DIY Filing Desk

5 Materials
2 Hours
I wanted to update my old filing cabinet desk and I didn't want to spend too much. I had these 6 year old filing cabinets bought from Walmart 6 years ago.
Here are my old filing cabinets! I took the handles off and gave them a nice thorough sanding all over. The picture shows the locks, but I did take them out before painting.
Especially the bottom. This is what happens when you hurry to set up your room after cleaning the carpet and not making sure the carpet is dry. YUCK!!! Steel wool to the rescue!
Removed the drawers and cut a piece of cardboard to fit the opening and bottom to prevent overspraying the inside.

If you have to ask where to get cardboard that size, you're not shopping Amazon enough.
Fit the bottom with the cardboard.
First, I sprayed with Rustoleum Rusty Metal Primer, then when dry, top coated with Valspar Outdoor Anti-Rust Paint & Primer in a Satin Oceanic color.
Let them dry.
Sprayed the chrome handles with Valspar's Outdoor Anti-Rust Paint & Primer in a gloss Peacock Blue.
I moved the filing cabinets back in - topped it with a section of countertop. You can find these at any store that sells countertops. This piece is 5' wide. I did put felt spacers/sliders on the TOP of the filing cabinets to prevent any scratching from the counter top and on the bottom of the cabinets to prevent scratching the floor.
It's starting to look like a desk!

You can easily drill a hole(s) in the countertop to fish your wires through, if you wish.

All finished! Those cabinets look SO much better now. I think I need a new chair....definitely a new chair cushion!

Resources for this project:

Krylon K09107000 COVERMAXX Spray Paint, Gloss Blue Ocean Breeze, 12 Ounce
Valspar 21955 Clear Gloss Enamel - 12 oz.
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Frequently asked questions

Have a question about this project?

  10 questions
  • Tyn32255865 Tyn32255865 on Feb 19, 2018
    How is this a $10 project? How much was each filing cabinet? How much was the countertop?
    • Dawn McGuire Dawn McGuire on Feb 19, 2018
      If you read correctly she stated she already had the cabinets from 6 years ago.
    • Tyn32255865 Tyn32255865 on Feb 19, 2018
      It does. . . it also says you can pick up the countertop at any store that sells them. ??????????????????????
    • Jen Jen on Feb 19, 2018
      We have 2 Habitate for Humanity Resale stores where I live and those same countertops plentiful and cheap. You could also check out Craigslist free section they seem to be on there regularly.
      Ive seen this done before but never with that type of countertop. Now it seems so obvious to have the back shield so little stuff doesn’t go rolling off. Thanks!
    • Karen J Karen J on Feb 19, 2018
      Home Depot and I believe, Lowes sells some stock countertops in different sizes. Great for DIYers.
    • Jan's Garden Art Jan's Garden Art on Feb 19, 2018
      I already had the items (countertop and filing cabinets). All I did was purchase spray paint to update the filing cabinets.

      Any store that sells countertops: your local lumber dealer, lowes, home depot, Habitat Restore, etc. I went to a locally owned lumber/hardware store, got the best deal.
    • Flipturn Flipturn on Aug 17, 2020

      Hi Tyn,

      I'm glad someone asked this question. So often I see projects posted that list a cost that is no where near the price of all the materials used.

      Sure, that may be what it cost them to do the project, but IMO it is not an accurate indication at all of what it would really cost someone else to complete the same project if they wanted to give it a go.

  • Bwl22167946 Bwl22167946 on Feb 19, 2018

    Did you lose the use of the top drawer because of the overhang of the countertop?

    • Twila Mustain Twila Mustain on Feb 19, 2018

      I don't think there are 'top' drawers in those filing cabinets, just the standard file drawers, though I could be wrong. It looks like the header is just bigger, so there's empty space behind it.

    • Jan's Garden Art Jan's Garden Art on Feb 19, 2018
      Not at all. There's about a 1/4" clearance. So yes, all 3 drawers (on each cabinet) open fully and with no impediment.
  • Ver26687096 Ver26687096 on Feb 19, 2018
    How much was spent on the counter top?
    • Jan's Garden Art Jan's Garden Art on Feb 19, 2018
      Believe it or not, about $25. :D Leftovers are great! Brand new - the person who ordered it decided not to get it.
    • Susan Susan on Feb 19, 2018

      Lowes has them in all lengths ( 6 ft. is about $70 here- Arkansas) and even corner pieces - you can order them to exact size although it will cost a bit more

    • Flipturn Flipturn on Aug 17, 2020

      The price varies according to where you live. For example, in Canada, a a 6 ft length of laminate countertop is about $150 retail (plus tax).

  • Bernice H Bernice H on Feb 19, 2018
    Would you consider painting your chair the color of your desk,or a contrasting blue,or maybe black? Or maybe you want a cushy office chair? Nicely done..I know how easy this is to do..I did it,but for a desk I top used a hollow core door! Painted deep red. Black filing cabinets! We never used the drawers tho,they were in bad shape and didn’t really need them.
    • Jan's Garden Art Jan's Garden Art on Feb 19, 2018
      I'm actually "in the hunt" for a new chair. Looking for something old, lots of character that I can stain. I'm thinking blue stain. :D
  • Jane Jane on Feb 19, 2018

    Is the counter top granite? If it is how did you move it? Those things are HEAVY. We need to move one and haven’t succeeded so far.

