Paint An Old File Cabinet To Make A Large, Colorful Planter

Here is the blue planter completed and planted up and in situ with the red one I previously posted here. This blue one has Aloe Vera plants that were previously overcrowded in a terracotta pot (still have another dozen 'pups' or so to do something with) and the red has Cordyline - Sundance in it. Got this finished last night and nearly froze my tail off in the garden planting it up in the fading light. Had to enlist my husbands help with the final barrow load of compost/sand mix as my back was giving out with all the shovelling and shifting of soil/sand. It took more than I thought it would despite layering the first half of the file cabinet/planter with bark, branches and other garden debris to pad it out. I may lift the plants and add more soil yet. I top dressed with large river washed stones in black that I got from a local nursery. Both planters have these stones now. The blue file cabinet had no bottom so we cut a piece of scrap corrugated iron sheet to fit and I think it looks quite good! Keeps the soil in at that end. BTW if you did not see the red planter post then you may not realise this cabinet was painted as was the red one. Both cabinets were either ugly grey or beige and a little bit of rust here and there to start with. Products used to paint were Killrust Heavy Duty Primer and then Killrust Epoxy Gloss Enamel paint for the topcoat. Each had two coats of topcoat for good coverage. The red is Delicious Red and the blue is Ultra Blue. Both were painted by hand rather than spray as it was cheaper and the finish still came out good.
Beige File Cabinet to Blue Planter with Aloes
With Its Red Sister Planter
Ugly Beige Drawer No Longer Needed

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 5 questions
  • Barbi Bratton Gerke
    on Sep 12, 2016

    After you fill part way with plastic bottles as you suggested, what do you put on top of the bottles to keep the soil from going to the bottom? Cut a piece of cardboard to fit? Or ?? Thanks!

    • Cathy F
      on Apr 14, 2019

      Put a layer of landscape fabric or weed barrier on top of the plastic bottles (or whatever you use to partly fill the bottom.) That allows drainage while preventing your soil from settling.

  • Brittany Bacon
    on Jul 23, 2017

    How do you keep it from rusting?
    • Barbara
      on Mar 5, 2020

      It will take some time but I would do a colorful mosaic design which is grouted and will make the surface waterproof. You can use mosaic tiles bought from hobby lobby or get some cheap plates of your favorite colors and break them to form a unique design. I would make lots of drainage holes and line the inside with heavy duty plastic sheeting or plastic tablecloths from the dollar store and then line it with coconut coir so that the moisture does not rot the metal from the inside. You can get directions on how do mosaics on utube. It’s easier than you think!

  • Wandamurline
    on Jul 23, 2017

    I use large rocks in the bottom of my planters for drainage after I have drilled holes. Wouldn't large rocks in the bottom keep the soil in tact and allow the cabinets to drain?
    • La streight
      on Apr 28, 2019

      I like the lumber on outside. You can also d

      Rill small holes and using a caulk on screws so no water drains out use deck screws to stick wood to outside. That would be better I think than gluing. I have not mych luck with most glues because hot cold will deteriate most glues. Live this idea. I just turned my file cabinets into basement storage and garage tool storage. Maybe when do e using them there i will do planters.

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