RTA Cabinet Reviews: Ready-to-Assemble vs. Home Depot
Female Homeowner Review
When we were investigating RTA (ready to assemble) kitchen cabinets, we found a lot of information on company websites. However, when we tried to find out the experiences of homeowners, like us, there was very little. Moreover, the reviews we did find were sometimes tied with companies, so that it was hard to know what were advertisements and what was actual consumer experience.
So for the record, I want to explain that I have no connection with any cabinet manufacturing company. At the time of this project, I was a 49-year old housewife who had done many home renovation projects but had limited experience in building anything out of wood. Many homeowners looking to purchase RTA cabinets may have much more experience than I had, so my successful assembly of 35 cabinets in my spare time over a two-week period should encourage anyone that you can do this too.
Cabinet Quality Over Time
RTA Cabinets: Ours were assembled and installed in 2009. Eight years later, they still look like new. They require very little maintenance and in spite of my fears, the detail work on the rope cabinets has not collected dirt or grime. I dust them and clean them every couple of months with a kitchen cabinet cleaner and that's it. The inside of the cabinets are in great shape and have held heavy dishes with no problem.
Home Depot Cabinets: These are a couple of years older and have also held up well. What I've disliked most about the Home Depot cabinets is that they really don't use space well. The drawers are too small and they don't have nice shelves that hold things. I've had to jerry-rig containers to try to hold things in them. The Home Depot cabinets were much more expensive, but are more cheaply made. They don't have the well-thought-out inside design that uses space well that I find in my Ready to Assemble cabinets.
Conclusion: We are in the process of remodeling a second home and RTA is my choice throughout.
Kitchen Before and AfterClick thumbnail to view full-size
After sending an order for thousands of dollars of Ready to Assemble cabinets, I began to worry. What if they aren’t as high a quality as I’ve been led to expect? What if they don’t look like the pictures? I was very relieved when the cabinets came; I assembled them myself and discovered:
- Solid Build: Each piece is furniture-grade quality and even more beautiful than I expected and very solidly built.
- Easy to Assemble: Contrary to my fears, I was able to do this project without assistance from my husband except for a few times I needed help moving the bigger pieces.
- Better Product at a Cheaper Price: For about half of what I paid for my Home Depot bathroom cabinets, I was able to get adjustable solid wood shelves (my big box cabinets didn’t even come with shelves) and deep drawers (about twice as deep as the drawers in my previous kitchen).
- Can Afford More Custom Features: In addition, because of the low cost, I was able to afford some of the design features I wanted, like corner cabinets, a lazy susan, soft close drawers, and base drawer cabinets.
- Use Pantry Cabinets as Built-in Shelving: I also was able to afford to use pantry cabinets in my laundry room, craft room, and living room as permanent storage areas. The pantry cabinets offered far more storage in these rooms than traditional furniture and also serve as a beautiful accent to each room.
- Good Quality Shelves: Some of these hold heavier items like books and small appliances. Particleboard shelves might warp, but the solid wood shelves on these RTA Cabinets have held up beautifully for over 8 years now.
IKEA, Big Box, or RTA?
When we decided to remodel our kitchen, we initially thought we’d return to Home Depot and use the same light maple shaker style cabinets we’d used in our remodeled bathrooms. We also considered buying from IKEA. Unfortunately, none of the IKEA styles really seemed to match the Mediterranean style of our house. Additionally, I read some consumer reviews of their kitchens which indicated that their cabinets were difficult to put together. I also had some concerns about quality since some of the furniture we'd purchased from them had not lasted well.
Somewhere along the way in my internet research, I discovered RTA cabinets. I’d never liked the fact that my Home Depot cabinets seemed so cheaply built with laminate insides and no shelves in some of the base cabinets. After watching some assembly videos, I decided I could probably do it.
What we did spend money on was to have our remodeler rip out our old kitchen and install our new one. Of course, you can save even more money if you do this part yourself too. There are plenty of videos like the one below that tell you how to do it.
Choosing an RTA Company
We did extensive research before choosing, nvestigating at least 30 companies. In the end, we decided that the most important criteria for choosing a company were:
- The type of cabinet style they offered.
- The wood colors and types available
- Customer service.
- Company reputation and length of time in business.
- Return policies.
- Can order door to check color and style.
Tips for Choosing
Ask for References: We asked for sample work done for other customers as well as some references we could call. We also investigated the return policies and shipping services.
Pick Cabinets You Really Like: We finally chose to work with RTA Cabinets Unlimited (a division of Custom Service Hardware) because they had two cabinet choices we liked, Warwick Walnut and Cherry Tuscany (which has been discontinued, but is replaced by a maple cabinet which has a similar cinnamon color stain).
Look for a Company That Lets You See Before Buying. We liked the fact that RTA Cabinets Unlimited allowed us to order cabinet doors to see if we liked them. Some other companies offer this or you can also order a small cabinet. The doors were not expensive and were well worth the price because it enabled us to see how well the company serviced their orders, to test the quality of the cabinets, and also determine how those cabinets would look in our house. In addition, I found that having those doors was very helpful in making other decorating decisions because I could carry them with me to check the color against paint and drapery choices.
What is your biggest concern in your remodel?
Quality ComparisonClick thumbnail to view full-size
One of the best things about the company I dealt with was customer service, so you do want to ask what sort of support the company has after you receive the product. With the company we dealt with, as soon as I made my first email contact asking a question, I was assigned James as my customer service representative and given both his email and phone number. I recently learned that James is still with the company and is now in management. That makes me feel sure that the customer service aspect of the company is on the right track. Here is why customer support is important for me:
- Whenever I needed help, James was quickly responsive, and he either knew the answer or was willing to find someone who could help.
- My support person helped me with some design decisions by giving me some photos of other customer’s projects.
- James called me frequently throughout my assembly process to make sure I was doing all right and to find out if I had any questions.
- He was particularly helpful to me when I was trying to decide whether I needed to buy a nail gun. I had never used one before and was concerned about how to do it. James reassured me that using a regular hammer and finishing nails would work just as well to hold the Warwick Walnut pantry cabinets together while the glue dried.
- He also suggested using wood clamps, which were not in the instructions but which made much of my assembly easier.
RTA Quality and FeaturesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Good Quality at a Good Price
RTA cabinets offer a fantastic opportunity to remodel your home at a reasonable price. Overall, our experience was very positive.
Provided you are prepared to design your own kitchen and make sure you have the correct measurements, you will find ordering, shipping and assembly of these products to go smoothly/ While there were a few minor flaws in or order, such as somewhat warped boards in a couple of the pantry cabinets, none of these flaws affected my ability to assemble the cabinets, and none are visible in the finished product.
Quick Assembly Instructions
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2011 Virginia Kearney