Filing Cabinet-Turned-Garage Organization

16 Materials
3 Hours

For the last few years, Rob and I have had this ugly, old filing cabinet down in our basement. He got it from his uncle and we used it to store his old business files, tax documents, and other paperwork that we didn't need on a daily basis but when we decided to overhaul the basement, we decided we were going to put it to the curb. However, I came across a really cool idea that ended up not being as much work as I had thought it would be, and now this ugly, clunky hunk of metal looks a whole lot nicer and is serving a purpose!

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-sheet of peg board
-old filing cabinet
-Do It Best painter's tape
-12v DeWalt drill (choose a bit that will allow for the screw of your casters to fit through)
-sanding block
-3" and 4" paint brushes
-4 casters with brakes
-washers and nuts for casters (You'll want to find the ones that fit to the casters...the casters we purchased did not come in a kit.)
-Rustoleum flat white protective enamel
-Rustoleum hammered copper paint
-Everbilt locking peg hook assortment
-HDX rubber/latex gloves (optional)

Not pictured:
-box cutter
-Teks #8 x 1 in. Phillips Fine Zinc-Plated Steel Truss-Head Drill Point Lath Screws

STEP 1: Prep cabinet
Before the fun parts of painting this ugly cabinet, I had to prep it. I pulled out all of the drawers and unfortunately put them by the road for the metal man to come collect them--too bad they couldn't become another project!

Once the drawers were removed, I roughed up the sides and knocked off the rust with a sanding block. I didn't go too crazy with this part because the goal was just to prepare the surface enough for the paint to get a good hold.

STEP 2: Paint cabinet
Next, I applied one coat of the copper paint to the cabinet. Feel free to do more coats! I felt like with the hammered finish, one coat was good enough coverage for me because at the end of the day, this cabinet would be holding tools in the garage anyway. Rob had warned me that the paint would possibly be a little runny and thin but surprisingly, it was thicker than I had imagined and it gave a good, even coat without being streaky.

*Note: if you're using the same paints that I did in this post, make sure you're painting in a well-ventilated area. I would have preferred to paint this outside but it was just too cold and we didn't have good enough lighting in the garage so I opened up the doors and windows of our basement, Rob got some fans going, and I was good-to-go with painting without the smell of fumes.

STEP 3: Add design (optional)
I could have just left our garage organization cabinet copper but I wanted to add a little something to it so it didn't look like a plain box so I decided to add some stripes. I used painter's tape to mask off 3 lines in different widths...

...then, I painted in the 3 lines with flat white protective enamel paint and let that dry completely.

Once the white paint was completely dry, I removed the painter's tape and was left with 3 nice, clean, crisp lines for a bit of an added touch.

STEP 4: Add casters
After the painting was done, I flipped the cabinet on it's back and drilled 4 holes into the bottom corners. I inserted the casters, then reached in to the inside of the cabinet to secure each caster with a washer and nut.

STEP 5: Add peg board and pegs
Unfortunately, I was only able to add peg board to one end of the cabinet because, what used to be the top of the cabinet was solid, so unless I cut a huge hole in the metal, I wouldn't be able to use peg board on that end. Thus, I only added peg board to the end that used to be the bottom of the filing cabinet.
Rob measured the end of the cabinet for it's dimensions, then marked the peg board with those measurements. After that, he used a T-square and a box cutter to cut the peg board, and used the edge of my work table to snap the board at the cut line. This was easier than dragging out the table saw!

To attach the peg board to the cabinet, I used four 1 1/2" lath screws we had on hand. Make sure you pay attention to where you're putting the screws in because you want to make sure you're going into the metal.

Lastly, I added a few pegs to hang small tools that we keep in our garage. You'll also want to pay attention to where you're putting in the pegs because if your cabinet is like mine, you're limited to where you can put the pegs in around the edges because the metal lip of the bottom of the cabinet prohibits the pegs from going in. I had to put my pegs 2-3 "holes" in from the edge.

I love this little organization idea! It's the perfect way to keep all of our rakes, shovels, etc. together and out of the way. This filing cabinet didn't come with dividers and we decided not to add them in but feel free to get some slats of wood to create 4 separate boxes within your cabinet!
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Have a question about this project?

