How to Choose a Filing Cabinet

It’s 7am on a Monday morning. You stumble, bleary-eyed into your office, a steaming mug of coffee in one hand and a fistful of paperwork in the other. You immediately trip over a haphazard stack of suspension files, left on the floor. The filing cabinet is so full you’ve had to wedge a chair against it to stop it from toppling over. Your coffee sloshes over your hand, which is instantly burned by the scalding liquid. You watch in slow-motion as the files you’re carrying tumble to the floor, knocking over this week’s to-do pile, toppling into the remnants of last week’s pile and the one from the week before. You march decisively over to the filing cabinet, battling the top drawer out, only to have the infernal thing abruptly break, depositing the draw and its contents onto your foot.

Filing Cabinets

One might wonder why you haven’t already bought a new cabinet, but with the number of filing cabinets now available, it’s difficult to know what to get.

There are two main types: vertical and lateral. You are probably familiar with vertical cabinets, which have two to five stacked drawers, each fitted for suspension files that run back to front. Lateral cabinets are considerably wider, and can have as many tiers, but usually house their suspension files left to right. The main difference is the amount of space they occupy in your office. Vertical cabinets take up very little wall space, but are quite deep, and need to be placed somewhere with enough space to open all the draws. Lateral cabinets are not as deep, and while still needing space to open, do not need as much, saving you about a third of the space a vertical cabinet would occupy. The downside of the lateral cabinet is that it takes up more wall space.

Next you must decide on materials. Do you want practical or something more sophisticated? Metal filing cabinets are durable and will stand a lot of use, and are now available in a variety of colours. Alternatively, wooden filing cabinets can look just as good as your other furniture. You might even choose a filing cabinet from an office furniture range so that you can coordinate all your furniture.

Go for safety. Well-constructed filing cabinets come with solid exteriors, making them as safe as possible. Ensure you also choose one with a built-in anti-tip system, such as ball bearing suspension, or interlocking drawers. This will guard against the cabinet falling over, causing damage or injury. Some filing cabinets protect against fire and impact, however such features can be very expensive, so consider carefully before investing.

One final thought is the mini-cabinet, which takes up considerably less space. Two drawer filing cabinets, especially lateral ones, can fit beneath your desk. Another option, if you don’t access you files often, are systems such as the Really Useful Boxes filing box, which is equipped for suspension files. The boxes themselves take up little room, are fully stack-able, and easily stored.


Carl Barton is a director of Office Allsorts who has worked in the office products industry for 15 years.

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