you build them yourself.
  • Cost less to ship. Because the cabinets come in boxes they take up less space in the delivery truck and will cost less to ship.
  • RTA cabinets can be shipped much easier to hard to reach locations.
  • They can be stored in less space on the job site.

 Disadvantages of RTA Cabinets

  • RTA cabinets are limited when it comes to colors and styles. Typically each door style will only be available in one color. You can expect only a handful of door styles anywhere from 6-10.
  • RTA cabinets are limited in width and height. For the most part, they come in 3” increments, but don’t be surprised to see them jump from a 36” unit to a 42”unit. Not a good thing when you need a 39” cabinet. This can be a big problem when dealing with vanities and can lead to excessive use of fillers in the kitchen.
  • Filler strips must be used to take up the leftover space that comes in pre-determined sizes. This leaves the potential to lose precious storage space that could be utilized with a custom cabinet line.
  • Built-in appliances such as microwaves and ovens are hard to accommodate using RTA cabinet lines if at all. Some lines offer a cabinet that is oversized allowing the installer to cut an opening in the face and add the necessary support to fit the appliance into the cabinet.
  • Like many stock cabinet lines, specialty cabinets such as wine racks, glass door cabinet, and open shelves are rare

What to Look for in RTA Cabinets

  • Plywood cabinet boxes
  • Fullback panel-not nailing strips and a thin skin.
  • Cabinet boxes should be dadoed so they can be glued together along with staples and nails. No cam locks or other silly fasteners.
  • Solid wood dovetail drawer boxes. No nails or staples here.
  • Quality hardware-full-extension drawer glides and soft closing hardware.
  • Durable finish – The finish should be consistent and contain multiple layers. Conversion varnishes and baked on coatings are typical quality finishes. Make sure the cabinet company you choose has a written warranty on their finish.

In short, your RTA cabinets should be a quality built unit that simply needs to be assembled. Your cabinets should not look like the DIY shelf unit you bought at Walmart that includes an Allen wrench and cam locks.

Knowing what to look for helps to clarify the decision-making process. The balance is knowing what you need and what you can live without. Once you eliminate the things that are not important and outline the things that matter most you can choose the cabinets that are right for you with confidence.