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Ready to save? Choose ready to assemble cabinets!

by Susanne Clemenz

Online companies like Craftsmen Network and The RTA Store and retailers like Ikea have made ready to assemble (RTA) cabinets readily available. RTA cabinets' low prices make them very popular. One big price advantage over assembled cabinets is the ability to ship RTA cabinets in flat boxes. An instruction pamphlet and assembly hardware is included.

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Tools needed for the task vary, and may include a screwdriver, a small mallet, a drill, a fastener, clamps and woodworker's glue. Ask whether hardware-based or glue-based assembly is required. Online video instructions may be available.

Choices in ready to assemble cabinets

  1. All particleboard: Many RTA cabinets are all particleboard covered with laminates. Assembly hardware seldom shows on cabinet exteriors. Particleboard cabinets are dense and heavy--a consideration when installing upper kitchen cabinets.
  2. Part particleboard, part wood: Some ready to assemble kitchen cabinets have solid wood door frames, drawer fronts, and cabinet face frames. Panels inset in the door frame may be wood or laminate-covered particleboard. The case face frames may be wood, while visible end and back panels may be wood, wood veneer, or particleboard with a laminate resembling wood.
  3. All wood: Companies such as Kitchen Cabinet Depot offer all-wood ready to assemble cabinets. Like premium assembled cabinets, cabinet cases are plywood and the drawer boxes solid wood. RTAs are unlikely to have dovetail joints. A company that claims "no particleboard" may use strand board, a composite with long strands of wood byproducts that is more durable than particleboard. The strand board may be used by itself or as a ply layer between solid wood.
  4. Finish: Some RTA cabinets are also unfinished. Finishing is trickier than assembling. Being able to finish unassembled parts is an advantage.

Almost every architectural style is available. Prices increase as particleboard content decreases. Buy U.S. cabinets for better warranty service.


About the Author

Suzanne Clemenz designed her passive solar home and interacted with the contractors every day of the 6-month project. She started drawing floor plans and making models in the early '70s after purchasing several building lots. Recently she expanded and

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