23 questions
  • Victoria Reed
    on Apr 16, 2017

    I am new to repuropsing old items however this is what I am thinking of.
    I have 2 2-drawer and 2 4-drawer file cabinets, my goal is to convert one of the 4 drawer into a base on its side then stack the other 4 drawer on top with drawers removed and add peg board to hang tools on, take both 2 drawer and put on each end of the 4 drawers leaving drawers in place, add a wooden top for a workbench. I am planning to store my electric/cordless tools in one of the 2 drawer file cabinet then build my own organizer for the other one to hold my hand tools.
    Does this seem feasible? Please offer me some other suggestions as I am trying to figure out what to do with them for my cousins garage for Christmas so I have time to plan all this out and get what I need in place before I get started
    • To me, it sounds like you've got a great plan already! I'd love to see pix of the final results! 👍🏻

    • Victoria Reed
      on Apr 17, 2017

      I will be sure to post pics of the whole project and keep track of the materials and time spent. I won't get started For a few months as I'm gathering up all my supplies first.

  • Pam Hopf
    on Apr 16, 2017

    I'm curious as to why you didn't just get hooks and hang those tools on the wall? Much less effort and saves floor space. When would you need to move the lot to another location?
    • Kathie
      on Apr 16, 2017

      Took the words right out of my mouth.
    • Cha10982738
      on Apr 16, 2017

      But, they left room to perhaps add pegboard to the wall and hang the smaller garden tools from that keeping them all in the same area.

    • Drgoodie
      on Apr 16, 2017

      I like this project idea better because you can store a lot more "handled" tools than if you were hanging them on the wall. At the same time, you save some of the wall space for other uses - hanging smaller tools or whatever, putting in a few narrow shelves or more peg board, installing hooks for wire hanging baskets for garden gloves. At the same time, some of the file cabinet floor can be used to store bags of things like fireant killer. This is a lot of advantage for such little floor space usage. It would solve some of my garage storage and clutter irritations in a grand way.
    • Rosel Kynast
      on Apr 16, 2017

      Love what you did. I too, have 2 old filing-cabinets and will bring them up to the garage. I will not remove the drawers because their nice and deep, just paint the cabinet and store my small garden equipment , like clay-pots extra tools etc, that I now store in an open shelve, it looks kind of cluttered. The cabinets have the same height, so a board on top the cabinets can be an other storage space.
    • Sue Sanders
      on Apr 16, 2017

      Is a good idea. It is also good that you are keeping cabinet from contacting the garage floor. This will help it last longer in case you have spills that would rust out the bottom.
    • Just thought it was a unique way store all kinds of tools as we accumulate them. We're trying to consolidate our yard/garage tools so that the rest of the garage can be solely for woodworking.
    • I have no wall space so this is a great way to store and easily move these items.
  • Mary M Dixon
    on Apr 16, 2017

    You said 'at the end if the day...' does that mean it took just a day to get this done or you could use it at the end of that day? Cute project!
  • Lorinda
    on Apr 16, 2017

    You did a great job! I like the upcycling idea. I have all my long handled tools on the wall, but there are a lot of them and they can be very bulky – taking up all my wall space. This is much more compact and accessible.
  • Brenda Kosarew
    on Apr 16, 2017

    Could you place 3 or 4 plastic trash cans inside for a recycling bench?
  • Kitt
    on Apr 16, 2017

    Actually not a question , but an addition to this project. Either place several partitions throughout (top to bottom) or bar/divider across top . This would seem to make it much more organized easier to access what you store.
    • Susie
      on Apr 16, 2017

      I would definitely add solid dividers, three or four, all the way down to the bottom. Reason being, then the tools only have so far to slide, won't be tempted to criss-cross each other, getting tangled and won't fall completely down in the bin. Looks great. Love the thoughtful touches you made for his tools!
    • Eva French
      on Apr 16, 2017

      Could have taken the fronts off the drawers and put them back in the cabinet and they would have served as dividers.
    • Gilmer Gal
      on Apr 16, 2017

      I saw another use on a pin. They took the cabinet, removed the drawers, placed it on the side, painted it and turned it into a really neat planter box! It was awesome!
    • Celia Stabler Vencil
      on Apr 17, 2017

      I would have drilled large holes in the drawer fronts ad poked the tool handles into the holes.
    • Great ideas--thanks for sharing.
  • Debbie Hart
    on Apr 16, 2017

    Couldn't you use the old file drawers as rolling drawers on casters under your work bench? Or as rolling equipment bins? Could even hook them together with latches or 2×4's across the back....just a suggestion...
    • Jill
      on Apr 16, 2017

      Great idea! Hate to see the
      Drawers go to waste!
    • Rita Riggs Taylor
      on Apr 16, 2017

