The 10 Best File Cabinets

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This wiki has been updated 33 times since it was first published in September of 2015. Given that the promise of a paperless office has not yet been fulfilled, you may be interested in one of these file cabinets, which provide a simple way to organize your documents and keep them secure. We've included models suitable for both professional environments and homes, including elegant wooden models to bright and colorful options perfect for a modern office. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Laura Davidson Furniture Stockpile

2. Scranton & Co Letter

3. Bush Furniture Key West

Editor's Notes

July 09, 2021:

Our only new addition for this round of updates is the Bush Furniture Birmingham, which replaces a similarly elegant but no longer available lateral model from Z-Line. Of course, all of our recommendations prove that you don't have to settle for boring office furniture. In particular, the Laura Davidson Furniture Stockpile is about as colorful and modern as they get, while the Bush Furniture Key West makes a good addition to professional or farmhouse decor. For the classic, high-capacity, metal look, go for the Scranton & Co Letter, which is as durable as anything on the market.

January 15, 2020:

We wanted to compile a list of filing cabinets that would suit the needs of almost anyone who stores and sorts documents, records, and papers. With the understanding that some may be keeping confidential items in these, we included a few models that can lock, like the Hirsh Industries 17892 and the Scranton & Co Letter, both of which have ID slots to make it easy to determine what is in each drawer. Made from durable materials, these should last a while, too. On that note, we removed the CommClad Commercial as its materials were fragile, and it doesn't feel stable when full

Having some visually appealing items on the list was a priority, since we know many buyers may be using these for home offices where they also might entertain guests and relax. The BirdRock Home Seagrass Rolling got a spot due to its lovely hand-woven hemp that will look nice in a bohemian-chic setting. Those wanting something a bit more contemporary and upscale that might match a bedroom set will like the Bush Furniture Key West.

When space is at a premium, the compact Laura Davidson Furniture Stockpile and the Devaise PCA002 should be of use. We removed the Calico Designs 51100 because, in spite of its shorter frame, it tips over easily. We also eliminated the Julie-Home Cart as assembly is such a hassle, it's barely worth the result.

Special Honors

Burke Decor Hendrick Filing Cabinet Though it's made of iron and brass and certainly ready for an industrial setting, its edgy design also makes this cabinet suitable for a modern home office. It opens via ring-style hardware that takes the place of traditional handles, and its perforated drawers might allow some much-needed ventilation into its contents. At 117 pounds, it should stay in place.

Uline Lateral File Cabinet At a generous 36 inches wide and 54 inches tall, this cabinet can hold a tremendous amount of documents and is good for a business that processes high volumes of paperwork. Its full-extension drawers will make it easy to reach far back inside, while its safety interlock system allows you to open just one drawer at a time. It includes four adjustable leveling guides for uneven floors and comes with two keys.

4. Hirsh Industries 18578

5. Alera 2-Drawer Lateral

6. Devaise PCA002

7. BirdRock Home Seagrass Rolling

8. Hirsh Industries 17892

9. Bush Furniture Birmingham

10. Nexera Essential

Safe, Secure, and Sturdy

Because they store private and sensitive information, most cabinets incorporate a keyed lock to prevent unauthorized access.

Regardless of whether you have a home office or you work for a large corporation, chaos cannot be part of the equation when it comes to doing your job. Resources and information must be in a place that's easily accessible and properly organized. While a computer's filing system can help cut down on paper clutter, one can't depend on this technology to maintain documents indefinitely, especially if those documents contain sensitive or private information requiring additional security. For that reason, a file cabinet is a necessary tool for both professional and domestic use.

A file cabinet is a multi-drawer piece of furniture typically constructed from sheet metal, steel, or wood designed to store and organize documents into separate labeled folders that are easy to access. The majority of cabinets are either lateral or vertical in design. Lateral cabinets are wide and offer side-by-side storage of folders and documents, whereas vertical cabinets are taller with front-to-back organization of their file folders. Vertical cabinets are deep, but they take up less wall space than lateral cabinets, making them useful for office storage where space is limited. Lateral cabinets can be placed in wider locations or attached to individual working cubicles.

