The Differences Between Assembled and RTA Cabinets

When it comes to kitchen or bathroom renovations, the choice between assembled and ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets can be a game-changer. Both options come with their own sets of advantages and challenges. In this extensive guide, we’ll delve deep into the world of cabinets, exploring their differences, benefits, drawbacks, and what makes each type unique. Let’s get ready to uncover everything you need to know about these two popular cabinet types.

What Are Assembled Cabinets?

Assembled cabinets, as the name suggests, come pre-assembled from the manufacturer. These cabinets are fully constructed, glued, stapled, or nailed together, and are delivered to your home or project site ready for installation. This means you skip the hassle of putting them together yourself, saving you time and potential frustration.

Advantages of Assembled Cabinets

  1. Time-Saving: One of the biggest advantages of assembled cabinets is the time saved during installation. Because they arrive fully constructed, you can focus on fitting them into your kitchen or bathroom rather than spending hours assembling each piece. For example, if you’re a busy professional or a parent with little free time, the convenience of having pre-assembled cabinets can be a significant relief.
  2. Durability and Stability: Assembled cabinets are often more durable and stable since they are professionally assembled. The joints are usually stronger and more reliable, providing long-term durability. Imagine you’re installing cabinets in a high-traffic kitchen; the sturdiness of professionally assembled cabinets can withstand daily wear and tear much better.
  3. Professional Appearance: These cabinets typically have a more polished and professional appearance. Since they are put together in a controlled environment by skilled workers, the chances of visible mistakes or misalignments are minimized. This professional finish can make a significant difference in the overall aesthetic of your space, giving it a refined look.
  4. Reduced Risk of Damage During Assembly: When professionals assemble the cabinets, the risk of incorrect assembly, which can lead to damage or decreased functionality, is significantly reduced. This peace of mind can be particularly valuable if you’ve invested in high-end cabinetry.

Disadvantages of Assembled Cabinets

  1. Higher Cost: Assembled cabinets are generally more expensive than their RTA counterparts. This is due to the added labor costs of assembling the cabinets at the factory and the larger shipping costs due to their fully constructed nature. For instance, if you’re renovating on a tight budget, the higher upfront cost of assembled cabinets might not be feasible.
  2. Limited Customization: While many manufacturers offer a range of styles and finishes, your ability to customize assembled cabinets is somewhat limited compared to RTA cabinets, which can be adjusted more easily during assembly. If you have a uniquely shaped kitchen or specific design preferences, this lack of flexibility could be a significant drawback.
  3. Shipping and Handling: Since these cabinets are fully assembled, they require more space and careful handling during shipping. This can lead to higher shipping costs and a greater risk of damage in transit. Imagine ordering a beautiful set of cabinets only to find out they were damaged during shipping; the hassle of returns and replacements can be a significant inconvenience.

What Are RTA Cabinets?

Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets come in flat packs with all the necessary components and hardware for assembly. These cabinets are designed for the DIY enthusiast or those looking to save on labor costs. They are like a fun puzzle that, once put together, reveals a beautiful piece of furniture.

Advantages of RTA Cabinets

  1. Cost-Effective: One of the most significant advantages of RTA cabinets is their cost-effectiveness. Because they require assembly, the labor costs are lower, and they are cheaper to ship, which can significantly reduce the overall cost. For instance, if you’re renovating an entire kitchen, the savings from choosing RTA cabinets can be substantial.
  2. Customization: RTA cabinets offer more flexibility and customization options. You can adjust the assembly process to fit specific needs, allowing for a more tailored fit and finish. Imagine being able to tweak the assembly process to accommodate an oddly shaped corner or to add extra shelves where needed; this level of customization can be a huge benefit.
  3. DIY Satisfaction: For those who enjoy DIY projects, assembling RTA cabinets can be a rewarding experience. It provides a sense of accomplishment and allows for a personal touch in your home renovation project. Picture yourself proudly showing off your newly assembled cabinets to friends and family, knowing you played a hands-on role in their creation.
  4. Lower Shipping Costs: Due to their flat-pack nature, RTA cabinets are less bulky and easier to ship, resulting in lower shipping costs. This can be particularly advantageous if you live in a remote area where shipping bulky items can be prohibitively expensive.

Disadvantages of RTA Cabinets

  1. Assembly Required: The most obvious downside is the need for assembly. If you’re not handy with tools or don’t have the time, this can be a major drawback. Mistakes during assembly can lead to issues with stability and appearance. Imagine spending hours assembling a cabinet only to realize a critical piece was installed incorrectly; the frustration and time needed to fix it can be considerable.
  2. Variable Quality: The quality of RTA cabinets can vary significantly. While many offer excellent quality, others may use cheaper materials or less precise manufacturing processes, resulting in a less durable product. It’s crucial to research and select reputable brands to avoid ending up with subpar cabinets.
  3. Time-Consuming: While assembling RTA cabinets can be a fun project, it is also time-consuming. Depending on the number of cabinets and your skill level, it can take hours or even days to complete. If you’re on a tight schedule or have other commitments, the time investment required might not be practical.
  4. Potential for Assembly Errors: With RTA cabinets, there is always the risk of human error during assembly. Incorrectly assembled cabinets can lead to functionality issues and decreased durability. Ensuring you have the right tools, sufficient space, and a clear understanding of the assembly instructions is vital to avoid mistakes.