      Good idea!
    • Michelle Van Neer Buchan
      on Apr 16, 2017

      This could be turned sideways as a bench...with some reinforcements. You would have cubbies and you could add the sliding drawer idea from Debbie Hart as well.
    • ColleenB.
      on Apr 16, 2017

      done something very similar only my hubby used it to put pieces of his scrape wood in and the drawers, well we mounted legs on the bottom and used the drawers as planter boxes.
    • I hated to throw the drawers out but I couldn't think of anything off hand to use them I'm kicking myself bc so many people have come up with great repurpose ideas for them.
    • Donna Albrecht
      on Apr 17, 2017

      LOL,,, now that you have all the good ideas you will want to go scraping for another throw away filing cabinet and you wanted to get rid of yours to begin with. That is how life works, as soon as you get rid of something you can think of a million reasons you should have kept it.
    • Jwz1785668
      on Apr 21, 2017

      Tends to never fail, but that's how it goes.
  • Sue Sanders
    on Apr 16, 2017

    Did you put a board on bottom to help brace the heavy tools as file cabinet walls are pretty thin. Also a good idea from one of the viewers was to put some cross bars to keep tools from falling over on each other.
  • Marti Lou
    on Apr 17, 2017

    Hi, great project! Love the copper paint job. Have you seen the idea of turning an old file cabinet into a planter box? Coulda used the drawers for that, I suppose, if ya wanted! Peace
    • Yes lots of people have shared that idea with me in this post and I love it!!
    • Linda Hunt
      on Dec 31, 2017

      Ahhh, that is the beauty of re-purposing and very nicely done. The colour makes it look like it should be a bench at the end of high end bed, LOL. Beautifully done Rob & Courtney.

    • Diane Wickham
      on Jan 1, 2018

      I made a planter box. Added sheet metal to open bottom. I used one season, my plants didn’t do well. I think the combination of heat and metal was too hot for them. If anybody has any ideas about this I’d appreciate a response!
    • WW
      on Jan 1, 2018

      Diane Wick ham I have read where someone "insulated" their file cabinet/planter box with sheets of foam. I have seen at Lowe's, assume Home Depot has them too.
      on Jan 9, 2018

      I gave my son one he is gonna make a smoker out of it
  • Phyllis Ferri Santilli
    on Dec 31, 2017

    His do I stuff sofa cushions that have no zippers in the seam?
  • JB
    on Dec 31, 2017

    Why not hang some hooks for the tools on the wall above the file case and thus free up all of the floor space the cabinet takes up?
    • Kate Hamilton
      on Dec 31, 2017

      I can't speak for the person who did this, but, in my opinion, it was probably a more enjoyable project to do, looks great, and serves the purpose of creating tons of space for all those long handled tools. I have a file cabinet in my shed right now that is just waiting for it to warm up so I can paint it. I can't put the hooks up like you suggested because it is a metal shed, so this is a great solution. And it probably made the person who made it feel pretty good about the solution to a storage problem.
    • JB
      on Dec 31, 2017

      But again the tools in the photo could have easily been hung on hooks easily attached to the framing, thus eliminating a space hogging box that serves no purpose other than to hold the tools upright....the space on the floor could be used to stow a lawnmower, snowblower, etc. Yes, it may look cute, but since most people place a premium on space, I would certainly take advantage of the wall...
    • Carol Williams
      on Dec 31, 2017

      Maybe they didn’t need to free up space!
    • Debbie E Porter
      on Dec 31, 2017

      I think sometimes you have so many tools that aren’t as easily hung up but they need floor space since they might be either too heavy to hang or too big.
    • Carol Jackson
      on Jan 1, 2018

      Good Lord this what she wanted to do, and it works for her, I agree with Carol W.
    • Rosie
      on Jan 1, 2018

      I agree with both Carols. We have 5 different shovels, 2 hay forks, 3 racks - each different, plus 10 other specialty tools like Maddoxs, thumpers, hoes,etc. This idea gets a STAR from me.
    • Dotti
      on Jan 2, 2018

      For some reason my husband always made a stand for these heavy implements shown here. There must be a good reason some tools need a stand and don't do well hanging on a wall.
    • Reenaroc
      on Jan 4, 2018