    • Jan's Garden Art Jan's Garden Art on Feb 19, 2018

      Not granite, simple laminate. Looks fabulous, doesn't it! Not as heavy either - I picked it up and placed it myself. Good luck with moving yours, sounds like a pizza & beer invite thing..."Hey, while you 4 big guys are here, I have this countertop....and more pizza & beer"

    • Jane Jane on Feb 19, 2018
      It does look great. The pizza thing also sounds great. Let’s see, which four guys.....😊
    • Jan's Garden Art Jan's Garden Art on Feb 20, 2018

      Pizza & beer have been my staples for any type of "heavy lifting". Haven't found a man to say no yet. LOL Just make sure they don't get more than 1 before they're done moving. Party is after, not before! LOL

    • Flipturn Flipturn on Aug 17, 2020

      If you want teenage boys to help you carry or lift stuff, just promise FREE FOOD. Full stop.

  • Deborah Deborah on Feb 20, 2018

    Is the counter top affixed to the top of the file cabinets in any way? If not, how easy would it be to bump the top out of allignment (or off!) of the file cabinets?

    • Jan's Garden Art Jan's Garden Art on Feb 20, 2018
      It just rests on the filing cabinet as stated above, the weight of the countertop does a good job of keeping it in place. I did put felt pads on to prevent scratching, but I've used this desk for 6 years now (I just updated the look) and have NEVER had the top fall off. It's in the middle of my living room, at the entryway to my door. 2 Doberman Pinschers running rampant through the house....lots of traffic, in other words. It's NEVER fallen off.
    • Carey Carey on Feb 21, 2018

      I did this in my craft room and love it. I had my sweetheart put castors on both file cabinets so that if I want to move it, it is very easy. The counter top just lifts off and the cabinets roll easily.

    • LindLMac LindLMac on Mar 05, 2019

      Deborah, I did this, but, I used a desk top, not a section of countertop. I attached the desk top to the filing cabinets by screwing them together with metal (flat) brackets! My desk top does NOT slip at all!!!

    • Flipturn Flipturn on Aug 17, 2020

      If the countertop is attached to the back wall with brackets and there is any weight in the filing cabinets, the desk isn't going anywhere.

  • Amy Cunningham Amy Cunningham on Feb 21, 2018
    Hi Jan LOVE THIS What is the height of your file cabinets? I’m planning on doing this but I just need to make sure an office chair will fit underneath the top. Thank you very much
    • Jan's Garden Art Jan's Garden Art on Feb 21, 2018

      Thank you Amy! The filing cabinets are 27 1/4" tall. Hope that helps!

    • LindLMac LindLMac on Mar 05, 2019

      Amy I did this, using 2 standard height 2 drawer file cabinets. I have LOTS of room between the tops of my legs and the underside of my desk top!

  • Kathleen Hokanson Kathleen Hokanson on Feb 21, 2018
    Love this idea!! I have two pieces of countertop left in my basement & didn't know what to do with them! Think you could use milk crates on either side & have extra storage & use file cabinet off to side?
  • LadyAleta LadyAleta on Mar 05, 2019

    Love the idea! Do you think a four drawer tall filing cabinet with recessed handles could be cut in half to be used? If so, how would one cut it & make the cut parts not so sharp? I know the cabinet would be short, however if they were put on castors, that would give them height. I'm very short so I don't them a tall clearance under the desk. Thank you for your answer, Everyone. Really would appreciate them. :)

    • Diane Kehn Diane Kehn on Apr 21, 2019

      It doesn’t matter what your height is, it matters that you can get a standard chair underneath so that you can sit comfortably at your new desk.

    • LadyAleta LadyAleta on Apr 21, 2019

      Thank you for your answer, Diane. I have an adjustable chair that if it is at regular height, my feet dangle off the floor. lol However, if it is at a height for my feet to be on the floor, then my desk level is bust level. Makes it hard for me either way. Haven't found a desk the right level for me unless it's way too expensive. So, the filing cabinet desk sounds like the right answer for me. Thanks, again! :)

    • Flipturn Flipturn on Aug 17, 2020

      Architects and artists use high drafting tables with high stools. If there is a rest for your feet, then the high swivel stool/chair (example below) could readily be used with a taller desk.

  • Mildred Mildred on Feb 22, 2020

    Does the $10 amount include the counter top or just the paints?


Join the conversation

2 of 62 comments
  • Peggy L Burnette Peggy L Burnette on Mar 05, 2019

    You did a great job. Thank you for sharing.

  • Debra McMenamin Debra McMenamin on Mar 05, 2019

    Great idea. Reminds me of when my husband and I first met. He had a file cabinet on each side and had a wide, huge board on top as a desk. I was amazed at how much room was on the “desk “! It served us well for several years!