Filing Cabinet Buying Guide
Even if you don’t work from home, you need a place to keep files and important papers. Without a system for organizing correspondence, insurance papers, tax information, user’s manuals and school or work memos, documents tend to be stuffed into drawers, build up into teetering stacks on your desk, or mistakenly be thrown away.
A filing cabinet, whether it’s a full-size model for a home office, or a small cube for the corner of your bedroom, makes it easier to stay organized and find important papers when you need them. Most filing cabinets have at least one drawer with a lock, so you can keep confidential papers safe from prying eyes.
Is Your Office Small?
If you have a small home office yet have a lot of papers to file, a lateral filing cabinet is a good solution. These filing cabinets have drawers that are wide, but not deep, so they don’t stick out into the room and block walkways. The typical lateral filing cabinet is around 20 inches deep and requires another 20 inches for pulling out the drawer, so you will need at least 40 inches clearance for this type of cabinet.
Lateral filing cabinets can have two to five drawers and range from decoratively styled pieces of furniture to plain, metal cabinets. Many smaller cabinets are designed to fit underneath a table or desk for efficient use of space. You can use the top of your lateral filing cabinet to display a few collectibles or for holding books and other office necessities.
If you use both legal and letter-sized files, you can fit both in a lateral filing cabinet and can choose between facing the folders toward you in multiple rows or having one long, sideways row of folders. Some people like hanging files, but these can be difficult to work with. If you choose a cabinet with a hanging file frame, be sure the metal is sturdy enough to support the weight of your files and is securely fastened to the inside of the drawer.
Is Wall Space Limited?
If you don’t have much wall space in your office, a traditional vertical filing cabinet might be your best choice. These cabinets are tall and thin, so they don’t take up as much wall space as a lateral cabinet. At the same time, they do stick out further into the room, potentially blocking walking space. A typical lateral filing cabinet is 29 inches deep and requires another 29 inches clearance for fully extending the drawers, so you will need at least 58 inches of space for this type of cabinet.
As with lateral cabinets, you can choose a vertical filing cabinet with two to five drawers. If you routinely store heavy items in your filing cabinet, choose a model with a sufficient weight limit, and be aware that an overloaded upper drawer might tip the entire cabinet forward if fully extended. Vertical cabinets typically have a frame to hold hanging files, so if that’s your preference, make sure the frame is sturdy and well secured to the drawer.
You can find very attractive vertical cabinets, especially in the smaller sizes. If you are watching your budget, an inexpensive, metal cabinet might look utilitarian, but will serve just as well to organize your files as a fancier model.
Do You Need a Fireproof Cabinet?
If you have crucial papers in your office or store irreplaceable computer disks in your cabinet, a fireproof filing cabinet costs more, but provides peace of mind. These cabinets are rated by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) to remain less than 350 degrees Fahrenheit inside for at least an hour in a 1,700-degree fire. If you have computer disks or film in your filing cabinet, it needs to be rated for a temperature of less than 125 degrees Fahrenheit. You can find both vertical and lateral fireproof filing cabinets with two to five drawers.
A home office needs at least one filing cabinet for holding those important documents, user's manuals and tax forms that you don’t want to misplace. Even if you don’t have an office, a small, two-drawer cabinet will prove invaluable for keeping your bills, receipts, kid’s drawings and other papers neatly organized.