      Great Idea! When I saw the wall I too was amazed that we didn't just hang them up. BUT like others have mentioned maybe they have adequate floor space. AND remember it can roll anywhere, That is very handy! I have a lot more garden tools and it would be great to just roll them out of the shed or garage. Mine are constantly getting mixed up, tangled & falling off of the wall. Do to very limited wall space they are doubled up. Anyway, love the idea of it. An idea I got while reading this was to leave the cabinet upright & use as a rolling storage cupboard w/ pegboard on the long sides & hang lots more small tools. May have to take the top off to accommodate longer handles. Thanks for Sharing :)
    • Smartpazzler
      on Jan 9, 2018

      I've seen a similar project somewhere else and this is a nice version. It's great for renters who may not have permission to alter walls to hang tools or tools that are super heavy and, I like that it rolls! Works great for kids' sports equipment, too. I think the drawers could become fun industrial-style bookshelves especially with your fun choice of paint.
    • JB
      on Jan 9, 2018

      How many renters have garages?
    • 62q10370829
      on May 29, 2018

      We did on the 2 houses in Calif. Not where we live now & I need a shed . every thing from bikes to yard work tools & craft stuff & saws. & 100 boxes that has dishes to craft stuff in.

    • Linda Hall
      on Jun 17, 2018

      I’ve rented many place with garages.

    • Angi
      on Jun 17, 2018

      There a tons of people who rent houses with garages here in VA...

    • PJG.
      on Jun 17, 2018

      A lot in Phoenix.

    • Smb228
      on Jun 18, 2018

      Lots of people rent houses with garages.

    • Aiokersonalicea1
      on Jun 18, 2018

      More than you realize. We have ourselves, and at one point we were renting out our home, for the military shipped us overseas.

  • Kim Cozad
    on Jan 10, 2018

    I love this. Wonderful idea. What project would you have done with the drawers? There are so many options.
    • Linda Hall
      on Jun 17, 2018

      The drawers would be great as shelve on the wall or make planters outside. Creativity is a great thing.

    • Lauren.
      on Jan 12, 2019

      I like the concept. I would have used the drawers as kitty tower bc I have fur babies. I also like Linda Hall's idea of planters for garden.

  • Neecee
    on Jun 17, 2018

    Do you have any ideas for the file cabinet drawers?

    • WendyStclair
      on Dec 29, 2018

      The drawers could have been added to the side to put small hand tools in or gloves or sprays for the garden and such. The pegboard could still be added to the side it would just be longer

    • Arthur
      on Jan 1, 2019

      I use them to store my nut/bolts /nails in cans and tools /all kind of things in the drawers makes easy access mice proof and help stop dust

    • J
      on Jan 12, 2019

      They could be upcycled into nice outside planters: drill holes in bottoms for drainage

    • Mary
      on Jan 12, 2019

      If someone was doing the industrial look they could make shelves or storage boxes for a study/office or kitchen/pantry

  • Coach Kathy
    on Jan 12, 2019

    Did you paint the inside?

  • Melissa
    on Jan 12, 2019

    I have an old Hoosier metal kitchen cabinet I would like to restore. What is the best type of paint to use?

    • Sandy G
      on Jan 12, 2019

      Check out Fusion Mineral Paint. There’s a Facebook page “Paint it Beauiful”. Just started using this paint and the finish is awesome!

    • Adele DuranGO
      on Jan 12, 2019

      I like working with the Rustoleum hammered spray paints for metal -- love the bronze -- no streaks

    • Rynn
      on Jan 12, 2019

      I love Farmhouse Paint; check out their website. I have used it on about every kind of material , including metal, with good results. No sanding or prep required other than to be sure your piece is clean and dry. (Obviously, if you have any flaking paint you would need to correct that first.) I always paint with a brush, but you can also thin it a bit with water and spray on. Best wishes!

    • She33446201
      on Jan 12, 2019

      What is Farmhouse paint? Where do I get it?

    • Jeanne Martin
      on Jan 12, 2019

      If it's a true antique Hoosier cabinet you might want to check with an expert antiquer to find out what to do. But now that I think of it, I've never heard nor seen a 'metal" Hoosier cabinet. Is it all metal? Or just the flour bin, etc. I've only seen wood ones (usually oak). Interesting!

  • Libby Efird Hinson
    on Jan 12, 2019

    I was thinking, could you have removed the front of the drawers and left the rest in to create divided sections instead?

