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American Made or Chinese RTA Kitchen Cabinets

By Sean Walsh

It is time to take the gloves off  and go right at it on this one.

I am an American. Born and Raised. I love America and have been brought up to say the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the National Anthem with my hand over my heart.

I want our economy to thrive. And I want to see as many jobs kept in America as possible. That being said, I am all about Chinese RTA kitchen cabinets. Let me explain.

Back when I owned my own business building custom cabinetry, I did not like RTA cabinets at all! Why? Unfair competition! They were decent at best back then, not what they are today.

To top it off, they were about a quarter of the cost of what I charged for my custom cabinets. Yet, people would have the audacity to compare my cabinets to RTA cabinets! It was hard to swallow sometimes.

How, Not Where

When comparing American and Chinese RTA cabinetry, we should be comparing how they are made, not where they are made. Where, in all reality, does not determine the quality of a cabinet at all. It’s short sighted to consider where as the only determining factor for your cabinet purchase.

Recently we had a customer who purchased our Chinese made RTA cabinets. Her father, a lifelong general contractor, had custom cabinets built for his home. When he went to her house and saw her new cabinets, he was jealous!

The finish on his expensive custom cabinets was inferior when compared to our Chinese RTA cabinets. What?! American-made custom cabinets inferior to Chinese made RTA cabinets?

Yes. That’s what he saw for himself.

The where is not the determining factor of quality. The how determines quality.

What about American jobs?

People get in an uproar about Chinese manufacturing destroying our economy. It’s not that I don’t understand the argument, or empathize with the good intentions behind it, I just strongly disagree.

I own a business that is based upon providing our customers with imported cabinetry. I have employees. They are Americans.

The office building we work out of is owned by an American, managed by an American, and repaired by Americans. The trucks that ship our cabinets nationwide were made in America and are driven by Americans.

The forklift driver, an American. The people working at the ports that receive the cabinetry from China, Americans. The company that prints our marketing materials, American. The guy who does our website, American. The companies we use to ship our sample doors, American.

Get my point? Chinese cabinets make many American jobs! Jobs that would not exist if Chinese cabinets did not exist.

What’s in a kitchen cabinet anyway?

I recently went to a large big box store and looked at all of the American cabinets on display. Many of which are significantly inferior to the quality of our chinese RTA cabinets. The doors had sloppy joinery, the boxes were made out of particle board, and the finish was less than impressive.

Is it possible that American manufactured cabinets are inferior to Chinese RTA cabinets? Yes. Let’s not be prideful, just because we’re Americans doesn’t mean we always do the best job.

China is trying to dominate the cabinet market. And, they are working very hard to do so. Will they ever do it? No.

Currently, according to a recent Houzz study, only 10% of the cabinets sold in America are RTA cabinets. That is a small market share. It will grow. Without a doubt. Here is why. China is working hard to constantly improve their manufacturing processes. So much so that they are surpassing our manufacturing processes and technology.

Here are just a few ways they are beating us:

1. Superior finishes. Many Chinese cabinet manufacturers who care about creating long-lasting cabinets are using European grade finishes. These are equivalent to the type of finish that your car is protected with. It is a 2K polyurethane and is very common to imported cabinets.

Typically American cabinets are coated with lacquer or conversion varnish. Both of these finishes are inferior to a 2K polyurethane.

2. Assembly processes that are top notch. Some Chinese RTA Cabinets manufacturers are using assembly processes that are actually superior to many American-made cabinets. For example, dovetail assembled cabinetry boxes.

3. High-quality joinery. Lots of American made cabinet face frames are held together with pocket screws. Honestly, it is almost laughable if it wasn’t so embarrassing. Most imported RTA cabinets use mortise and tenon joints on their face frames. This is far superior than pocket hole screws.

4. Higher quality doors. The quality of the cabinet doors on many Chinese RTA cabinets is much better than many of our American manufactured cabinets. How do I know? I went to a big box store and examined all of the door construction on their showroom cabinets and was appalled at what I saw. The joinery was sloppy, not tight like the ones we sell.

Not all Chinese RTA Cabinets are Created Equal

Just to be clear, not all imported RTA cabinets are created equal. Again, we can’t judge quality by where, we have to judge by how. How are the cabinets built? And, what is the company building them trying to accomplish?

There are many Chinese RTA cabinets that we will not touch. Why? Because it is evident that the manufacturers are trying to be the cheapest.

To be the cheapest you have to make compromises on everything. The place you buy your plywood? Compromised. The finishes you put on your cabinets? Compromised. The hardware you use? Compromised. The assembly process? Compromised.

We do not deal with compromised cabinets! We only deal with the best quality imported RTA cabinets on the market. Why? Regrets. We do not want our customers to have regrets nor do we.

When you deal with compromised cabinets, in time, those compromises will be made manifest. Finishes will scratch, doors made with softer, cheaper woods will be dinged, cabinet boxes will come apart, and there will be regrets. Most of which will not be covered by the warranty! I repeat, most of which will not be covered by the warranty! Why? Because it will be considered common wear and tear.

One must also consider that a company that is willing to compromise on the small things, is willing to compromise on the big things. We do not deal with those companies. We only deal with companies that are tried, true and proven to want to capture the market of customers looking to save on installation, without compromising on quality.

Tested. Proven. And highly qualified to build long lasting cabinets. That’s it.

In Conclusion

You have got a dream and a budget. If you did not, you would not be looking into RTA cabinets. With a little elbow grease, you can save a stack of cash AND end up with better quality cabinets.

So, whether you are looking for white shaker cabinets, grey shaker cabinets, or a combo of both, RTA cabinets are for you! If you want long-lasting cabinets, they are for you. If you buy into the story that purchasing imported RTA cabinets is going to destroy our economy, then they may not be for you. If you don’t, then thank you. I would not have a job if it were not for you!