Key Differences Between Assembled and RTA Cabinets

1. Assembly Process

Assembled Cabinets: Arrive fully constructed and ready for installation. No assembly required. This makes them ideal for those looking for a hassle-free installation process.

RTA Cabinets: Arrive in flat packs and require full assembly. All parts and instructions are provided. This option is great for DIY enthusiasts and those looking to save on costs.

2. Cost

Assembled Cabinets: Generally more expensive due to labor and shipping costs. The convenience and professional assembly come at a premium price.

RTA Cabinets: More affordable, with lower labor and shipping costs. Ideal for budget-conscious renovators who don’t mind a bit of DIY work.

3. Customization

Assembled Cabinets: Limited customization options post-manufacture. You’ll need to select from the available styles and configurations offered by the manufacturer.

RTA Cabinets: A higher degree of customization during assembly. You can make adjustments to fit specific spaces and design preferences, offering more flexibility.

4. Shipping and Handling

Assembled Cabinets: Higher shipping costs and risk of damage due to their bulkiness. They require more careful handling during transport, which can add to the overall cost.

RTA Cabinets: Lower shipping costs and easier to handle as they come in flat packs. This makes them more cost-effective to ship and less prone to damage during transit.

5. Quality and Durability

Assembled Cabinets: Typically more durable with professional assembly. The controlled environment and skilled labor ensure higher quality and longevity.

RTA Cabinets: Quality can vary, and durability depends on the assembly quality. With careful assembly and selection of high-quality RTA options, you can achieve comparable durability.

Which One Should You Choose?

Choosing between assembled and RTA cabinets depends largely on your personal needs, budget, and skills. Here are some factors to consider:


If you have a tight budget, RTA cabinets might be the better option. They offer significant savings on both the purchase price and shipping costs. For example, if you’re renovating multiple rooms or an entire house, the cost savings can be substantial.


If time is of the essence and you want a quick installation process, assembled cabinets are the way to go. They save you the hassle and time of assembly. For instance, if you’re working against a tight deadline or prefer to avoid the complexities of DIY projects, assembled cabinets are a convenient choice.

DIY Skills

For those who love DIY projects and have the necessary skills, RTA cabinets can be a satisfying project. However, if you’re not confident in your assembly skills, assembled cabinets provide a stress-free alternative. Consider your comfort level with tools and assembly tasks before making a decision.

Customization Needs

If you need specific customizations, RTA cabinets offer more flexibility. You can tailor the assembly process to fit unique spaces or design preferences. For instance, if you have a uniquely shaped kitchen or specific storage requirements, RTA cabinets allow you to make adjustments as needed.

Quality and Durability

Consider the quality and durability you need. Assembled cabinets generally offer more reliable quality due to professional assembly, while RTA cabinets’ quality can vary depending on the manufacturer and your assembly skills. Research and select reputable brands to ensure you get the best quality for your investment.


Both assembled and RTA cabinets have their unique sets of benefits and drawbacks. Your choice will depend on your budget, time constraints, DIY skills, customization needs, and desired quality. By carefully considering these factors, you can make an informed decision that best suits your home renovation project.

If you’re seeking top-notch kitchen cabinets and remodeling services, look no further than MKE Kitchen Remodeling. Our expert team specializes in high-quality cabinet installations, kitchen makeovers, and kitchen renovations tailored to your needs. With a focus on precision, style, and customer satisfaction, we ensure your kitchen transformation is both stunning and functional. Trust MKE Kitchen Remodeling to bring your vision to life with professionalism and excellence. Contact us today to start your remodeling journey!


Q1: Are RTA cabinets as durable as assembled cabinets?

A1: RTA cabinets can be just as durable as assembled cabinets, but this largely depends on the quality of the materials and the precision of the assembly process. Properly assembled RTA cabinets from reputable manufacturers can offer excellent durability.

Q2: Can I customize assembled cabinets?

A2: While assembled cabinets come with limited customization options post-manufacture, many manufacturers offer a variety of styles, finishes, and configurations that may meet your needs. For extensive customization, RTA cabinets are a better choice.

Q3: How much money can I save with RTA cabinets?

A3: RTA cabinets can save you a significant amount of money, primarily due to lower labor and shipping costs. The exact savings will depend on the brand, quality, and number of cabinets you need.

Q4: What tools do I need to assemble RTA cabinets?

A4: To assemble RTA cabinets, you’ll typically need basic tools such as a screwdriver, hammer, and possibly a drill. Some manufacturers provide specialized tools or hardware with the cabinets. Always check the assembly instructions for specific tool requirements.

Q5: Are there any hidden costs with RTA cabinets?

A5: While RTA cabinets can be more affordable upfront, be aware of potential hidden costs such as purchasing additional tools, hardware, or materials for assembly. Additionally, if you need professional help for assembly, this can add to the overall cost.