    • Jeanne Martin
      on Jan 12, 2019

      I thought the same thing, but then I thought wouldn't the metal runners (or whatever you call those things that hold each drawer in place) make sections? They run front to back at each drawer level so they would kinda make sections, right? I need to look at my crappy 2 drawer file cabinet to see if what I'm thinking would work. I'm retired and live alone so I don't have many lawn tools, just a few so my 2 drawer would be perfect. I am a crafter/DIYer so I have a bit of wood I could store in there too.

    • Kim
      on Jan 13, 2019

      If you look at the drawers, they have full metal sides on them. When they pulled out the drawers it created one full hollow space. It is not like a chest of drawers that has spacers between the drawers and you would just put the drawer bottoms back in to create divided storage. Metal filing cabinets are built differently.

  • Carol
    on Jan 12, 2019

    Couldn’t you have made similar storage by connecting the drawers together with screws, bolts and washers then putting coasters on for portability?!

    Or maybe stack drawers and make open storage instead of tossing them to the curb?!

    just my thoughts...anyone else??

    • Shirley
      on Jan 12, 2019

      She said she regretted putting the drawers on the curb. Good ideas.

    • MeiYue
      on Jan 15, 2019

      I agree Carol!

    • Shannon W
      on Jan 16, 2019

      Great tutorial, this I can follow and do ;)

    • Lavinia Combs
      on Jan 19, 2019

      Take the handles off the drawers and screw the front of the drawers to the wall to make storage bins. Depending upon the strength of the steel, you might need to add a little support.

    • Linda
      on Jan 19, 2019

      Good idea. I hate throwing something away that is usable

  • How long did you wait to tape it? I'm surprised the blue tape didn't pull off the copper paint! Great project!

    • Virginia
      on Jan 13, 2019

      Blue tape is very surface - friendly, moreso than even masking tape.

  • Virginia
    on Jan 13, 2019

    Wouldn't you need a primer coat first on the cabinet before painting it?

    • Mary
      on Jan 19, 2019

      No, she roughed the surface with sand paper so paint would adhere.

    • Jeffrey
      on Jan 19, 2019

      No primer is only necessary when painting bare products. It's really more for wood and drywall. So you use less coats of the expensive paint. It also comes in handy with bright bold color changes, like you have a black wall you want white. Paint it grey first.

    • April
      on Jan 20, 2019

      No you also need to use a primare if you don’t rough the surface up with sandpaper. Make sure you get all of the loose paint off. If you use sandpaper you don’t need to primare but for best results I would I do both. I was told this buy someone who works with and paint as a living. Good luck!!

    • Seroubal
      on May 29, 2019

      It is up off the floor on casters, so it shouldn't get wet. If you skipped the casters, I'd put it up on wood blocks to keep it dry.

  • Regine
    on Jan 19, 2019

    Very smart idea and looks very nice !!!

    Would it maybe be advicable to put some protective rust proof coating on the bottom of the cabinet ???

  • Lynn
    on Jan 19, 2019

    Couldn't casters have been added to the drawers too ..then you could use them as pullouts under existing shelves

  • Pineapple
    on May 29, 2019

    What did you do with the drawers?

    • Lola
      on Jun 5, 2019

      If you read what she wrote, she said she had put them out at the curb for recycling & apparently they had been picked up when she wished she had them for another project.

  • Nigel
    on Nov 7, 2019

    Wouldn't it be easier to just build a box instead of using a filing cabinet ??

    • Johanne Palange
      on May 9, 2020

      If you happen to have an old useless filing cabinet laying around, or you get a really cheap one second hand, it is then much easier to repurpose what you have than buying new wood to build a box. Also you may not have space or tools to do so.

    • Jerry
      on May 9, 2020

      The whole idea was to re-purpose the filing cabinet.

    • Caroline O'Hare
      on May 9, 2020

      Also I can't do wooodworking- lack of tools and skill but I could paint a cabinet and do this. Making a box isn't earlier for everyone.

    • Amberjrn
      on May 17, 2020

      I would say no.... more work, measuring.....I love this idea!! The measurements are perfect for my garage too!!!

    • Nigel
      on May 17, 2020

      It was just a question

Join the conversation

2 of 198 comments
  • Josephine Noble
    on Aug 9, 2020

    I like the finished cabinet! But! for the purpose you have used it is far too cumbersome. Looking at your shed, I would have put some timber across the beams and put some sort of hooks or bracket for your garden tools. And also the peg board.

    Maybe create 3 or 4 bin compartments for leaves, soils, or other.

  • Kathy D
    2 days ago

    It would have been better used for storage for smaller gardening tools and supplies. It takes up too much room and the tools are not secure.

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