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RTA vs. Semi-Custom vs. Austin Custom Cabinets

All kitchen cabinets are not created equal. Aside from the material, color and style, you can choose from three general categories of cabinet: ready-to-assemble (RTA), semi-custom and custom.

Here, we examine RTA vs. semi-custom vs. custom cabinets. Knowing the differences can help you figure out which kind of cabinet is best for your kitchen remodeling project.

Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets

Marketed to DIY remodelers, RTA cabinets (also called stock cabinets) are the most basic and least expensive kind of kitchen cabinet.  

Overall, RTA cabinets tend to offer fewer material, finish and door options than semi-custom and custom cabinets do. The quality of RTA is generally lower than a semi-custom or custom cabinet but usually have shorter lead times. When shopping for RTA cabinets, keep an eye out for features you’re wanting such as soft-close hardware, full-overlay doors and quality dovetail drawer boxes.

Furthermore, it can take many hours to put together and install RTA cabinets, even for the most experienced DIYers. Nonetheless, RTA cabinets can be a good option for budget-minded DIYers.

Semi-custom cabinets

Semi-custom cabinets sit between RTA and custom cabinets and are American made. Normally, semi-custom cabinets cost more than RTA cabinets but less than custom cabinets. Also, they provide more flexibility than RTA cabinets but less than custom cabinets.

Like RTA cabinets, semi-custom are made in standard sizes but allow for a richer design with more options in mouldings, matching range vents, storage cabinet options, door heights/depths, lighting features etc. You can also pick from among different wood species, door styles and paint or stain finishes, drawer sizes and cabinet depths. Because of the standardized manufacturing process, the paint or stain finish goes through a multi-step procedure creating a high-quality and consistent finish. 

Of course, this flexibility adds to the cost. But for a homeowner seeking some freedom in the look and functionality of their kitchen cabinets, semi-custom cabinets are a huge step up from RTA cabinets.

Custom cabinets

Custom cabinets have generally been considered the King of kitchen cabinets. These cabinets are made to your exact specifications, giving you more choices than RTA or semi-custom cabinets but also come with a hefty price tag.

The styles and finishes of custom cabinets are practically limitless. Want custom cabinets made of rare or unusual wood? You can get them. Dreaming of a hand-brushed finish? Done. Yearning for an asymmetrical design or artistic shelving? They’re yours.

Custom cabinets are unique to your home and are a great option if you have the budget and are imagining a one-of-a-kind kitchen. However, custom cabinets do not always lend to high quality. It’s extremely important to choose a cabinet company that comes highly-rated with lots of references and experience. The wrong company will produce sub-par work and will leave you feeling disappointed in their craftsmanship. 

One thing to remember is that because these cabinets are customized for you, they might not appeal to a future owner of your home if the design or finish is out in left field. But if you plan to stay in your home for at least a few years, then custom cabinets might be the best way to go. After all, you want to feel comfortable in your own kitchen, don’t you?

Choosing your cabinets

In the end, the decision regarding installation of RTA, semi-custom or custom cabinets rests with your:

·   Personal tastes

·   Space and organization needs

·   Budget

·   Remodeling timetable

Whatever you end up selecting, don’t overlook the fact that the “most influential factor in the aesthetic design of a kitchen is its cabinetry,” The Washington Post points out. “If you are flipping a house for resale, outfitting your ‘forever’ home, or just trying to update to a more functional and appealing space, there is a cabinetry solution to suit your needs and priorities.”[1]