How to Choose RTA Cabinets
Choosing RTA Cabinets
Once you've made the decision to consider RTA (ready to assemble) cabinets, you will quickly discover that you have another decision to make: which cabinets should I buy?
Most RTA companies have extensive websites and many options.However, company websites are not enough, you need to also read consumer reviews which tell you how the company performs in delivering quality and service.RTA cabinets are an expensive purchase and you generally have to buy them somewhat sight unseen.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find reviews of different companies which are not veiled advertisements written by the company themselves, so I want to assure you that I don't have any connections with any cabinet company except as a customer. I'm a 50 something homeowner with no previous experience in building cabinets, but I managed to put together 31 RTA cabinets for my home. If I can do it, you can too!
Here is a guide for narrowing down your choices.
RTA Cabinets in Kitchen and LaundryClick thumbnail to view full-size
Choose Cabinet Face and Wood
You are going to live with these cabinets for a long time, so you have to like them.I think the first decision to make is what sort of cabinet door style and wood you want. Do you want:
- A simple Shaker style?
- Or raised panels?
- Maple, Oak, Hickory or some other wood?
- Painted or stained?
- What color?
You will probably be spending thousands of dollars on this purchase, so does your homework to make sure you get the cabinets you want. You may want to visit a local store like Home Depot or Lowes in order to look at the different kinds of woods and handle them.In addition, you can usually see entire kitchens at these stores which will help you visualize what you want your kitchen to look like.
What is most important to you in cabinet choice?See results without voting
Look at RTA Cabinet Companies
Next, start browsing the catalogs of RTA cabinet companies. You will quickly notice that many of them seem to buy their cabinets from the same manufacturers. Although they often list the cabinets by different names, you can tell by the pictures that the cabinets are identical. Many of the RTA companies have very similar oak and maple styles.
If you like those cabinets, you will have quite a few companies to choose from. If like us, you want something which is not maple or oak and has a more distinctive style, you will have to search harder.We wanted a warmer cinnamon color to the wood for our kitchen, something which would match the reddish tones of our Saltillo Floor. We found a cherry wood raised panel cabinet at a couple of companies but only one company, RTA Unlimited, also offered a walnut cabinet in a cherry stain that was what we wanted for our living room cabinets. Please know that I don't have any affiliation with RTA Unlimited except for being a customer. I've put in the link because I had requests by readers. RTA Unlimited is a division of Custom Service Hardware, which created some confusion when people tried to search for it.
Please know that I don't have any affiliation with RTA Unlimited except for being a customer. I've put in the link because I had requests by readers. RTA Unlimited is a division of Custom Service Hardware, which created some confusion when people tried to search for it.
RTA Cabinet Customer Service is Important
Perhaps the most important final consideration is customer service.It is wise to call the company before you place an order to determine how quickly and how knowledgeable they are. Can they answer your questions? Are they willing to find out if they don't know the answer? Be sure to ask these questions:
- Be sure you are clear about how they handle problems like missing parts or damaged cabinets.
- What sort of a return policy do they have?
- Do they have restocking fees?
- Do they pay for return shipping of damaged items?
- Ask if you will be assigned a particular salesperson that you can call or email
My Experience with RTA Cabinets Unlimited
Customer Service Representative. Even before I had placed an order, RTA Cabinets Unlimited assigned me a customer service representative who was available by phone and email to answer all of my questions.I found he was knowledgeable not only about the types of cabinets they offered but also about assembly and design.
Help in Design and Building. He gave me pictures of another customer’s kitchen to help me solve some of my design problems. When I was uncertain about a particular section of the instructions, he was available to guide me through the process in a phone call .In fact, he called me several times to check on my progress and to find out if there was anything I needed.
Responsive and Knowledgeable. Be sure to choose a company that seems responsive to your questions and knowledgeable about their cabinets.Some companies deal mostly with contractors.If you are a homeowner, you want to be sure your company is prepared to help you deal with the problems you may have in assembling and installing.
References. Before you order, you may want to ask if you can talk to some previous customers.
Video on how to assemble Cam Lock Cabinets
Tips for Kitchen Design with RTA Cabinets
Measure your Kitchen Carefully
In order to choose the cabinets, you will need, you will have to take measurements of your kitchen.If you are not sure how to do this, be sure to research it or call someone to help. After you have your measurements, consider where you want base and wall cabinets to go and the sizes you will need of each.
Look at the RTA cabinet website for the sizes available.
Most cabinets come in standard sizes, but not all sizes or types of cabinets are available in every style.The height of base cabinets is standard, but wall cabinets vary in height, so be sure that the ones you are considering will fit well into your space.Make a rough design of your kitchen.Then you might want to make a list of the types of cabinets you will need (wall, base drawer, base sink and base door are the basic types) and the number you will need of each.You can use this list in order to do an estimate of the cost of cabinets for your kitchen.
Which RTA Cabinet Features Do You Need?
Along with looks, you want to make sure the cabinets you choose will last and have the features which are important to you. What to think about?
- Tongue and groove drawer boxes are much more durable than drawers which are just nailed or stapled together.
- Drawer Extension. You may want to also choose cabinets which have full drawer extensions which allow the drawer to open all the way out instead of only ¾ of the way.
- Self-closing drawers are also a nice feature on many RTA cabinets.
- Full or Partial Overlay. Other options to consider are whether the cabinet doors are full overlay, which means that the doors and drawers cover the whole base of the cabinet, or partial overlay, which means the cabinet face shows through.
- Wood Quality. Also, consider the thickness of the wood used to build the cabinet, some are ½ inch and others are ¾ inch.
- Cabinet Pieces in that Style. Finally, check the pieces that are available in that cabinet style.If you need a 24” pantry and that style doesn’t have one, you may need to reconsider, or else design your kitchen differently.
Assembly of Cam Lock Base Cabinets
Learn About RTA Assembly
Not all RTA cabinets are assembled the same way. Be sure you investigate how the cabinets you are interested in are put together. Some manufacturers post instructions on their website and you can also find Youtube. Beware of any manufacturer that tells you cabinets can be assembled in five minutes.
- Tongue and Groove? Cabinets with tongue and groove drawers and glue assembly will take longer but be much more durable.
- Cam-lock? Camlock is one of the more popular RTA assembly mechanisms.While the cam-lock system can hold the cabinet together and I’ve seen some videos which suggest that is all you need to do, your cabinets will be much more durable if you use wood glue in all the joints and use the cam lock mechanism to hold the cabinet securely while the glue dries.
- Wood Nails? Other cabinets use different mechanisms to hold pieces together while the glue is drying, like nails or plastic inserts.I used both cam-lock mechanisms and nails.In addition, I found that wood clamps were an invaluable tool for holding pieces together while drying, especially tongue and groove drawers.
- Instructions? When considering which cabinets to purchase, be sure you understand how gives you clear instructions about what kind of cabinets you will receive and how to assemble them.
- Contact the Company. It pays to call the company before you order to make sure you clearly understand the type of assembly that will be required.
Are RTA Cabinets Worth It?
Yes! Comparing the Thomasville cabinets I purchased from Home Depot to my RTA cabinets, which cost half the price, I know RTA was the right choice for us. My RTA cabinets are not only more durable but much more beautiful and functional. After over 7 years, they still look new. As with any big purchase, it pays to do your homework. With careful purchasing, RTA cabinets can be a great bargain and a wonderful investment in your home.
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