The drawers of most file cabinets have a handle, thumb latch, compressor, and sliding mechanism. The compressor is an adjustable steel mechanism that moves either backward or forward to allow the manipulation of individual file folders from inside the drawer itself. The sliding mechanism allows the drawer to be opened or closed and its outstop will prevent the drawer from being pulled out completely. The thumb latch for most file cabinets is located near each drawer's handle and must be pressed or pushed to one side in order to open the drawer and access its contents.

Many cabinets also have drawer labels to help the user identify the contents in each compartment. Because they store private and sensitive information, most cabinets incorporate a keyed lock to prevent unauthorized access. Should a file cabinet not have an integrated lock and a business requires additional security, then a locking bar can be installed on the cabinet's outer frame around the drawers to serve a similar purpose.

Choosing Your Cabinet Design

Decor, aesthetics, available space, and storage requirements all play important parts in the type of file cabinet you'll be choosing. The most important consideration is the amount of available space in your home or place of business. For example, if you work for a law firm with small printing and file rooms on the premises, then a vertical cabinet will be easy to place into corners as long as there's enough room to extend the drawers.

Vertical file cabinets are also quite easy to expand due to the depth of their individual drawers.

If you need additional storage options for your workforce, then lateral file cabinets can also work to an employee's advantage, as these are wider and shorter than their vertical counterparts. That said, they can fit easily under a cubicle desk. Lateral cabinets are also helpful when needing to access the same files several times a day.

A lateral file cabinet allows the user to peak inside and see a variety of file labels all at once. Vertical file cabinets offer a great deal of flexibility for folder organization by letter, number, or subject classification.

Vertical file cabinets are also quite easy to expand due to the depth of their individual drawers. Those cabinets made from heavy, reinforced steel are often fireproof, which adds an additional level of security to documents containing sensitive data.

So is a vertical cabinet better than a lateral one? Both organization styles offer their own advantages. Regardless, they both keep information organized in their own ways. Knowing where one's documents are located, and the knowledge that information is kept secure, makes a person's job easier than if they had to search for individual files all over their workspace with no logical order to them.

One must also consider if they will need to move the cabinet from time to time. Some filing cabinets are built onto caster wheels, which is useful when one requires the need to move the unit from one office room to another without first removing the contents of its drawers or disturbing the organization of those contents.

Since certain cabinets are prone to tipping, researching file cabinets with anti-tip mechanisms such as interlocking drawers will be beneficial as well.

A Brief History Of File Cabinets

The earliest methods of filing systems date back almost five thousands years and included ancient Sumerian use of clay tablets for writing Cuneiform language used to document important information such as weather data and crop yields. These clay tablets were stored in large libraries.

The earliest vertical file cabinets were made from heavy woods and were soon replaced by steel.

Other early forms of file systems included the use of both leather and papyrus scrolls that were sealed in either stone or earthenware vessels. As early as 2,300 years ago, Greek scribes would fashion books and copies using ink on papyrus and parchment, a thin material made from animal hides. Scrolls would then be stored in large libraries such as the Library at Alexandria.

Fast forward to the invention of the printing press and it suddenly became easier and cost effective to produce multiple copies of publications like newspapers and books than ever before. The documentation and storage of information evolved into a compact form and by the late 1800s, several new methods of filing emerged to organize information both alphabetically and chronologically into small containers. Among these inventions were Shannon files and storage bellows. By 1868, the first multi-drawer file cabinet became available, but it was cumbersome to use because documents had to be laid flat, making the information difficult to organize.

Dr. Nathaniel S. Rosenau is credited with one of the first applications of the vertical filing system, which was also one of many objects presented at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. The earliest vertical file cabinets were made from heavy woods and were soon replaced by steel. Vertical file cabinets are still among the most common types of file cabinets used today.

Christopher Thomas
Last updated by Christopher Thomas

Building PCs, remodeling, and cooking since he was young, quasi-renowned trumpeter Christopher Thomas traveled the USA performing at and organizing shows from an early age. His work experiences led him to open a catering company, eventually becoming a sous chef in several fine LA restaurants. He enjoys all sorts of barely necessary gadgets, specialty computing, cutting-edge video games, and modern social policy. He has given talks on debunking pseudoscience, the Dunning-Kruger effect, culinary technique, and traveling. After two decades of product and market research, Chris has a keen sense of what people want to know and how to explain it clearly. He delights in parsing complex subjects for anyone who will listen -- because teaching is the best way to ensure that you understand things yourself.

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