New kitchen cabinets are a must needed component to a kitchen remodel, renovation, or even new build kitchen. A large storage compartment that holds dishes, food, tools, and appliances, the cabinet itself is a simple, yet crucial fixture. Available in many popular styles from traditional to modern, and in a variety of materials like hardwood and quality laminate, the options one has for cabinets in 2023 is ever growing.
While simple in concept, there are many ways to go about designing and outfitting cabinets for your kitchen. From ready to assemble cabinets (RTA) to fully custom kitchens, there are many retailers, contractors, and design centers to choose from.
In this article we will be discussing why you would want to choose custom cabinets over ready to assemble cabinets. But first let’s revisit what RTA cabinets are…
What are RTA kitchen cabinets?
Much as the name would suggest, ready to assemble cabinets come in flat boxes and are constructed on site. RTA cabinets are produced in large quantities and are available in standard sizes and heights. They are a great option for a basic kitchen without any custom needs or requests. You can find RTA cabinets at big box hardware stores and online cabinet retailers.
While some semi-custom options exist, purchasing RTA cabinets is not as tailored or hands-free of a process as choosing the fully custom or pre-assembled cabinet route.
How much do RTA cabinets cost?
The cost (or labor) of assembly and installation is left up to the homeowners, making the up front cost of the cabinet cheaper, since this job is not done before shipping like with pre-fabricated cabinets. They are often manufactured overseas, further reducing costs.
Overall, RTA kitchen cabinets transfer the assembly, design, and installation of the project onto the homeowner and seek cheaper manufacturing in order to offer a lower up-front cost.
Are RTA cabinets good quality?
To determine if RTA cabinets are good quality, you need to take a look at the cabinet materials. Cabinets can be made of solid wood, high density fiberboard (HDF), medium density fiberboard (MDF), thermally fused laminate (TFL), glass, or metal. The quality of the cabinet will depend on the manufacturing process and where they source their materials. As you can imagine, there’s variety across the industry. This article by dengarden goes into more detail on ready to assemble cabinets and how to identify high quality material in RTA cabinets.
Why Choose Custom Cabinets instead?
So why choose the custom route? Well, now that we have touched on ready to assemble kitchen cabinets, here are some situations where you would want to choose fully custom cabinetry (or pre-assembled cabinets) for your home.
You are looking for quality cabinet construction and materials
Custom cabinet materials are often sourced from higher quality suppliers and are manufactured to a higher standard. Because custom cabinets are constructed with industrial equipment (rather than assembling on site) the assembly is more consistent and you can better guarantee a long lasting, squared off, cabinet. They are able to provide samples for you to feel and touch (especially with custom paint and stain colours). And you will have more transparency in the manufacturing process.
Some things to look for in custom cabinetry:
- Produced from high quality solid wood, veneer, TFL, or HDF.
- Offer upgrades like metal drawer boxes.
- Multi-step finishing process.
- Sturdy, square, cabinet construction.
- Dovetailed drawers.
- Soft close hinges.
You are looking for your forever kitchen
RTA cabinets are great for projects like condo units, house flips, DIY projects, and starter homes. If you plan to be in your home for the long haul, invest in a custom kitchen. Not only will it hold up better to everyday wear over the years, but if you are going to be in this home forever, you deserve the kitchen of your dreams.
You need a custom cabinet depth or height
RTA kitchen cabinets are sold in pre-defined sizes. If you have needs that are a variation from standard, for example you want to lower countertop height, custom cabinets are the way to go. They can be ordered in varying depth, height, and width to create the perfect fit for your space.
You don’t want to assemble kitchen cabinets
This one is an obvious benefit of custom cabinetry: there’s no assembly required for the homeowner. When working with a custom cabinet company, the entire process is taken care of and arranged for you. So if you don’t want to assemble RTA cabinets, a custom kitchen may be the option for you.
How long does it take to assemble RTA cabinets?
On average it can take a novice 15-45 minutes to assemble and install a cabinet. If the assembly and install is contracted out, it can take half the time. If you’re planning to hire a contractor be sure to factor that cost into your budget. Do your research finding a good installer and make sure your contractor is accurately quoting the job.
You don’t want a basic kitchen!
With RTA cabinets, you can get a beautiful kitchen, but with standard product you have less options for customization.
Custom kitchen design allows you to pick and choose what you want added to your kitchen in an a-la-carte fashion, with many options for personalization:
- crown molding
- mullion cabinet doors
- custom door profiles
- custom paint and stain colours
- specialized kitchen organization and function
- style forward materials and finishes
If you are designing your own kitchen and purchasing RTA cabinets, you can only get a kitchen that is as good as your skills in design are. Hiring a professional designer who is not only skilled in the latest design trends, but is familiar with the product and it’s functionality, is a guaranteed way to get your dream kitchen – and one that doesn’t look like everyone else’s.
You want the best service and warranty
The level of service and communication from custom cabinet companies will be different than that from RTA cabinet manufacturers or big box stores.
If something goes wrong with your order, how far is a company willing to go to make it right, and how easy is that process for you? When working 1:1 with a custom kitchen designer you will build a relationship with them, and they can be a voice for you to get your kitchen looking exactly the way you envisioned it.
You’re not interested in buying online
There are many online RTA cabinet retailers, but how can you tell if they are legitimate or not? You are left to the mercy of online reviews and hoping to find someone in your circle that has experience with the company.
If you don’t want to spend hours researching the best RTA cabinets online, then visit a reputable local custom cabinet company with expert designers.
You want to avoid batch variation in your cabinets
Something to note about RTA cabinets is that since they are made in large batches and shipped to many retail locations, you can’t guarantee your cabinet’s are all from the same batch. For the same reason why it’s important to purchase wallpaper or paint for your home all at one time, you will want to make sure you purchase your RTA kitchen cabinets all at once to make sure colour and finish is consistent. This is important with solid wood cabinets, as each lumber batch will have it’s own natural variation.
Custom kitchens are made to order and the entirety of your project is completed at one time.
So, are RTA cabinets any good?
The reason RTA cabinets are a popular choice for homeowners is because they are cost effective. You can get a new kitchen in some of the most popular styles with ready to assemble cabinets.
But like any product, to get a lower price, you have to make a sacrifice somewhere. If you are willing to assemble onsite, forgo custom elements, plan the design yourself, and take a risk on lower quality materials, then RTA cabinets are the better choice for you to save money.
Purchasing Your Custom Kitchen Cabinets
If you are ready to purchase a custom kitchen, Decor Cabinets are manufactured in Manitoba, Canada and have partnered with kitchen designers and design centers across North America. You can find a Decor designer near you by using our simple locator map here.